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An early look at Microsoft Office 15

A glimpse at the upcoming Office product on Paul Thurrott's Supersite for Windows reveals a new suite that tries to mimic the feel of Metro but runs as a traditional desktop program.

Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

Microsoft Office 15 will come built for the desktop but offer a huge touch of the Metro flair, according to a description posted by Supersite for Windows author Paul Thurrott, who obtained a copy of an early preview version.

Accord to Thurrott, the technical preview of Office 15 kicks off like the current version, letting you choose which applications to install.

But after a full installation, you'll find your Metro start screen cluttered with a huge number of live tiles for each application. That's an inherent flaw in the Metro UI, which doesn't allow tiles to be organized into folders. Install enough apps, and your Metro screen can easily be inundated by dozens, if not hundreds, of individual tiles stretching across your screen.

Thurrott even asks the question: "Will Microsoft clean this up? I would bet so." Microsoft clearly needs to offer users a better way to manage the vast number of apps destined to take up space on the start screen. So I also have to believe this must be on the company's to-do list for Windows 8.

Looking at a specific Office application, namely Microsoft Word, it displays a split view with a list of recent documents on the left and a stack of Word templates to choose from on the right. From the screenshot provided by Thurrott, this resembles the split screen you see when you run two Metro apps side by side.

As part of the clean screen approach seen in other Windows 8 apps, such as Internet Explorer 10, Word keeps its infamous ribbon minimized by default, available only when you want it. A new full-screen view hides the ribbon and all other elements, letting you focus just on your document.

Office 15 also taps into the integration between Windows 8 and your Windows Live ID account. By signing into the new OS with your Live ID, you can access your online Photo Gallery, SkyDrive, and other Live services.

The SkyDrive access should prove convenient for people who store their documents online. I use SkyDrive to sync my local files so they're available both in the cloud and across other PCs. Office 15 will let you work directly with your documents on SkyDrive just as if they were stored locally.

The other applications in the suite, such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, carry on with the same visual style and clean screen approach.

Since this is a technical preview, which Microsoft only made available to a select few customers, the company likely still has more changes in store for the new Office suite. But at first glance, Office 15 seems like a step in the right direction, offering some of the simplicity of the Metro style but keeping its roots firmly as a desktop program.

The technical preview of the new Office is expected to blossom into a full beta sometime this summer, available for everyone to try out.