I Try ‘Em So You Don’t Have To: Office 2013
I took the Office 2013 plunge last night. I’ll come back in a week or so with detailed impressions.
First impression is that it’s good-looking and ugly at the same time. Does how it looks affect how it works? Yes and no. One of the changes is that the menu/tab labels are for some unfathomable reason all caps: FILE, HOME, etc. That’s simply harder to read. So is the count at the bottom of the Word screen, where for one of my books it says PAGE 198 OF 242 71542 WORDS. What happened to the comma in large numbers? I know people at Microsoft who write emails longer than 1000 words!
Outlook features some revised and improved icons but a less efficient layout, with more space wasted on the horizontal grouping bars that say Today, Yesterday, etc. For some reason these are in mixed case, rather than the all-caps format used elsewhere. Hey, Office team, this one’s right! Get rid of the all-caps stuff. Also, when you show the calendar at the right of the mail window, it reveals only today’s appointments, where the Outlook 2010 calendar showed as many upcoming appointments in a list as would fit. I could find no setting to change this.
The screenshot at left shows the menu bar, some of the icons, and the could-this-be-intentional shortening of one of the items in the menu (look at the one highlighted in blue).
In Outlook, when you reply to a message, it no longer puts the reply in a new Window. Rather, it inserts it in the Reading Pane to the right. That’s great for quick messages, but it’s not so good for thoughtful replies, where I want to look at the original in one window while I write my reply in another. You can click the Pop Out button to open the reply in a new window. The good news is that there’s a setting to change this behavior to Open Replies and Forwards in a New Window.
Outlook and Word did a nice job of retaining my settings from Office 2010. That is expected behavior, but so many programs break it. Microsoft got this right.
One nice feature: Paste a picture into Word, and it gives you the Layout Options menu as a “hover” item, so you don’t have to hunt around for “In Front of Text,” “Behind Text,” etc. Outlook does that too, though it’s less useful there because, unless you know your recipient also has Outlook, it’s hard to predict how it will look when received.
It’s fast on my large laptop, which has a mid-level processor. I haven’t installed it on my tiny “netbook” travel machine, which has little power, but I’ll do that over the weekend. We’ll see how it handles my giant, graphics-intensive PowerPoint decks.
The big feature supposedly is online saving and sharing. I suspect this feature will be of limited use in the legal world, where all sorts of issues attach to confidential files stored on a semi-public server (SkyDrive) in the cloud. Eventually we’ll get judges arguing about it, I suppose, and it will create even more business for the e-discovery vendors. (Will Microsoft be forced to produce documents stored on its servers? Do they go away if you erase them?)
So far, though, my reaction is, “meh.” I haven’t seen a single must-have improvement yet.