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Here's something I just learned: Office makes more money for Microsoft than Windows. So a new version is the very definition of A Big Deal for the company -- and much more importantly, for its billion users. Microsoft is desperate for people who don't have Office 2013 to be envious, so it's hosed liquid money at the user interface.

Has it worked? Let's have a look.


The next version of Windows has been designed specifically with tablets in mind, with whacking great icons all over the place. Office has become much more tactile too, although there's only so much it can do to make its myriad options finger-friendly.

When in touch mode, its icons and menus do automatically spread out, however, making it easier to hit what you want. There are special thumb controls for tablet users so you can type with both hands.

Presentation has been slate-ified too, with Word's new Read mode able to reflow a document into columns to make better use of the whole screen.

If it's not all incredibly fiddly, it'll be a minor design miracle. But 99 per cent of people will use a mouse and keyboard anyway, so this is really just an expensive way of saying, "Hey! Don't forget we make tablets too!"

Elsewhere, the much-loathed ribbon -- the awkward string of icons that change all the options at the top of the screen -- has been pared back, so it's easier to see what's what. The new design has no frames to individual windows, or lines between options. It's much more like Google Docs -- that is, white.


There are little usability tweaks and touches everywhere you look. In Word, for example, text reflows instantly around stuff you drag in, so you can add a photo or video to your doc and it won't make a horrible mess. Similarly, Excel can look at highlighted data and suggest the best chart to show off your mad spreadsheet skills.

PowerPoint, meanwhile, gives you a preview of the next slide coming up so you don't lose the thread of your presentation. Its cool laser pointer feature lets you prod at a specific part of your slide and a little glowing red dot appears there on the projector.

On top of the usability tweaks, Microsoft has baked online sharing and cloud storage into every app. It's called SkyDrive for us, and SharePoint for the pros, but it means you can easily share files with emailed links, and see changes immediately.

It syncs your history too, so wherever you sign in you'll see your recent docs -- and it'll even stream a full version of the app if you're using a computer that doesn't have Office.

Try it now

Office 2013 should be out in October with Windows 8, but Microsoft hasn't confirmed a date. You can download a preview here.

What do you think of the new look? Would you use it with a touchscreen? Have a gander at my US colleague Jason Parker's hands-on video with Office on a tablet.

Image credit: ZDNet, Microsoft

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You can download all the different Office programs from anywhere, on up to five computers.
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Read mode in Word flows text automagically into columns for easier reading.
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Here's a bunch of templates you'll never use.
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If you're collaborating on a document, comments are marked with a little speech bubble next to the text.
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It looks just as easy to share docs via email as it is on Google Docs.
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Excel doesn't look much different, but the tabs at the bottom are easier to read.
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Select some data and it does a quick analysis for you...
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... and even suggests different charts to best display what you've selected.
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Outlook can now display your reply inline, without having to open a new window. That should be helpful on tablets.
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You can click or tap on the Calendar tab at the bottom of the screen for a quick peek at what's happening today.
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And a little widget on the main calendar view shows you what the weather is going to be like on a particular day.
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Each program is boldy colour coded. If it's orange, it must be PowerPoint.
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The presentation software lets you pull images from online sources, including your SkyDrive cloud storage.
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This is what you see when you're giving your hilarious presentation -- with a preview of what's coming up. They just see the pure gold in your slides.
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