This is going to be a tremendous year for Microsoft. Steve Ballmer equates this year to when Windows 95 was released by saying:

The new, modern Office will deliver unparalleled productivity and flexibility for both consumers and business customers. It is a cloud service and will fully light-up when paired with Windows 8.”

To that end, almost every product is getting revamped and while Windows 8 will be the focus of many, Office is a suite of products that, as Steve points out is crucial to not only consumers but also enterprise users. Therefore, when a new version of Office is announced, it’s a big deal.

Having just finished a training engagement on Office 2010 there will no doubt be questions surrounding functionality but I believe the learning curve from Office 2010 to 2013 will be small. Certainly much smaller than from Office 2003 to 2010 as the Ribbon played in large part to some confusion on where certain features were. Of course the Ribbon was a necessity as the old paradigm of menu's, sub-menu's and toolbars just couldn't scale with the introduction of so many new features. That said, there is a whole host of changes (notwithstanding the UI) that the new versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access and OneNote bring with them.

I certainly couldn’t do them all justice by naming each one but here’s a high level overview of what to expect:

Office at Its Best on Windows 8

  • Touch everywhere. Office responds to touch as naturally as it does to keyboard and mouse. Swipe your finger across the screen or pinch and zoom to read your documents and presentations. Author new content and access features with the touch of a finger.
  • Inking. Use a stylus to create content, take notes and access features. Handwrite email responses and convert them automatically to text. Use your stylus as a laser pointer when presenting. Color your content and erase your mistakes with ease.
  • New Windows 8 applications. OneNote and Lync represent the first new Windows 8 style applications for Office. These applications are designed to deliver touch-first experiences on a tablet. A new radial menu in OneNote makes it easy to access features with your finger.
  • Included in Windows RT. Office Home and Student 2013 RT, which contains new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote applications, will be included on ARM-based Windows 8 devices, including Microsoft Surface.

Office Is in the Cloud

  • SkyDrive. Office saves documents to SkyDrive by default, so your content is always available across your tablet, PC and phone. Your documents are also available offline and sync when you reconnect.
  • Roaming. Once signed in to Office, your personalized settings, including your most recently used files, templates and even your custom dictionary, roam with you across virtually all of your devices. Office even remembers where you last left off and brings you right back to that spot in a single click.
  • Office on Demand. With a subscription, you can access Office even when you are away from your PC by streaming full-featured applications to an Internet-connected Windows-based PC.
  • New subscription services. The new Office is available as a cloud-based subscription service. As subscribers, consumers automatically get future upgrades in addition to exciting cloud services including Skype world minutes and extra SkyDrive storage. Subscribers receive multiple installs for everyone in the family and across their devices.

Office Is Social

  • Yammer. Yammer delivers a secure, private social network for businesses. You can sign up for free and begin using social networking instantly. Yammer offers integration with SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics.
  • Stay connected. Follow people, teams, documents and sites in SharePoint. View and embed pictures, videos and Office content in your activity feeds to stay current and update your colleagues.
  • People Card. Have an integrated view of your contacts everywhere in Office. The People Card includes presence information complete with pictures, status updates, contact information and activity feeds from Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.
  • Skype. The new Office comes with Skype. When you subscribe, you get 60 minutes of Skype world minutes every month. Integrate Skype contacts into Lync and call or instant message anyone on Skype.

Editions

  • Office 365 Home Premium — designed for families and consumers. This service also includes an additional 20 GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype world minutes per month.
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium designed for small businesses. This service also includes business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD web conferencing.
  • Office 365 ProPlus designed for enterprise customers who want advanced business capabilities and the flexibility to deploy and manage in the cloud.

I encourage you to try the new Office and submit your feedback.