Microsoft recently released the consumer preview of Microsoft Office 2013, which is available free of charge at http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/en .
This is part one of a series of articles describing some of the changes and new features in Office 2013.
Microsoft Word 2013 includes the traditional ribbon style interface of the 2007/2010 versions of Word, with some exciting improvements – especially when it comes to how you save and share documents. Office 2013 setup now prompts you to sign in to a Microsoft account (or Windows Live, Hotmail, MSN) and will sign in automatically when you launch any Office 2013 application.
Once you’ve signed in, Microsoft’s SkyDrive will be enabled, which will let you save and share documents in the cloud. Skydrive is a free service by Microsoft and syncs information automatically with your SkyDrive account, allowing you to share documents and files with other users.
When you first open Word 2013 you will be greeted with the new document template selection screen which shows your recent documents, along with templates available to create new ones. These templates are stored both on the local computer and Microsoft’s online database of templates. When you select one, it will automatically download to your computer and open.
The biggest change to Word is in the Save menu where saving now defaults to Microsoft’s SkyDrive service. You still have the option of saving to your local computer or to shared network locations. For those of you worried about if your internet connection fails, there is a red warning which comes up if the save was not successful. Thankfully, Microsoft has a long track record of reliable servers, so we expect this feature to be well managed. For enterprise users there will be a SharePoint option which lets you save to your companies SharePoint server by default instead of the SkyDrive.
The redesigned file menu has a new Share function which lets you collaborate on documents with other users of Office 2013 (you’ll be able to see who is editing a document and the document will update to reflect any changes). You can also choose if the person can edit or just view the document and invite people by name if they are in your contacts. Adding by e-mail address is also available.
You can also get a link to the document for both editing or viewing, which will open up in any web browser. This will be very helpful, for example, if you send out an e-mail asking people to RSVP. You can include a RSVP Word document with the e-mail they can edit with how many people will be attending.
Give it a test drive:
Along with direct posting to social networks and e-mailing the document, you can also publish as a blog post, which will convert the document to a format compatible with popular blog software such as WordPress, TypePad or Microsoft’s SharePoint blog.
There will also be Import/Export functions built into Word to support Adobe’s PDF format. You will be able to edit and print Adobe PDF documents and save documents as PDF. This will be especially helpful for people filling out forms online or creating forms for people to fill out.
The final major improvement to Word 2013 is the reading view. Reading view is designed for easier reading of documents and will definitely improve the experience of reading a document on a touch screen enabled PC. This mode also includes some handy zoom features and adds right/left arrow buttons to flip between pages, much like reading a book. This mode is going to be ideal for reading documents, and may be the best improvement to Word for those who have to spend a lot of time reading rather then creating documents.
Overall, the experience so far with Word 2013 is a positive one. While the PDF editing feature did present some alignment problems, it’s to be expected from a preview edition. The SkyDrive integration and document collaboration efforts present a fantastic leap forward for Word.
Keep an eye out on www.worldstart.com  for other reports coming soon on Office 2013 Consumer Preview.