Microsoft signed off on the release to manufacturing build of Office 2013 last month, meaning the coding and testing phase ahead of the productivity suite’s launch is over. Although general availability is slated for the first quarter of 2013, those who want an early taste can now download a full copy of the Professional Plus edition -- containing Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, and Lync -- as a 60-day trial.
The download is available in 32- and 64-bit flavors from Microsoft's TechNet Evaluation Center. You’ll need to login with your Microsoft credentials, fill in a form with your name and country of residence, and choose the desired version and language, before being served with a download link and a product key to activate the trial.
Instead of an installer, Microsoft decided to release the software as a disc image. Windows 8 offers native support for .img files, so users already running the latest version of the operating system will be able to access the installer with a simple double-click. Everyone else will need third-party software like ImgBurn or Daemon Tools, both available for free, to either burn it into a disc or mount it as a virtual drive.
Microsoft Office 2013 requires Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2, or Windows Server 2012 to run -- Windows XP holdouts are out of luck. Standalone versions will be available at $139.99 for the Home & Student Edition, $219.99 for Home & Business and $399.99 for Office 2013 Professional. The suite will also be available as part of an Office 365 subscription package for either $99.99 or $149.99 per year.