Office 2013 – First Impressions

My work laptop got wonky and my copy of Office 2010 was corrupted. Really weird stuff happening, but the icing on the cake was it saving corrupted files. I used all my ninja mojo, ran out of ideas, and then turned to our internal desktop support group, again to no avail. The last ditch effort before re-imaging the laptop was to try Office 2013.

Office 2013 with the release of the first service pack became “supported” on our computers, so a quick transaction on the SW lifecycle management tool, and it was installed. A couple reboots later and it is working.

It had no trouble finding my exchange email account, and syncing, and the plugins that I have installed work well with it (seems like the Acrobat plugin is a bit wonky, but I virtually never use that).

Interface

I was surprised at how different it appears from 2010, or even 2007. The “flat” UI look and feel is out in full force. At first it is a little offputting, and some of the highlight “contrasts” take getting used to, but all in all, it is very functional.

However, here is the big downside. It appears that all the applications are truly designed to be used full screen. I am sure this is due to the Windows 8 “Metro” UI, where everything is designed to be full screen. But on my 24″ monitor it feels wasteful. Yes, you can reduce the size of the windows, but it feels not quite right.

Outlook 2013, on my laptop with a 1440×900 display is almost unusable. I have to turn off the preview panel, and that greatly slows my filtering of email. Boo.

The tools

Word 2003 started with the “preview on launch” for files. I guess that is cool for quick browsing, but I always turn it off. Word 2013 now has an editing mode that is on be default showing the two pages like Word 2003 preview. I hate it. I am sure that it tests well in some venues, but give me good ol’ outline form, and I am happy.

Excel 2013 is surprising. There are enough UI tweaks to make it a delight to use. I would say that I prefer it to Excel 2010. I use excel A LOT, so it is good that this tool is as functional as it is.

Powerpoint 2013. Seems like window dressing over the 2010 version, albeit a bit unstable. It has crashed on me a couple of times, and that is discouraging. Hopefully a patch will tighten up the stability. I use Powerpoint quite frequently too.

Overall, the release is solid, and very workable. I am getting used to using them full screen (it really makes a difference), and am considering a second monitor for my desk at work to gain some desktop space. The recovery tools for when things crash (or when your damn SW lifecycle tool forces a reboot, about once a week) is much improved. Much easier to review the recovered files and to take action.

Final thoughts

A solid effort, not earth shaking advances, but a clean UI and good integration. If I was a Windows 8 user, I am confident that the Metro interface and the preference for full screen applications would be more intuitive. But I am an old fart.

I wouldn’t pay money for the upgrade, but for free, it is worth the effort.

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