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Microsoft: Office 2013 Review

18 Apr 2013

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Microsoft Office Suite is the common productivity application in used around the world. It’s in use by billions of users worldwide. 

A major part of Office 2013 is incorporating support for fingers and thumbs, and the brigade of tablets, sliders, hybrids and touchscreen laptops, that is beginning to swamp the market.

Every application in the Microsoft Office stable now allows users to scroll, zoom and pan using gestures, and every one benefits from ribbon-hiding capabilities and touch mode, enlarging icons in the interface, and creating space between icons to make them easier to tap.

As usual whenever a new software version appears, the inevitable “Should I make the switch” questions appears and with good reason.  Some software updates seem like nothing more than superficial changes while others seem to take a step back.
Office 2013 does just the opposite by making real improvements while moving the Office suite forward.  When taken as a whole, the changes create a compelling argument for making the switch from previous versions of Office.

Fast internet broadband continuing to increase in speed and availability, and dropping in cost, Office 2013 also attempts to bring the cloud into its all-encompassing embrace. And we aren’t talking just about integration with Microsoft’s cloud storage service SkyDrive, although there are many new features on that front.

Word

Microsoft Word is probably the most commonly installed productivity application on the sphere. There have been major upgrades, changes and improvements in the look, feel and style of the office suite since it was first released 23years ago.

In some ways, that’s a good thing. With a word processor, you want the main focus to be the document, and the new minimalist design certainly does nothing to change that. If anything, it’s a little better, with a new, flatter and more streamlined design than before, and the ability to entirely hide the ribbon, leaving just a grey strip across the top of the screen.

In other ways, it isn’t so good. Many of the new features are aimed at making Office better for touchscreen devices. The 2013 office allow you pan, zoom and scroll easily.

The touch mode has seen a lot of remarkable improvements; it enlarges icons significantly, instead of merely adding space between them. Typing and editing documents using the onscreen keyboard isn’t a bad experience.
Microsoft’s new collaborative comments and editing system is quite helpful, allowing users to respond to comments on shared documents via SkyDrive, mark them as closed, and edit those documents simultaneously.

When you reopen a document, you’re now able to pick up where you left off with a tap or a click. Present Online provides a fast and straightforward way of showing documents over the Internet to anyone with a browser.

You can now add application to Word, via the Application for Office option. Add the Encyclopaedia Britannica application to a document and every time you select a word, related entries are automatically displayed in a side panel.

The office 2013 Word has seen other improvements; users will be pleased to discover that the layout tools have been improved. Text reflows as you drag images and graphics around, and new alignment guides fade into view when images and graphics are dragged in line with major page and text structures.

Other improvements in Word 2013 user’s can now open PDFs and reformat them as Word documents.

Microsoft Office 2013 Word remains the most powerful word processor around, and there are a lot of other new features in the 2013 Office Suite.

Excel

There are good reasons why Excel is the world’s leading spreadsheet tool, with each successive version of the programme, adding extra power and more features. The problem has always been that most average users would only skirt around the edges of what it could do. For 90 per cent of people, Excel is simply somewhere to create lists; charts table and add up figures.

With Excel 2013, Microsoft has made considerable leaps to break this deadlock. Its number one approach has been to find the most powerful options and thrust them in front of users, rather than expecting them to stumble upon them via the ribbon or by trial.

How it works: Let’s say you select a range of data in your spreadsheet. After selecting you highlight the ribbon to work out what to do with the data you have selected– perhaps take advantage of the conditional formatting introduced in Excel 2007, or insert a chart. Now you select it and a button appears at the bottom right; click it and all the most obvious options appear.

These comprise formatting, adding charts, using formulae to calculate totals, and even tapping into the Sparklines feature (where a summary graph of your data appears in the cells adjacent to each row).

Excel 2013 will evaluate your data and suggest the right chart – and the recommendations are usually correct. Even if it isn’t exactly what you want, as soon as you’ve created the chart, the ribbon changes so you can start tweaking right away and personalising it to suit your need.

This kind of feature is important, since data analysis is about far more than number crunching: you have to gain meaning from the data. A good graph can achieve this, and so can a number of other features that Excel 2013 brings to the fore.

PivotTable Imagine you have all the sales results for all your regions across the past eight quarters – a PivotTable allows you to strip out unnecessary data so you can focus on the area that’s of interest to you at that moment. It’s a great tool, which until now has never been that accessible. Excel 2013 makes it easier to get to grips with, recommending PivotTables based on the data at hand.

Slicers: is another useful tool for making sense of data. In Excel 2010, it allowed you to show a slice of your data in a PivotTable with the click of a button. In Excel 2013, you don’t need to create a PivotTable to use it.

