Changing consumer habits drove Microsoft to consider a subscription model, which lets users put the Office suite on multiple devices, said Chris Schneider, a senior public relations manager at Microsoft.
Seventy-three percent of people send their last e-mail of the day after they’ve left the office, Schneider said, which indicated to Microsoft that it had to make its core office products more accessible.
Buying a subscription to Office also means that users will get any upgrades to the program automatically, rather than having to upgrade their programs with a separate purchase in a couple of years. Once a subscription expires, documents go into a read-only mode, meaning they can be seen and downloaded, but not edited — though users can edit them if they have older versions of Office on their computers. Renewing your lapsed subscription should restore editing features.
Users can create multiple accounts within their subscription, and each person can have a unique settings profile. That means that not only will they be able to log in to the service with their own settings intact, they’ll also be the only user on the account with access to their own documents. So, even with a family account, Junior’s essay on the Scarlet Letter won’t end up in the same folder as Mom’s budget plan for the year.
The main functions and features of the new version of Office are mostly unchanged, though they have been rethought and redesigned to work on mobile devices and the Web.
Some users have already seen these programs in action — Microsoft made beta versions of its Office 2013 apps available this past summer. The programs still have the ribbon-style navigation introduced in 2010, but also pulls design cues from the new Windows 8 operating system, which are designed to make the system touch-friendly as well.
The majority of changes seem aimed at simplifying what users see on-screen. For example, the ribbon menu is often collapsed by default, to give whatever you’re working centerstage billing. Excel lets users see a one-click pop-up graph of their data with a feature called “Quick Analysis.” In Word, users can enable “reading mode,” which strips menus and toolbars from view, leaving only the main text.