Using Our Good Offices

Nandagopal Rajan        Print Edition: November 2012

As Windows 8 rolls out later this month, we will see a paradigm shift in the way computing is done across the world. In tune with the times and the proliferation of devices, Windows 8 is also made for a multi-screen world. The effort is to give the same user experience whatever the device you are using or wherever across the globe you are. As always, one of the critical elements of Windows is its Office software package, complete with the ubiquitous Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Microsoft has already released a preview of its New Office and it is hard to miss the wow factor in its elements. Obviously, this is Office for a new world, a world where the desktop might be the last place you access work from. A look at what is new and how MS Office works.

An office in the cloud
The New Office sits as much on the cloud as it does on your machine. So the first thing that you do with the Office is to log in to your Microsoft account. This means that every time you save a file, it is also saved to SkyDrive and synced live to all your devices that run Office. This ensures continuity in your work even if you have to leave the office and catch up on work from home. This also means the file in the cloud can be shared with others and they can also edit the document if you want them to.

Word
Word is without doubt the most used Office software, so even the slightest change is hard to miss. We could not overlook the fact that the cursor has stopped blinking and just flows smoothly-maybe to resonate the "Fast and Fluid" design philosophy of Windows 8. Another great feature for people who write a lot is the ability to add apps to the page itself. You no longer have to open a webpage to check out a work or fact, as Merriam Webster Dictionary and Encyclopedia Britannica apps can be inserted at the side of the page. Select a word or phrase and just right click to Bing it. You can also add videos to any page now. Plus, going with popular demand you can now hide the fully loaded ribbon on the top.

Excel
Life becomes much more simpler with Excel, especially for those who aren't all that good with the formulae needed to make spreadsheets make sense. To begin with, the columns and rows are now intuitive and know what you are trying to do. An immediate analysis of the sheet can be conjured up with a simple right click. The data can be presented in chart, table or another statistical tool without your knowing even a basic formula. This we think is going to make many basic Excel users much more productive. Users can insert and edit many online elements to make their spreadsheets easier to understand.

PowerPoint
If you can add video files to Word, we need not even discuss the kind of value addition you can now do to a PowerPoint presentation. But what really caught our attention was the cockpit view that lets you take full control of a presentation as you are giving one. With this feature you know where you are in a presentation and what is going to come next. Then you can also annotate a slide to explain the contents better as you are speaking. There is also the option of zooming in on a particular part of a slide. This is a full dashboard for PowerPoint.

Outlook
Open the new Outlook and it looks a lot like the Mail app in Windows 8 and that is good, neat and clean. Apart from the better design, you have more utility with Outlook. Simple features like the ability to reply to mail from the inbox seems to have been inspired by the way people work these days. Even features like calendar can now be accessed without actually opening that tab.

OneNote
When OneNote was first announced a few years ago it was a real wonder app. But now almost everyone has something similar. So OneNote has bettered itself with what we thought was an integration of the other sides of Office. You can open and edit an Excel or Word file within a note if needed. The screen clipper now appears as a tab below the screen and becomes more handy, while you also have the option of printing an Office file to OneNote.

Lync
With the new Office, Microsoft is trying to make the workplace more social. So Lync, one of the company's recent acquisitions, tries to change the way people communicate in the office. This enterprise software lets you collaborate with colleagues using instant messaging, video chat and VOIP. Office is also integrated to Lync with drag and drop ease so that up to a thousand people can work on one file at time if needed. That is also the number of people who can take part in a video conference. No, there are no feature to cut through the chaos.

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