I have been setting up various companies on Office 365 lately and have enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to look into Office 365 for my personal use. Luckily, they offer plans catered to home use, so it’s much more affordable. At $9.99/mo., I can definitely budget for a subscription. I’m currently running the 30 day trial just to see how it runs. Following is my personal review of Word 2013 and Excel 2013 as these are really the only two programs that I, or anyone that I do IT work for actually use.
With my $9.99/mo subscription to Office 365 Home Premium, I get 5 licenses of Office 2013 to install on 5 different PCs within my household. In addition, I get the usual access to the WebApps in SkyDrive which are Web based versions of Word, Excel, etc. In addition, you also have the ability to “stream” a copy of Office 2013 to PCs that do not already have Office installed without actually installing Office. This does not use any of your licenses as the software will not actually be installed on the computer.
Last night, I decided to do a test. I booted up a VM with Windows 7 installed. No Office product is installed on this VM, so I logged into my Office 365 account and downloaded the Word App. After a short installation, I was prompted that I could start using the software, but that it may be slow while more components were being downloaded. At this point, I did not see any icons for the software (as I had expected since this was a streamed version of Office.) However, Word launched and I was able to use it just like a normal copy of Word. I typed up a line and saved the document, conveniently, to my Sky Drive documents folder. I shut down my VM and opened up Chrome on my host PC running Windows 8. From here, I logged into Sky Drive (online) and launched the same document using the Word Web App. This launched a very familiar looking version of Word. Honestly, when put into full screen mod, it almost didn’t look any different than the actual Word application on the PC. At any rate, I typed a line and saved the document, automatically going to my Sky Drive documents folder.
I then opened Word 2013 which was already installed on my desktop PC. I opened the document from Sky Drive and typed a few lines. I then opeend the file back up in the Word Web App. Every time the document and the application UI remained the same. It was very familiar, very universal, simple, and Cloud based!
If you have used or have been using Office 2010, then the switch won’t be to terribly different. There are definately some differences, but the overall UI is very similar. Office 2013 incorporates the SkyDrive platform. By signing into Office with your SkyDrive account, you are able to open, edit and save documents right from SkyDrive without the need to install SkyDrive separately. Though you can still install SkyDrive if you are like me and prefer to have a local copy of your cloud documents. I did a test last night beginng
All of the applications in Office 2013 include a neat feature that has been used before. This is the little “Quick Tools” button that appears whenever an object is selected. This gives you access to the most common tool for the object you have selected. For example, in Word 2013 if you select an image, the button gives you immediate access to choosing how the image interacts with word wrap in the document. 2-Click access to the most common option. Genius, I think.
Excel has some very cool new features. One in particular I want to mention is the Quick Analysis button. This is the icon that appears when you select an entire table of data (including headers and titles). Using this button gives you quick access to automatically generated charts, graphs, diagrams, and advanced formatting using the table data that you have selected. I have used this feature already on some CSV files exported from my financial program. So far I have gotten excellent output with absolutely no configuration. I guess that would be 2-Click graphs? Genius!
Another cool feature, one which I haven’t found any other application for than the demonstrated purpose, is their Auto-fill (or Auto-guess) feature. Say you have a spreadsheet with 2 Columns: 1st is for Email addresses, and the 2nd is for First names. Let’s say that the email addresses are all in the format of email@example.com. Let’s also assume that you have quite a few email addresses, but no names associated with them. By filling in the first box manually, upon filling in the second box you will be prompted to auto-fill all of the following first name boxes using the auto-guessed first names from the email address column. Genius!
I thought about including some screen-shots, but honestly I was lazy. If you didn’t quite understand my explanations of these features, check them out for yourself. Everything I mentioned is included in the “Take a Tour” document of each Office application. Microsoft was very generous and included a nice little starter document that shows you some of the new featuers and how to use them. Each thing I described above is included in the respective Office application. Get a copy of Office today free for 30 days. After that, it can be as cheap as $9.99/mo. (possibly cheaper if paid by the year).