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New Microsoft Office: Cloud? Check. Social? Check

James Niccolai | July 17, 2012
The next version of Microsoft Office, unveiled on Monday, is a dramatic departure from the software.

The cloud apps can also be accessed from a smartphone, and in that case the new Word will format the text to fit the screen and put it in landscape mode if that's how the device is oriented.

SharePoint, an application for managing documents, creating workflows and other business functions, also gets a big makeover. The interface resembles that of Facebook, right down to the blue coloring, although it's a different shade of blue. Users can "like" and comment on documents that others have authored, much as Facebook users can comment on a status update.

SharePoint also recommends to a user which colleagues they should "follow," to keep track of documents they create or projects they are involved in, for example. And it recommends which documents they should track, based on the documents they've tracked in the past.

PowerPoint has a new Presentation Mode that gives the presenter a different interface from the one seen by people who are watching on, say, an overhead projector. The presenter can see the slide currently being displayed, but also a preview of the next slide in the sequence, to remind them what they'll need to talk about next. Presentation Mode also includes an area for notes, or a "cheat sheet," and a clock so the presenter can keep track of how long they've been talking.

Most of the applications shown Monday support touch using a finger or a stylus. In PowerPoint, the presenter can use a stylus to annotate a slide with handwritten notes, or use a stylus in place of a laser pointer, creating a red dot that moves around the screen on the overhead projector.

OneNote, a tool for digital note-taking, gets a new "radial menu" that takes some common tasks from the ribbon and makes them more accessible. It's a circular dial that sits in the top right of the screen (but presumably can be moved around) and gives quick access to things such as cut and paste, undo, font size and creating tags.

It seems very much optimized for handwritten notes using a finger or stylus, but like the other apps demonstrated, Microsoft said it works with a keyboard and mouse as well.

To end the presentation Microsoft showed what users can expect from its acquisition of Perceptive Pixel, which makes large, color, touchscreen displays for commercial and business use.

Microsoft showed how the screen can be used for video conferencing using its Lync collaboration software. A person can add participants to the meeting by dragging their pictures from a contacts list on the screen.

One person can load a PowerPoint presentation onto the screen, which participants on the conference call can then mark up using touch gestures on the display. If they want to take meeting minutes, someone can start OneNote and it will automatically fill in some basic information, such as the participants on the video conference and the documents they've been collaborating on.

 

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