Microsoft's recently released Office 2013 Consumer Preview adds touch capability but this lacks the finesse associated with other touch-optimised apps. Rating to follow with full review.
Microsoft's next-generation version of Office is aiming to bring the productivity suite up to date, with touch-screen support for running on Windows 8 tablet devices, plus support for saving documents to the cloud so that user data can be made available anywhere at any time.
However, judging by our initial experiences, Microsoft still has much work to do to make Office 2013 a must-have upgrade. We found that using the Office apps on a touch-screen device very quickly turned into a frustrating experience. The supposed integration with cloud-based services is far from seamless.
Many of the new features, while welcome, are not enough on their own to make customers now using Office 2007 or 2010 feel the need to upgrade, unless you specifically want the tablet-specific features such as touch input or inking using a digital stylus.
Microsoft gave us access to the newly available Office 2013 Preview Release applications on a Samsung Series 7 tablet device running the Windows 8 Release Preview, along with a Windows Live account and a SharePoint portal to store documents online.
However, although we configured Office 2013 to link to SkyDrive and SharePoint as per Microsoft's instructions, we found that the applications asked for our credentials almost every time we tried to save a file to the cloud, or open one that we had previously saved, a process that quickly became tiresome.
As for the applications themselves, these are broadly very similar to the desktop applications in Office 2010. In fact a casual observer would be hard put to tell the difference at first glance, save for relatively minor differences such as the ribbon menu headings now being all upper case.
This could be seen as a positive development, as users familiar with Office 2007 or Office 2010 should have few problems finding the features and functions they regularly access in the new Office applications.