Office 15 borrows some design elements from Windows 8, giving the suite of programs a Metro look much like the newest version of Microsoft's desktop and mobile OS.
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First launched on August 1, 1989, Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint et al) soon became the standard suite used in businesses, schools and homes everywhere. With Office 15, Microsoft is finally giving the dusty old suite a major 21st century upgrade.
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Your copy of Office now isn't tied to a particular machine you own; instead, it's tied to you. Office has become a cloud-based subscription service (with three subscription options --pricing and availability to be announced for later). As updates are released during your subscription period, you'll get them for free.
Included in Windows RT machines, Office 15 will also be available as a standalone product. As with Windows 8, you'll download it .
I've spent the past week getting to know Microsoft Office 15 on a Samsung Series 7 tablet. For someone who uses Office everyday, Office 15 definitely has a familiar feel to it -– with a few surprises.
Office 15 borrows some design elements from Windows 8, giving the suite of programs a Metro look -- much like the newest version of Microsoft's desktop and mobile OS.
The result is a much cleaner, much easier to use suite of software applications. Everything from Microsoft Word to OneNote takes advantage of the new look. While all of the applications have many of the same features you've come to know over the years, the updated user interfaces makes many of the apps feel like a different experience altogether.
You really feel like you're using a next-generation product with Office 15, and the interface makes the suite of software seem as though it was built to be run on a tablet -- rather than a piece of desktop software that just happens to be able to run on one.
One exceptionally notable new feature in Office 15 is the office suite's new touch controls, designed to be used on touch screens such as Microsoft's self-branded Surface tablet.
OneNote and Lync, in particular, are designed with a Windows 8 feel, with the menus specifically designed to be touched. Taking advantage of the tablet experience, you can handwrite email responses using your stylus and then convert them automatically to text. The tablet stylus can also be used as a laser pointer when presenting.
Still, the novelty of touching your tablet screen to select a document template or pick a new font may fade. During the week I found myself more often that not using a mouse to navigate through windows and make selections rather than touching the screen.
It's nice to have the functionality to navigate via touch when you need it, but doing so is awkward enough -– perhaps because we've become accustomed to using point-and-click interfaces.
Some menus and functions just aren't meant to be touched, at least not the way the apps are currently designed.
Up in the Cloud
SkyDrive is front and center in Office 15. Documents are saved by default to SkyDrive, providing you access to them no matter where you are.
Wherever you go, Office goes with you. Once you're signed in, your settings -- including templates, customer dictionary, and the last document you were working on-- roam with you across different devices.
When working with a document, Office will remember where you left off on one device, and let you pick up at the same place on another. Office documents can be created on the web using Office Web Apps and then opened on your computer, and vice versa.
Making it all easier
Everything in Office 15 seems to work together a little better. Taking advantage of being connected to the web and to the cloud, many of the apps offer a number of small features that turn out to be huge ones when you actually start using them.
For instance, templates for different types of documents are brought directly into Microsoft Office from Office.com, along with a preview. Clicking on the preview brings up a larger version, along with that specific template's star rating from other users.
If you've ever gone hunting for a new template to use for a Word doc, you know how huge this is. Templates – such as new business cards or a resume -- are now super-easy to find, and easy to download and bring into to Word for editing.
The process is so simple that you wouldn't know that the template wasn't part of Word in the first place.
Multimedia elements, such as YouTube videos can also now be previewed live when brought into Word documents. For instance, clicking on a YouTube video you've inserted into your document will darken the rest of the screen and bring the video front-and-center for your to watch. Clicking anywhere outside of the video player will stop playback and bring you back into your document to continue editing.
A mini version of your calendar is also now available to view at-a-glance in Outlook.
PowerPoint has a new private Presenter View that shows your current and upcoming slides, your presentation time, and your speaker notes at a glance. While you're doing a presentation, you can zoom, mark up and navigate your slides with touch and stylus.
Lync includes multiparty HD video with presentations, shared OneNote notebooks and a virtual whiteboard for collaborative brainstorming.
The People Card, which will be familiar to Windows Phone users, is available throughout Office. The card lets you check out your friend's status updates from Facebook, contact information, and activity feeds from LinkedIn along with their picture.
Skype is also built into Office 15. When you sign up for a subscription to Office, you get 60 minutes of Skype world minutes every month. Skype contacts can also be integrated into Lync, so you can call or instant message anyone on Skype quickly.
Yammer -- a private social network for businesses, -- offers integration with SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics.
Feels like home
Office 15 contains all the programs you've come to know over the years. The suite of software includes Word 2013,: InfoPath Designer 2013, Publisher 2013, OneNote 2013, InfoPath Filler 2013, Excel 2013, Outlook 2013, PowerPoint 2013, Lync 2013, and Access 2013.
After a few days of working in the in the new environment, it started to feel like home -- so much so that going back to the current version of Office felt like I had pulled out a PC from a decade ago.
Are you contemplating the upgrade to Office 15? Let us know in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable .