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Pick your template at launch

The Ribbon is now optional

Excel recommends the best chart

Fill in your data for great graphs

Choose your look before you start

The new look doesn't stop you from working

Presenter view means no surprises

Tips for using OneNote

Create a custom calender in Publisher

Your newsletters, with your specs

Choose the template that connects with your data

Office 2013 was released today with the general availability of both desktop versions and the cloud-connected Office 365 Home Premium. Sporting a new look and ready for the touch-screen technology of Windows 8, the latest version of the productivity suite offers tons of tweaks that make it easier to use than ever.

From new Start Pages for several of the apps in the suite, you can pick from a large number of premade templates so you never have to start from scratch.

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The Ribbon is still here and offers a wealth of tools across each tab as it detects the most common uses for the content you have selected. But if you don't like the Ribbon, you now have the option to hide it and only bring it back when you need it.

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In making the new Office ready for touch screens, Microsoft streamlined many of the most common tasks to require only a couple of clicks. One of the new features of Excel is that you can highlight data and have the software recommend the best chart or graph to represent that data.

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Creating a pro-level graph would take forever if you had to make it from scratch, but with Office 2013, you can choose a template and fill in your own data.

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Before you enter your first bullet point, you can choose from several colorful layouts to create eye-popping presentations. If you don't like your initial choice, you'll be able to switch templates on the fly and choose from several variants, and your content will automatically move to the right place.

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Even with the new flat buttons, optional Ribbon, and other interface tweaks, you'll still be able to manipulate your presentation slides just as you have before, but often with fewer steps.

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The new Presenter view shows you the next slide in the presentation on the right and offers tools (like a virtual laser pointer) and your notes on the left so you always know what's coming up next.

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OneNote is still the king of simultaneous collaboration in Microsoft Office 2013, but to get more people to use the software, Microsoft has added an onscreen tutorial covering the best (and also some lesser-known) uses of the software.

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Publisher has all the tools you need to create great-looking newsletters and other forms, and offers mailing options to help you get your information out to your customers.

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Like many of the apps in Microsoft Office 2013, Publisher offers several templates to use as a starting point, then leaves it to you to customize the look to best represent your business.

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Choose from several templates, then connect Access to your data to get a clearer view of your business.

Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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