Office 2013 is the latest refresh of Microsoft's near ubiquitous Office suite. The latest version sees it get the Windows 8 treatment, with a touch-friendly interface and a sparser look, as well as new features in every application.
While the main thing you'll notice is the new look, there are some really interesting features under the hood - though sadly not for Windows XP users, who are now excluded. Office 2013 is strictly for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users.
As part of the launch, Office has also reached a new landmark by going into the cloud with subscription pricing, on-demand installation and automatic syncing of settings and documents you save online rather than offline. It's called Office 365.
That particular method of purchase ensures you're always up-to-date, even if the software changes - check out our Office 365 review.
As usual, there are multiple versions of Office 2013, but this time around the different editions are not just about whether you're using them at home or in a business or which applications are included.
Buying Office 2013
Even if you decide you want to buy a pay-for-it-once-and-keep-it copy of Office 2013 in a box, you won't find a DVD inside – just a product key to unlock the software you download. (Buyers in "developing countries with limited internet access" can still get a DVD, but that's not an option in the UK or US.)
If you prefer to pay an annual subscription to get extra features, Office 365 editions let you download the Office 2013 applications onto multiple PCs (or share them with your family).
For home users, there are four options. Buy the boxed software and you can put it on one PC. Office Home and Student 2013 with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote costs £109.99/$139.99; Office Home and Business 2013 adds Outlook and costs £219.99/$219.99. Office Professional 2013 has the full set of programs for £389.99/$399.99; Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher.
Then there's the new subscription version that Microsoft released this week, Office 365 Home Premium, which costs you $99.99 a year for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access and Publisher.
That's good value if you share it with the family; up to five people in the same household can have their own installations of Office on their PC or Mac at the same time (for the Office programs that run on a Mac – and Mac users get the current version of Office for Mac until a new release comes along in the future). And when the next version of Office comes out, you'll get it on the same subscription.
All five people get an extra 20GB of storage on SkyDrive to keep documents on and 60 free Skype world calling minutes a month (which can be calls to a landline or a mobile and from your PC or from a smartphone with Skype installed).
You can download the Office programs temporarily on another PC if you're away from your usual PC (even if it already has another version of Office installed). So if you have a document on a USB drive or on SkyDrive that you need to edit on another PC, and using the Office Web Apps from SkyDrive doesn't provide of the features you need (like seeing revision marks in a tracked document you're collaborating on), you can use Office on Demand to get the full version of Word in just a few minutes.
You manage all this from the revamped Office.com and there's a link to your account there in the ribbon of all the Office applications. (To activate the Skype minutes you have to link your account to the Microsoft account you're using for Office 365, which can be done on the Office.com site.)
You also get a list of your recently edited documents, which helps when using Office on Demand to give it a fresh edit.
If you're at college or university (or you teach at one) it's possible to get Office 365 University on a four-year subscription for $79.99 that you can use on up to two PCs or Macs.
Also, as you might expect, Office 2013 and Office on Demand only run on Windows 7 and 8, not on XP or Vista.
Office for business
Although Office 365 Home Premium might also sound like a great deal for a small business, it's not licensed for commercial use (Like the Windows RT versions of Office 2013) unless you already have an Office business licence. Instead, you need one of the Office 365 business subscriptions, available from February 27.
These will include the new Office 2013 versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync Online, which are already available to run on your own servers. It's taking some time for Microsoft to upgrade Office 365 to run these new server versions, which explains the later availability (there are a number of issues in SharePoint the Office 365 team is working on). We've tried these out with the Office 2013 applications (and we looked at SharePoint Online 2013 in more detail here.
Office 365 Small Business Premium includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, Publisher and Lync. The annual $149.99 subscription lets you run them on up to five PCs or Macs at once (again, you can use Office on Demand to download Office to any PC you're using temporarily, and you get regular updates and new features).
You can host online meetings with audio and HD video conferencing in Lync and run a public website on SharePoint, plus you get Exchange with a 25GB mailbox for each user and SkyDrive Plus storage on SharePoint.
That gives you 10GB of secure cloud storage with an extra 500MB for each user, but you can choose how the storage is allocated between users and you can control how they use it – like forcing them to encrypt confidential documents.
Office 365 ProPlus (short for Professional Plus), is aimed at midsize businesses (10-250 employees) and includes the same desktop Office software as Small Business Premium. But it also has tools for business intelligence, consistency checking to Excel and automated deployment, as well as more options for the SharePoint, Lync and Exchange Online services.
Office 365 Enterprise has the full Office 2013 set of features in the desktop software and SharePoint, Lync and Exchange Online services, like archiving, legal hold, Data Loss Prevention and rights management to protect confidential information.
If you're looking for five or more copies of Office 2013 and you don't want the Office 365 services at all, you can buy Office Standard 2013 (with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, Publisher, the Office Web Apps and limited Lync, SharePoint and rights management services) or Office Professional Plus 2013 (with the full range of desktop Office programs and server features) through volume licensing.
We've already looked at the final (RTM) version of the Office 2013 applications. Now we've been able to try out the Office 365 Home Premium service with the new Office.com site, where you can download some of the new Office apps (although the apps for Outlook won't work until you have Exchange 2013).
Installing Office 2013
With any of the Office 365 subscription version of Office 2013, you don't have to worry about downloading and saving a large installer for Office (or even about uninstalling previous versions of Office, apart from Outlook). Whether you start the download from the Office 365 site or you try to open an Office document on a PC that doesn't have Office, the programs stream from the cloud.
This is a much improved version of the click-to-run virtualisation that Microsoft has used for the Office trial versions for a few years, which enables you to start using the applications just a few minutes after you download them. You don't have to wait for the full download; you can use the first features as soon as they download and if you click on a tool that hasn't yet downloaded, the installer will get that next.
The streaming happens quickly enough that the slideshow of new features you can watch while the other applications install is actually running in PowerPoint (and you don't have to watch it unless you want to).
You do have to pick a few options like the language to use for Office, the design you want to see in the ribbon and whether you want to send Microsoft anonymous telemetry about how you use Office. You can also fill in your Microsoft account details, which Office uses to sync settings like recent documents from SkyDrive, email accounts, custom AutoCorrect entries, the list of your Office Apps and the buttons you add to the Quick Access Toolbars.
It might seem odd to sign in with your Microsoft account on the Office.com site and then get asked for it during installation, but this is how you share the subscription; use the account that's paying for the licence to log in to Office.com, start the download, then sign in with the account of the person who will be using Office on each PC.
It's all very simple and very well thought out. This is your personal version of Office, on any PC, a lot faster. If you've downloaded the Customer Preview of Office 2013 you've tried this already. (The traditional Office desktop installer uses similar technology so the installation is faster there as well.)
Office 365 Home Premium adds several more designs that you can use to decorate the Office ribbon, including doodled circles, lunchbox sandwiches, pens and pencils, cartoon fish and spring leaves. It's a little odd, but there's something for most tastes (including a blank ribbon).
Once the programs are installed you can also choose from three Office themes (click your account picture at the top of the screen and choose Account Settings or open File > Account. The default white gives you the clean look you might have seen in the Customer Preview or in Office RT; pale Ggrey adds a light tint to the ribbon and other panes and dark grey is a high contrast colour scheme that puts a mid grey on the ribbon and panes and replaces most of the accent colours in each application with a very dark grey.
If you're not a fan of the new Windows 8 look, experiment with the themes to see if an alternative changes your mind.