Microsoft Office 2013 review
Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint get the touchscreen treatment, cloud storage and a bunch of new features.
Once you get over the whitewashed interface and start fiddling with Outlook 2013, new features start to emerge.
Visually, the email view looks similar to the Mail app for Windows 8 Metro. Unread emails are highlighted with a blue bar, with the currently selected message highlighted in a dull grey. As with the rest of the Office 2013 apps, the ribbon interface can be tucked away if not needed, and if you're only reading, replying to or forwarding messages, it's certainly superfluous.
If you've got the Reading Pane open, you can take advantage of the new Inline Replies feature, which allows you to reply to a message from within the Reading Pane itself, with your reply entered at the top of the incoming message.
Outlook 2013 takes advantage of Windows 8's new notifications system, alerting users to new messages in their inbox with a pop-up in the top right corner of the screen. We prefer the more discreet System Tray alerts of Office 2010, but it's something which may grow on us.
Other mail features include Site Mailboxes, an Exchange-based feature that allows you to create a shared mail folder, calendar and task list for everyone in a particular team, which could prove handy for businesses that have employees clustered on particular projects.
Attempting to access your Calendar exposes another Metro-inspired element of the new Outlook the new navigation menu. Switching between Mail, Calendar, People (previously Contacts) and Tasks is now performed by left-clicking on the relevant option at the foot of the page. When in Mail, you can also hover over the Calendar option to see a pop-up containing details of your forthcoming appointments, although you can still have a pervasive mini Calendar running down the right hand side of the screen, if you prefer.
Very little else has changed with the Calendar. A new bar marks the time of day across your Calendar presumably for those who finds clocks and watches a little high maintenance. A mini weather forecast is also embedded in the Calendar view. Apparently it's going to rain for the next few days
Metro rears its head once more, with People now replacing Contacts in the Outlook menu. As with the Windows 8 app, contacts are amalgamated from social services such as LinkedIn, as well as your various address books. This is also meant to automatically pull in photos of your email correspondents from the social networks.
Favourite People can also be added to the To-Do Bar running down the right-hand side of the Outlook window, allowing you to see at a glance if/when your team members are free for a meeting.
Outlook 2013 includes a Touch mode that theoretically makes it easier to navigate on a tablet. The buttons and commands on the ribbon are still far too small for our liking, and we're really not sure we'd want to use Outlook on a tablet without a stylus or keyboard/trackpad to hand.
There are some hidden touch gestures that work quite well, though. Pinch to zoom on the Calendar view, for example, neatly switches between day, week and month views.
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