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Microsoft has released a beta version of its upcoming Office 2013 suite. We take a tour of the revamped interface and the most useful new features.
The first thing you'll notice about Office 2013 across all its apps is its new look, which is cleaner, less cluttered, and more like a Metro app than a traditional desktop app.
The Office Ribbon is flat-looking, rather than three-dimensional as it is in the current version of Office. The text on the tabs is gray rather than black, making it recede even further. Click a tab and its text turns blue.
Although the Ribbon is turned on by default, you can make it go away by clicking a small icon on the screen's upper right.
When you do that, not only does the Ribbon go away, but so does everything else except the content area. The result is more screen real estate, which lets you focus on the work in front of you rather than on the application's interface.
The File tab screen is the most Metro-like area of the Office 2013 apps. It's also gotten some new features, such as easier ways to share with others.
Read Mode in Word
Word 2013's new Read Mode lets you swipe through pages horizontally rather than scroll through them vertically -- a feature that's clearly aimed at tablet users.
Zoom in Read Mode
When you're in Read Mode, you can right-click a table, chart or graphic, and you'll be able to zoom in on it -- and then zoom further if you want so that it takes up the whole screen. This is particularly useful for viewing detailed information in a table.
Creating a new presentation in PowerPoint
When you create a new presentation in PowerPoint 2013, you'll see visual representations of your available templates, which makes it much easier to get a sense of what your presentation will look like when finished.
Embedding Web images
Finding images and embedding them in your files has gotten easier in Office 2013. A few clicks lets you search for images on the Web and embed them in your presentations, documents and spreadsheets from directly inside PowerPoint, Word and Excel.
Quick Analysis tool in Excel
One of the best new Excel 2013 features is the Quick Analysis tool. Highlight data that you've input into a spreadsheet and a small icon appears next to it. Click the icon and Excel offers suggestions on how to handle the data, including choosing the right charts, formatting options, formulas you might want to insert and more.
Outlook's Navigation bar with "peek"
Outlook 2013's Navigation pane has been streamlined so that it takes up less space; Microsoft now calls it the Navigation bar.
There's a useful new "peek" feature embedded in the Navigation bar. When you're reading mail, hover your mouse over what you want to peek at -- for example, your calendar that day -- and a thumbnail of your schedule appears, large enough to read, but not so large that it obscures the entire screen.