Microsoft Office 15 hints at Metro interface

Although Microsoft's Office productivity suite has been linked to the computer desktop, its latest incarnation is showing flashes of Metro, the tablet-oriented interface of the upcoming operating system Windows 8.

Microsoft guru Paul Thurrott, who runs a Windows-oriented website, disclosed this after obtaining a copy of Office 15's Technical Preview.

"I don't want to drill too deep into Office 15 until Microsoft officially unveils the product and provides a more feature-complete version in the beta. But even at this early stage, you can see where Microsoft intends for this product to sit, visually, between the new Metro style and the traditional desktop. Regardless of which type of system you'll be using, however, the applications in this suite should look right at home," Thurrott said.

Thurrott tested Office 15 Technical Preview on top of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, running on a multitouch-capable tablet.

He noted the early Technical Preview would not install cleanly but can be installed as an upgrade from Microsoft Office 2010.

After installation, Office 15 dumped 19 live tiles on Windows 8's Metro interface.

Office's word processor, Microsoft Word, features a "friendlier" face with a Metro-style design, with a split view that provides a list of recent documents and a "Get Started" area with document templates.

"If you're familiar with Office for the Mac, its similar, but nicer looking," he said.

Thurrott also noted the ribbon is still present but minimized by default, to maintain the Metro-style minimalist look.

"There is a new tab, too. While Home, Insert, References, Mailings, Review, and View carry over, Microsoft has added a new tabs called Design for configuring document themes, watermarks, and page colors and borders," he said.

Another nod to tablets is a new full-screen mode, he noted. The app chrome mostly disappears when one clicks a small arrow next to the window control buttons.

He added a new icon resembling a bullet hole enables "touch mode," which increases the size of onscreen elements "so they are more easily accessed via touch."

Thurrott said another new feature is Microsoft ID integration, where one is signed into his or her Microsoft ID automatically.

As expected, Office features an integration of sorts with SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud-based document storage service.

"I was able to save a Word document to SkyDrive easily, and then work on it from there as if it were a local file," Thurrott said.

A separate article on PC World noted Microsoft has said little about Office 15 although it has hinted that it will be a major overhaul.

Microsoft also hasn't announced a release date for the final version of Office 15, it added. — TJD, GMA News

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