Microsoft Office 2013 review

Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint get the touchscreen treatment, cloud storage and a bunch of new features.


PowerPoint 2013

PowerPoint's 2013 has been given the Metro treatment too. Gone are the title bar and borderless windows. The Ribbon is still there but larger, making touch control possible.

And, as you'd expect, support for touch navigation has been introduced, with swipe and pinch gestures allowing users to manipulate slides in an immediate and intuitive manner, while creating or delivering presentations.

It isn't all about touch and the look and feel, though; PowerPoint 2013 has a number of significant improvements and new features, too. The most significant of these is the new Presenter View, and it's set to dramatically alter the way presentations are delivered.

PowerPoint 2013 - Presenter view

The idea behind this is to give the presenter more control over the slideshow when delivering a presentation. Hook your laptop or tablet up to a second screen, activate the new view and, while all the viewer sees is the slide, the presenter gets a dashboard displaying not only the current slide, but also a thumbnail of the next slide in the stack, notes on the current slide and a number of extra controls.

The current slide can still be manipulated as usual from this view swiped aside, zoomed and annotated but the controls add an extra dimension. A laser pointer mode lets you highlight areas for attention, either with the mouse or by prodding the screen. Pen and highlighter tools offer similar ways of bringing your audience's attention to specific areas of the slide on screen. A click or tap brings an overview up the whole slide stack, and there's a timer so you can keep an eye on whether you're over-running.

PowerPoint 2013 - Templates

As with Word and Excel, the first time you fire up the new PowerPoint you'll be faced with a splash screen displaying a series of templates. These are stored online and downloaded on-demand, and can be searched by keyword or browsed by category. That's a helpful feature, but the big change here is that the many more templates are available as 16:9 aspect ratio slides, which makes them better suited to today's modern laptop screens.

Creation tools

PowerPoint 2013 - Excel charts

The shape creation tools have been extended and simplified, and photographic content can now be drawn in directly from online sources, including Bing image search, Clip Art, Flickr, Facebook and SkyDrive. The Bing search is particularly impressive in that by default it prioritises images licensed under Creative Commons, making it a doddle to legally embellish what might otherwise be flat, lifeless slides.


PowerPoint 2013 - Excel charts 2

Finally, collaborative tools have been improved in PowerPoint, with enhanced comments that appear alongside slides as they do in Word, complete with the ability for others to reply to those comments.

Aside from the user interface change, which Microsoft has brought to all the Office apps, then, it isn't a huge upgrade. But the changes that have been made appear to have been well thought out and all add to PowerPoint's usability and efficiency. We particularly like the Presenter View mode.

Microsoft's goal with PowerPoint 2013 appears to have been to make life easier for presenters and give them the opportunity to look good in front of colleagues and clients.

Barry Collins

Barry Collins is an experienced IT journalist who specialises in Windows, Mac, broadband and more. He's a former editor of PC Pro magazine, and has contributed to many national newspapers, magazines and websites in a career that has spanned over 20 years. You may have seen Barry as a tech pundit on television and radio, including BBC Newsnight, the Chris Evans Show and ITN News at Ten.