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.