Microsoft unveiled their new version of Office yesterday (16 July 2012) and boy is it really cloud friendly. Its so cloud friendly that its default save-to location for files created in the suite is SkyDrive.
Gone are the days we would wait for DVDs of Office to be shipped then we would painstakingly install the software and have to deal with licensing issues. Gone are the days you used email or flash drives to carry around documents from your office to home and in between. Because the new version of office is available everywhere, literally.
Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Balmer described this version of office as “the most ambitious release of Microsoft Office that we’ve ever done” and from what I have witnessed so far with the preview I have just installed, it is ambitious.
The new version boasts of saving directly to the cloud, social integration at its core and a number of ways of using the suite. Of interest is the Click-To-Run option which allows an application to be used even before installation is complete. Another one is the ability to use Office on a computer where office does not exist by logging into your account and streaming the apps directly to which ever computer you are using. The suite (in some versions, especially the subscription mode), is tied in your user account, meaning its available to you everywhere you go.
Without wasting time, I quickly signed up for the preview and the magic started happening. Everything looked different even the installation procedure. When installing office I was used to having an 800MB folder containing setup files which I would run. This time it was different. The install file was 600kb (the 64 bit version) and the setup started.
This part took some few minutes and this was the next screen, the streaming part:
This part (maybe my link is slow, I don’t know), took some considerable time. I believe it is this part that it downloads binaries for the suite for you to start playing with. After waiting a very long time (let’s say 30 minutes), finally it finished:
Well, I already have a large Skydrive account so I logged in using my never used Hotmail account.
First of all you’ll notice that the way the apps appear are flattened, almost Metro-like. You can even call it clean. But at this stage they are just dialog boxes, who knows what waits for us when the installation is complete.
Afetr signing in, it introduces me to SkyDrive. Since I already know about Skydrive I quickly sped through this part of the installation. After offering to show me around (which I declined kindly) I was told my office suite was ready but I should stay online as they make finishing touches. Maybe this meant they are finishing downloading the rest of the applications.
And lo and behold, when I checked my start menu, there were new items added, the Office 2013 crew.
After about a minute or so, Microsoft Office Word 2013 opened up in all its glory. And it’s very whitish. That was my first impression. And very flat. And very much like Office 2010. Except for my username and picture on the top right hand corner to show I was logged in.
Going through the different tabs on the ribbon menu resulted in lots of “not responding” messages, but everything displayed correctly in the end. And I was playing with Word, I noticed on my second screen, the wrapping up dialog box was busy downloading the remainder of the whole suite onto my computer. It truly was streaming the app onto my computer as and when needed.
I started typing my first Word 2013 document. Honestly, it just felt like typing in Word. You press keys on the keyboard; they appear magically in the document. The only difference was how the cursor moved as you typed. It moved smoothly and softly such that you might not notice it as it move to follow your words. Not useful in any way but a welcome difference in scenario.
The only problem I had was the “not responding” messages I kept getting every time I tried to type something new. This was irritating to say the least, but I just installed the thing, so maybe its hasn’t properly finished. If this was to work with more impatient people, they streaming has to work better than its currently doing on my machine.
Saving the document opened up the save as page:
As expected from the notes, the default save to location is my SkyDrive Account. Of course a person can just select computer and browse to a location on their computer. This saving part, just like everything else, took some time to complete.
I then also opened Excel. Excel took shorter to open than Word. Maybe they share components and these components had already been downloaded. Opening Excel opened this window which I’m failing to describe properly. It basically contains templates from Office.com and to the left a list of Recently opened Excel files. I believe it took this list from my current version of Office 2010.
After clicking the blank workbook option, Excel took its lovely time to actually open this workbook of course with the now familiar not responding message. Windows Vista taught me very well to not bother or disturb an application with such a message as any disturbances might lead to the application actually crashing. So I left it alone till it felt it was ready to entertain me. Once again this time was long, as compared to the less than one second needed to open Excel 2010. I attributed this slow speed to the still streaming process. Maybe it will get better with time.