Microsoft announces Cloud-based Office 365, downloadable preview available

By Lee Kaelin on July 16, 2012, 5:21 PM

Microsoft announced its upcoming Office software during a press conference today, with CEO Steve Ballmer outlining the new cloud and collaboration-oriented features of Office 15, better known as Office 365.

While many users pondered whether Microsoft would follow Google into the cloud with Office 2010, it ultimately never happened. This time however, the cloud takes central stage with Office 365, which Ballmer deemed the company's "most ambitious release ever in our history."

Download: Office 365 Home Premium Preview

Office 365 has been designed from the get-go to work flawlessly and without limitations across Microsoft's portfolio of upcoming Windows 8 devices, including the same ability to create, edit and publish Office content whether you're at a desktop or on the road.

Skype is fully integrated, with the new "People Card" feature providing multiple ways to get in touch with your contacts or view their integrated social feeds.

Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Office, also took to the stage to demonstrate some of Office's new standout features, including the new SkyDrive integration. "This is a hugely important part of the release," he said. "SkyDrive is incredibly fundamental to this release of Office. He explained that signing into Office 365 applications gives you instant access to your settings across all Windows 8 devices, as well as your custom dictionaries, recently used documents, templates and more.

Word has been revamped and now includes "Reader Mode" as well as more advanced controls for editing documents, such as adding images, videos and other content from the Web and cloud. It's easier than ever to edit the position of images in a document thanks to "Live Layout," which wraps text around images as they're moved.

Outlook has received the same treatment, with features such as Bing Maps integration able to map addresses mentioned in emails, as well as quick action tabs to "Peek" at your to-do list, calendar and contacts.

Radial menu, another new feature, lets you format text using one single dial, making changes to font type and size, color and formatting options effortless with touch or a mouse.

Excel's particularly noteworthy new feature includes the new "Flash Fill" tool, which automatically separates data pasted from sites into separate columns. Quick Analysis lets you to effortlessly preview formatting options for highlighted text, including live previews of exactly how tables and charts would look like before creating them.

Microsoft has made Office 365 Home Premium Preview freely available for those interested in exploring the revamped productivity suite.

User Comments: 15

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lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Don't like the fact you can no longer change the color. I loved the light blue, easier on the eyes.

Everything else is smoother though. Plus, you can finally edit PDFs!

Vets2Work Vets2Work said:

Microsoft Office moving to the cloud will certainly allow better control over our licenses. The fact we can add and/or remove a remote user at the click of the mouse will have an immediate effect on our bottom line. The folks over at WorkSpace Communications who provide our help desk tell us that deployment of new users will be reduced by 60% along with substantial increase in resolving remote support issues. Microsoft Office has become so entrenched within our organization we could not move to any other application without causing a total collapse of our operations. I?m happy to see Microsoft moving more aggressively to the cloud and look forward to a long and now lower cost solution.

2 people like this | ReederOnTheRun ReederOnTheRun said:

Looks like Microsoft wasn't just sitting idle as Apple takes over after all. Good thing too, I think with Microsoft's widespread user base they could dominate if they keep innovating their products so extensively. I'm not too much of an Apple person, but thanks for pushing Microsoft to be competitive again.

ragreeen2646 said:

Just loaded it. It appears very sluggish

ragreeen2646 said:

Now crashing. I will try again after cleanup and re-install (running winbdows 8 on a laptop).

Ranger1st Ranger1st said:

Maybe when the industry gets a grip on hackers I'll start to give the cloud anything the time of day, till then it's just one more massive database for hackers to pilfer.. less interested in anything new from MS after each new product announcement lately. I should make this a tag line but; looking forward to the Linux based steam box.

Guest said:

Office 2013 drops support for XP and Vista... about time I guess.

Guest said:

lol@"work flawlessly and without limitations".

They might want to make sure the Office365 Outlook can display UTF-8 correctly before making a statement like that.

DanUK DanUK said:

This sounds like a pretty cool development (especially skype integration and maps), will definitely give this a try when I get home from work later.

Qrox Qrox said:

Anyone know if you can change the color of the interface? That white is just eating away at my eyes. The black in Office 2007 worked quite well, so I'm hoping there is a option to change it in 365

2 people like this | grumpyitbloke grumpyitbloke said:

Everything looks like it is all starting to knit together nicely for Microsoft right now. I've been impressed with Windows 8 so far and believe it offers a tablet experience that actually dares to be different. It isn't trying to be an iOS clone which is really refreshing. This new version of Office looks like it is going to sit really well in this new family of products. As some comments have already pointed out - I think that licensing of users is also going to be simplified significantly. I think it will be a big success. Windows Phone 8 may be the only area where they struggle to make any real impact - at least straight away anyway.

treeski treeski said:

Install fails for me, claiming I don't have a modern version of Windows, even though I'm running Win7

ragreeen2646 said:

Re-installed and no more crashes. Still a bit sluggish.

WIN8 and new Office is sooo grab and dull looking.

It looks like MS is going for one flat, dull color scheme fits all.

I like the idea of color customizations.

Guest said:

has anybody heard what the monthly charge will be to use the product?

ReederOnTheRun ReederOnTheRun said:

Install fails for me, claiming I don't have a modern version of Windows, even though I'm running Win7

Weird, its working great for me, did u try running windows update?

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