Microsoft's Office suite of work-related apps has been given a spit and polish for 2013 and will be available to buy this week. £110 nets you the basic Home and Student package, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
£220 snags the Home and Business version, which also includes Outlook for your email and calendar needs. Office Professional adds Access and Publisher for the business brains among you, and comes in at a spicy £390.
If you don't fancy shelling out quite such large amounts of cash, you might be interested to hear Microsoft is offering the premium Home version of Office 365 as an £80 per year subscription. It includes all the apps found in Office Professional and can run on up to five machines per household at the same time. (Once you've reached five you'll need to deactivate one before you can activate a new computer.)
The packages on offer don't differ much from those in the Office 2010 suite. The price of the Home and Student package remains the same, while the Business and Professional offerings have both seen a slight price drop.
The apps themselves have been given a facelift and pack in some rather tasty new features. If you want an idea of its look and some new features to expect, head over to our.
The ribbons on Word, Excel and PowerPoint are still there, holding all your settings, but the icons can be made bigger, making them slightly easier to use on a touchscreen. You're able to sign into Office with your own account, allowing you to view only your own recent documents and use your own personal settings.
Inserting pictures and videos into documents is much easier and Microsoft is bringing app stores to the programs too, letting you download third-party tools to do tasks such as plot Excel data over geographical maps. There's not much in there now, but it's apparently working hard to bring more of these little add-ons over the coming months.
You can save your documents to Microsoft's cloud storage service Skydrive and access them anywhere, as well as share them with your friends or colleagues for collaboration, or show them as a presentation online if you want to talk them through it. You're also able to instantly publish documents to blogging services such as WordPress or Blogger.
The subscription-based Office 365 allows you to stream entire programs. Basically, if you're using a computer that doesn't have Office installed, you can view the desktop apps by streaming them through your browser. You'll need a decent Internet connection to start with, but once the data has been cached locally, you can edit and save documents even when your connection goes down -- if you're on a train, for example.
It certainly seems to have a few neat tricks up its sleeve, but not all is perfect. Crucially, all Office apps (with the exception of OneNote) open in the classic desktop mode of, rather than in the Metro-style live tiles. Microsoft explained to me that it wanted to keep it familiar to existing users and it would be a big engineering project to move it.
I think it's rather poor form that Microsoft is working so hard to convince other developers to bring their apps to Windows 8, while not even making its own apps run natively from the homescreen.
The other issue is the price. £110 might not be a whopping amount of money, but it's exactly £110 more than you'd need to pay if you're doing the same things in Google Docs. Even Google's paid apps service for businesses only starts at £33 per user per year. It's early days, but I'm not convinced at this point that Office 2013 provides enough to warrant the hundred or so pounds over its free competitors.
I'll be getting deep down into its core when we have a finished version in our hands later this week. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on Office in the comments below or over on our official Facebook page.