Microsoft Word 2013 is covered on page 1 of the Microsoft Office 2013 review.
Excel 2013 feels more like a partner now than an unwieldy spreadsheet application that you often find yourself fighting against. Excel is not just sitting there waiting for you to do all the work, while it hides the tools you need in its labyrinth of menu choices. It is now an active participant. It sees patterns, analyzes data without prodding, and makes helpful recommendations, all of which will save you time while making your data more digestible.
The new Flash Fill feature recognizes patterns and will fill in a column or row, saving you from having to go cell by cell or even copying and pasting a formula. For example, if you have a column of email addresses next to columns of first and last names, once you begin to enter a name in the second cell of the first name column, not only will Excel autofill that name based on the email address, but it also suggests the first names for all of the email addresses. Hit enter and your work is done.
Excel 2013 analyses your data as you go. A new Quick Analysis button provides a number of useful suggestions, from formatting options to spruce up your data to charts, tables, and sparklines. Just highlight a table of data and the small Quick Analysis button appears in the lower-right corner with a menu of choices.
Similarly, Excel 2013 makes chart recommendations based on your particular data. Highlight a table and select Insert > Recommended Charts, each of which can be easily tweaked by using three buttons to the right of the chart. Creating charts was one of my more painful chores in Excel, and it appears that Excel 2013 will alleviate much of my trauma.
Outlook 2013 does not feature a drastic change in design from previous iterations, but it is more social with networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and even Microsoft’s own Hotmail. You can now connect to these networks without the need to install an add-on.
One of the more helpful additions to Outlook is Peeks. This new feature lets you steal a peek at your calendar or an email contact without leaving the screen you are on. In the lower-left of the Outlook window are buttons for Mail, Calendar, People, and Tasks. Mouse over one of these buttons and a small window appears, providing a quick peek without pulling you away from your inbox. A Peek is also afforded at the bottom of an email message, providing information about the sender, including previous emails, attachments, and meetings.
A small but useful feature has been added to Outlook’s calendar view. Now, above the calendar is a weather strip showing today’s forecast along with the next two days. You can mouse over one of the three days for additional information, including current temp, wind, humidity, and chance of precipitation.
The most obvious change to PowerPoint is that it has finally caught up to the widescreen monitor trend, which by now can rightfully be labeled a standard. Slides created in PowerPoint 2013 feature a 16:9 aspect ratio by default. If you are giving a presentation in a school or another environment that has older monitors still in use, you can switch to the standard 4:3 slide size or create a custom size.
As with Word, PowerPoint features alignment guides to assist laying out your slides, and you can collaborate and converse with fellow presenters by replying to comments. And if you share a presentation with someone who does not have PowerPoint, they will be able to view your presentation in their browser when you select Slide Show > Present Online. You can also add online pictures and videos as you can with Word, without first needing to save them to your PC or tablet.
PowerPoint also borrows from Excel, letting you insert charts. It is almost like an Excel window gets added to PowerPoint when you add a chart because you are not adding just a graphic of a chart, but an actual Excel chart that you can edit and format.
Office 2013 feels right at home on a Windows 8 tablet. The apps do not feel cramped on the 11.6-inch screen of the Samsung Series 7, but I was a bit underwhelmed by the Touch Mode option. Perhaps the spacing would be more noticeable on a larger display, but I found the layout in Touch Mode to be imperceptibly different than the regular view. That said, the apps are easily navigated by fingertip. And they feel more nimble and intelligent. Each step of the way, from creating and editing a file to collaborating on it and sharing it, has been made easier. I’ve been using Office 2013 for only a few days, but I can see it allowing me to be more productive while producing better results.