Microsoft Office 2013: Everything you need to know (FAQ)

The latest version of Office is more tablet-friendly and is optimized for Windows 8. Read all about it.

CNET

Microsoft has finally unveiled Microsoft Office 2013. CNET's already had a chance to do an in-depth review of Office 365, the subscription version of Office 2013. Have more questions? Check out our answers below.

How many different versions are there?
Office 2013 will come in a variety of versions for home and business users, and you can get the current pricing and version breakdown here. Office 365's subscription-based cloud service comes in tiers: Home Premium (20GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype world minutes a month included), Small Business Premium (shared calendars, business-class mail, HD conferencing), and ProPlus (enterprise). Buying the standalone versions of Office 2013 will get you maintenance updates only, but staying subscribed to Office 365 will give you big updates coming down the pike in the future as well. Sound confusing? Well, it is.

There's also the Microsoft RT version of Office for ARM-based tablets, included for free on RT devices such as the Surface RT tablet. Office Home and Student 2013 RT includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

How many devices will it support?
With a purchase of any of the Office 2013 standalone versions you will only be able to install it on one PC. The Office 365 subscription versions can be installed on up to five computers. You can deactivate versions and install them on other devices after that. You'll need to sign up for a free Microsoft account to use cloud-based document sharing via SkyDrive.

How much has changed?
Jason Parker's review and video of Office 2013 has a full rundown in this regard, but essentially Office has been streamlined in its visual style in its quest to be more touch- and stylus-friendly for Windows 8 tablets. Newer social features and Skype integration add some new collaborative wrinkles, but replicate what's already available on PCs via other services and software. OneNote and Lync add collaborative note-taking and video-connected communications to the Office suite.

The addition of stylus support in tablet mode ("inking") opens up opportunities for casual pen-based markups of documents, or freehand note-taking.

Is there any free online component like Google Docs?
Microsoft already offers a free series of Google Docs-like Web apps via SkyDrive. Cloud connectivity is offered through your Web browser with no software purchase and no monthly fees. The Web apps are not as rich as the full versions, but will definitely be useful for more-casual Office users or for quick edits to documents in a pinch. The apps available are Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. You will need to sign up for a Microsoft account to use the Web apps.

Will there be iOS compatibility?
Office 365 supports some Web browser access, which will work on an iPad or iPhone. Other than that, there's no version of Office announced for iOS. However, OneNote is available not just on iOS but Android and Symbian phones, too.

Is there a Mac version?
No Mac version of Office 2013 has been announced, but Microsoft says the Mac version is on a different track than the Windows version, and will be upgraded in 12 to 18 months. However, the Office 365 subscription plan is compatible with Office for Mac. If you sign up for a subscription, you can install Office 2011 on five Macs and receive free updates when they become available.

What are the system requirements?
You'll need a Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC, or a Windows RT tablet.

How does it work on tablets?
Office 2013 is specifically optimized for tablet use, and even smartphone use. The layout has been simplified and more touch-friendly button-icons have been added. While the Ribbon still remains in Word, you can opt to remove interface clutter for a cleaner view. Other additions focus on media use and consumption; Read mode optimizes a document for tablet reading with booklike page-flipping, and videos can be viewed within documents. Images can be captured from a tablet's onboard camera and resized right into the doc; finger gestures can enable layout changes. A clever radial thumb-controlled button scheme in OneNote provides a quick way to adjust fonts, colors, and sizes.

Will it work on phones?
Yes, Windows phones will support Office via SkyDrive, seamlessly updating saved changes. It's still unclear how robust Office on phones will be.

What about Skype?
Skype is supported in Microsoft Lync for multiparty video chat, and within Office for collaboration on documents. The biggest impact could be in office meetings: a demonstration on an 80-inch Perceptive Pixel screen created a giant interactive whiteboard and collaborative meetup.

So, which version should I get?
Another good question. Which version of Microsoft Office you choose depends on how much you use each of the tools in the suite. The standalone versions might be the right choice for people who only use a couple of the programs and are not worried about future upgrades. For $139, you can get Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013, the low-end standalone option that comes with Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. If you want to add Outlook to that, you can get Office Home and Business for $219. If you want all the tools, you can spend $399 on Office Professional, which comprises Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. It's important to note that if you take this route and avoid the subscription, the standalone versions only let you install the software on one computer and won't give you future upgrades to the software beyond bug fixes.

The other option is to sign up for an Office 365 subscription, which gives you the same downloadable Office apps that live on your hard drive; all future upgrades to the software while you keep the subscription; Office on Demand; 20GB of space on SkyDrive (in addition to the free 7GB you get now); and the right to install the suite on five computers. With this setup, you can choose Office 365 Home Premium for $99 per year, which bundles Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. To add a couple of business tools, you can sign up for Office 365 Small Business Premium (available February 27) at $150 per year for five computers, which gives you all the software of the home version plus Lync and InfoPath. With the small-business version, you also get added extras like mail protection (against viruses), shared calenders, high-definition videoconferencing, and the ability to create company Web sites and share documents online.

There will also be packages with more business features for larger companies, but the full details on those won't be announced until February 27.

Is Clippy back?
No. But there is some loose and casual help information that pops up from time to time.

Update, January 29, 2013: Updated to include information about which version you should get.

 

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