Yesterday, along with the Windows 8 launch party, the new Microsoft Office has been released. This is already the 15th iteration of the industry's leading product. Right now the final version is only available to TechNet subscribers, since it is RTM version.
Downloading and installing the 800 MB was quite fast and without any problem. The startup process did contain an interesting video showcasing the new features. The video mainly focused on the new SkyDrive integration and the possibilities to include other online services, such as Flickr and YouTube as well as sharing services like Facebook or Twitter.
The first thing that makes an impression is the new start screen for any Microsoft Office program. The start screen shows you some of the recent documents you've edited as well as a collection of templates for starting a new one. As with most dialogs a search box is included. The screen looks clean and inviting to start working.
The second thing that I noticed was the capitalized menu. I do not know if the Office product team has been looking at the Visual Studio product team or vice versa, but this looks odd (as it looks weird in Visual Studio). I do not know who likes those caps there - I do not. However, apart from this the whole program kept the strengths of the last 2 iterations (beginning with the major change in MSO 2007 and the improvements in MSO 2010), while improving on some of the weaknesses.
Typing seems a lot smoother now. The reason for this is a new cursor behavior, which will stop blinking during the typing process and performs an animation (do not be afraid - you will not actively notice this) during input. Therefore the whole cursor seems to move with the text input, instead of just repositioning.
Some screenshots (of Microsoft Word 2013) are presented below:
All in all the improvements are quite subtle. Most changes have been committed to the user interface, which comes in a Metro (if you allow me to name it that way) kind look and feel. The new starting screen and smooth presentation of the various Office applications makes working with the the programs a lot more fun. However, this new release should not be viewed as something revolutionary - instead it will extend this already excellent product with some new features.
For most people having Office 2010 will be sufficient - so there is probably no need to change. For Office 2007 users I can see a reason to upgrade. The same is true for Windows Phone 7 users, since the integration of SkyDrive with Office, i.e. synchronization with the mobile Office, is much deeper and better.