I’m still in my analysis of Windows 8, the next episode of which should be appearing on this very landing page on Friday. With my daily use of Windows 8 I’m feeling more into the desktop mode, but I’m still dealing with the niggles that Metro brings to the desktop user. While I’ll voice my thoughts on that later, Microsoft released their preview of the next edition of Office Beta, which will probably land as Office 2013 along with Windows 8 this coming October.

Hit the jump for more info and some screenshots. 

With the introduction of Metro and that large typeface taking up all of the screen in full-screen apps, its a wonder that anyone ever figured that Office would stay the same as to what we’re used to. To a large extent is has changed to become Metro and tablet-friendly, but its still the same Office suite you’ve all grown to know and love (or hate). The new suite has been updated everywhere and does actually look pretty good but once again, the focus is on using Windows 8 and Office in a tablet and touchscreen environment. Forgetting, you know, that most people use a desktop for work.

You’ll notice that Outlook, as shown above, now takes up the entire screen and uses all the real estate to cram in more touch-friendly options. Although the picture is a bit fuzzy (I’ll have better ones from my own experiments later on) you’ll notice a zoom bar on the bottom right. Scaling the font in e-mails to suit the user is a great idea and one that I look to playing around with. The blue bar at the bottom also acts as a status toolbar, letting you know things like word count, page number, how many e-mails are unread and so on and so forth. Its a neat idea but its the same idea as the bottom bar currently on Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 so… its not really new. Just blue. Yep, I rhymed that one.

There’s also a larger emphasis on the use of keyboard shortcuts. Microsoft, it seems, is trying to dampen the popularity of the mouse and getting users more in tune to Metro and the way it works. I will admit, its much faster to do things on the keyboard in Metro than it is with a mouse but that’s probably down to me being slow and my mouse only tracking up to 1600dpi. Its a nice nod to power users and I’ll have a final opinion once I’ve had enough time to fool around with it.

Also announced by Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer was Office 365 subscriptions. The packages cover the use of Office 365 as an offline app for a limited period of time and will allow access to the 2013 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. While you can still buy the suites in a standalone retail pack, the subscriptions carry larger benefits, the details of which are below:

  • Office 365 Home Premium

 – This version is 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

 – This version is designed for small businesses. This service also includes business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD web conferencing.

  • Office 365 ProPlus

 – This version is designed for enterprise customers who want advanced business capabilities and the flexibility to deploy and manage in the cloud.

The pricing and release dates of the subscriptions aren’t set in stone yet, but the subcriptions cover you for any updates to the suites, including any major version changes. You can use the same license across five devices ranging from desktops, to laptops, ultrabooks and even mobile devices. There will also be a larger focus on storing documents in the cloud using Skydrive and there will probably also be things like Skype and social networking integration baked into the final versions. All in all, its a great update to the suite and I look forward to seeing how it makes changes to the way I and many others use our computers daily. Obviously Office 2013 will fit best in a Windows 8 environment, so if you’re upgrading and would like to use all the features, you may as well go the whole hog.

Download the Office 2013 Preview here.

Source: Tom’s Hardware

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