Microsoft Office 15: Is It Worth It?

For those anticipating the release of Windows 8, you’ve probably been a bit curious about what Microsoft would do about its Office product. The information arrived a short time ago about a new version of Microsoft Office (version 15) that would operate seamlessly on the Metro interface. There’s just one question: Is it worth using?

New features of Microsoft Office 15 include the ability to present PowerPoint slides in a manner that matches the original presentation scheme, allowing you to have a digital laser pointer and a timer, all found within a dashboard elegantly crafted for the presenter. When you connect an external monitor to your Windows 8 tablet, people attending your presentation see the slides while you still see the dashboard on your screen. This gives you a significant amount of flexibility and comfort while presenting your slides. Of course, that’s just some of what PowerPoint offers.

Word has a pretty interface:

office15-word-interface

With Word, you can go into a “Read Mode,” which lets you read the document naturally and add comments as necessary. This lets you pack a huge punch in your research if you use a lot of Word documents. If you noticed on the screenshot, the interface opens up on the traditional desktop. This was kind of weird, considering that I’ve understood that it would operate strictly on the Metro interface. The Office suite acts like a Metro app, but isn’t inside the interface.

Back to the subject of Word, it can open PDF files, meaning that you won’t really need Adobe Reader to do this anymore. Anything you want to save can be stored in the cloud or locally, depending on whether you want to share the documents with multiple devices across the Internet or not. This is especially useful for taking your work home!

Outlook now lets you specify how long you want to store your mail offline right from the “Add Account” dialog if you’re adding an IMAP account. Other than that, adding an account is pretty much the same.

office15-outlook-add

The interface is also strikingly similar to that of Outlook 2010, but I’ve finally seen something worthwhile: They fixed notifications on IMAP mailboxes. In Outlook 2010, I don’t get notifications by default and have to add a rule for the program to notify me whenever new mail arrives. Outlook 2013 seems to have this issue straightened out. The interface itself is a bit more navigable than the mess I had to deal with in 2010.

Also, as opposed to the almost 200MB of RAM that Outlook 2010 used, Outlook 2013 seems to use a steady 35MB of RAM with comparatively similar settings and accounts. This definitely deserves some kudos. Oh, and here’s another selling point: Replies to emails are now in-line with the program’s interface, meaning that the program will not open a new window for replies. And just like Windows 7 has Aero Peek, Outlook now lets you preview your calendar and other things by simply hovering your mouse pointer over each section of the interface.

Our next stop is at OneNote 2013, the last program included in the Office 15 (2013) preview. Its interface is rather simple:

office15-onenote-interface

Beyond that, there’s nothing much else to see. Of course, that might be because Microsoft is trying to emulate an actual notebook. Aside from that, you get nothing much else unless you use a touchscreen, which offers you a radial interface with selected elements within your notes.

The new Excel interface is also very elegant, especially when you want to make charts. The chart designer has been re-vamped to offer more feasibility for people who are new to Excel and veterans who want to save some time.

office15-excel-charts

Office 15 seems to have been worked on in a bit of a hurry, especially since it doesn’t harness the real power behind its cloud-driven features. Compared to Office 2010, Office 2013 definitely flies much higher. However, I’m talking about the fact that it could have had the potential for much, much more.

Let’s say you’re working with someone on a spreadsheet in Excel. You’ll have to save the file and wait for the other person to finish editing and saving it before you can continue. You might as well work on it by yourself. Office could be taking advantage of the cloud in many different ways, but it’s not doing this. In fact, there are tons of scenarios in which collaboration would make offices much more productive.

Another pet peeve I have with Office 15 is that it has that Metro look, but doesn’t give you the option to make the application full-screen (or maybe it does and I didn’t notice?).

Despite its lack of imagination with the cloud technology and the inability to use fullscreen, there’s a lot to be said about how much it can do. The amount of features added and the incredibly snazzy interface make Office 15 definitely worthwhile against Office 2010.

Low resource usage makes it an ideal application for someone with a low to mid-range computer, when you would have needed something mid to high-end to run Office 2010 properly. Outlook is gorgeous and I like how it doesn’t freeze every 5 seconds. Nobody could be happier than Microsoft Office’s IMAP users, who now get proper notifications when new messages arrive. It was annoying to have to program Outlook to notify me.

In the end, all I have to say is that the new version of Office has a lot to offer and shouldn’t be overlooked. While people might be unnerved by the Metro interface in Windows 8 itself, Office 15 makes excellent use of the Metro look and feel, giving you a less cluttered view of what you’re doing. This is probably the one impressive product Microsoft will be coming up with this fall. Stay tuned for its release next year!

If you’ve got anything productive to add to this dialogue, or questions you want answered, make yourself comfortable in the comments section. We’ll continue talking there!