PowerPoint

PowerPoint 2013 is packed with glitzy changes that make a big difference. The online video and picture search tools, for example, are brilliant and make it easy to add extra whizz to your slides. 

Presenter View may not be new, meanwhile, but it has been refined. There’s now the facility to smoothly zoom in and highlight an area of interest on slides, and the laser pointer gives presenters another slick tool for drawing the attention of the audience to bullet points, graphs or tables.

And with PowerPoint 2013 now introducing touch support, those with a Windows 8 tablet need no longer worry about fiddling with a touchpad in the dark or finding room for a mouse on the lectern during a presentation – they can simply swipe, pinch and tap as they go.

Other small improvements include the ability to output presentations as MP4 files as well as WMVs, to play music in the background across multiple slides and to use an eyedropper tool to select colours for graphics from other elements on a slide. The addition of widescreen versions of the core templates, meanwhile, will help workers with widescreen laptops to make better use of the equipment at hand.

The user interface has changed for the better, too, and not only in terms of look and feel. The properties of design elements in particular may be adjusted far more quickly and intuitively. It’s also nice not to have to drag the dialog box out of the way to see what’s happening underneath.

Finally, although it isn’t a new PowerPoint feature, the chart-formatting controls brought over from Excel make adjusting the appearance of graphs, and even filtering the data in them, a faster process than before.

Although touch works for presentation delivery, creating and editing slides is still best left to mouse and keyboard. Even with the ribbon and its tabs completely hidden from view, there’s simply too much going on in the average PowerPoint screen for touch operation to be practical for anything but basic edits.

On balance, though, PowerPoint 2013 is an effective revamp and a big improvement. As with the rest of Microsoft’s core applications there aren’t any killer new features, but the UI tweaks, the addition of touch (for presenters) and a scattering of enhancements make it a worthwhile upgrade.

Conclusion

Microsoft’s approach to Office 2013 is similar to the tack it has taken with Windows 8. Its stated aim is to produce a “modern Office” usable across the whole range of today’s computing hardware. This means tablets and hybrids, as well as traditional laptops and desktop PCs.

Microsoft’s vision of collaborating and working seamlessly through the cloud is aimed at giving user’s a better experience. The intention is laudable.

Office remains the most powerful all-round suite for business and personal use.
This is the first Office to really get to grips with touch devices.

michael.okeke@thisdaylive.com


THISWEEK on SOFTWARE


Windows 7 Shortcuts


Windows 7 adds loads of great shortcuts for switching between apps, moving windows around your screen, moving them to another monitor altogether, and much more. Here's a quick-reference master list of the best new Windows 7 shortcuts.

Window Management Shortcuts

One of the best changes in Windows 7 is the ability to "snap" windows to the side of the screen, maximise them by dragging to the top of the screen, or even move them to another monitor with a shortcut key.

Some of the list of keyboard shortcuts includes:

Windows Key +Home: Clear all but the active window.
Windows Key +Space: All windows become transparent so you can see through to the desktop.
Windows Key +Up arrow: Maximise the active window.
Shift+ Windows Key +Up arrow: Maximise the active window vertically.
Windows Key +Down arrow: Minimise the window/Restore the window if it's maximised.
Windows Key +Left/Right arrows: Dock the window to each side of the monitor.
Shift+ Windows Key +Left/Right arrows: Move the window to the monitor on the left or right.

The new hotkey goodness didn't stop with the taskbar and moving windows around - one of the best new hotkeys in Windows 7 is the fact that you can create a new folder with a hotkey. Just open up any Windows Explorer window, hit the Ctrl+Shift+N shortcut key sequence, and you'll be rewarded with a shiny "New Folder" ready for you to rename.

Here's a few more interesting hotkeys for you:

Ctrl+Shift+N: Creates a new folder in Windows Explorer.
Alt+Up: Goes up a folder level in Windows Explorer.
Alt+P: Toggles the preview pane in Windows Explorer.
Shift+Right-Click on a file: Adds Copy as Path, which copies the path of a file to the clipboard.
Shift+Right-Click on a file: Adds extra hidden items to the Send To menu.
Shift+Right-Click on a folder: Adds Command Prompt Here, which lets you easily open a command prompt in that folder.
Win+P: Adjust presentation settings for your display.
Win+(+/-): Zoom in/out.
Win+G: Cycle between the Windows Gadgets on your screen.
Windows 7 definitely makes it a lot easier to interact with your PC from your keyboard—so what are your favorite shortcuts, and how do they save you time? Share your experience in the comments.




culled:
www.lifehacker.com
www.pcauthority.com.au

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