Will Office 2013 get agencies looking Microsoft's way?

A glimpse at Microsoft's new Office 2013 reveals collaboration and cloud-integration features that should make agencies sit up and take notice.

Microsoft is unveiling a preview of its next office product, Office 2013 (or Office 15 for those that have been counting).

From what I can see from videos of some early demonstrations, there will be a lot of changes ahead for government agencies as they adopt this whole Microsoft make-over.

The major change that may get government organizations looking Microsoft’s way is the cloud integration that will come with Office 2013. To say that Google got everyone to re-think document collaboration is an understatement, and obviously Microsoft is no exception.

Microsoft is offering what it calls Office 365, which is a cloud-based service that works with Office 2013 documents. When you log in, it will remember your settings and preferences no matter where you actually are. It will even remember what you were working on. Of course, this authentication will help keep documents secure, even when working remotely, which definitely should appeal to government network administrators.

Since Office 365 is cloud-based, document collaboration is much easier to achieve. A user can build a group workspace with only a few clicks, throw in some documents and invite other users into the workgroup. And systems people will be happy to know that automation and group policies can be tailored to an organization's particular hierarchy.

So summarizing, the new Office will make it easier to share documents, keep tight revision control and allow access from remote locations -- all key concerns of an organization looking to modernize. This level of working together and sharing data is definitely the way agencies and administrations are trying to work now. Microsoft has made a good demonstration video of the capabilities that the cloud platform can offer, if you want to see more.

Otherwise, the new Office is optimized to work with Windows 8 and its Metro interface, which is designed to work best with touch screens. Those that have had a look at Windows 8 will see the colored rectangles that help visually organize data are present in Office 2013 as well. You can sort your files by types of document, authors etc., and the desktop will be broken down into the colored areas. Editing features seem to have become more interactive in the new Office. For instance, when you insert a graphic and set text to wrap around it, the text will change dynamically as you reposition the image on the page.

But it's not all new. Once you start editing in an application such as Word, you will be using a ribbon menu system similar to the one you've been dealing with for five years.

So if the preview is accurate, the next version of Office will definitely be worth a look from government organizations. If network administrators can get their users to adopt yet another new interface for part of the experience, that is. But we’re all pretty much used to that by now.

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