Office 2013 RTM

I’d been using Office 2013 Preview since August, and, while there have been hiccups here and there, I’ve been very happy with it. Last week, the RTM version was released to MSDN subscribers. (I think it will not reach general availability until Q1 2013.) I was excited to get my hands on it, so I downloaded and upgraded right away.

My only disappointment in the upgrade experience is that I couldn’t go directly from Preview to RTM, but that wasn’t completely unexpected. I uninstalled and installed the new version. Everything went smoothly.

I’ve been using it for a week now. I haven’t noticed any new features in the RTM version that weren’t in Preview, but there are a few “quirks” that have been fixed. The biggest bug that I’d been dealing with in Preview was in Excel: when you clicked a drop-down in a cell, the options would display in the upper-left corner instead of at the cell. This has been fixed in RTM. Another gripe I had in Preview was about the read-only, “Preview Mode” version of Word that opens when you open a Word document attachment from an email. This is still there, but pushing the ESC key takes it out of Preview Mode and back into the standard, edit view. So that’s good!

Everything else has felt really polished and very slick, and I haven’t seen anything that I’ve perceived as a bug, flaw, or unintentional.

I’m definitely loving the new version!


Calculated Fields in Excel Pivot Tables

Pivot tables in Excel are awesome. I love them. Drag, drop, slice, and dice data in seconds. Create charts and graphs. Amaze your friends. It’s all about the pivot tables, baby!

Occasionally, you need more than just the data, though. You need to know the difference between two numbers, or the percentage of one number relative to another. This is where Calculated Fields come into play. I haven’t had a huge need for them in my previous pivot tabling, so I never really knew about them. When I needed a calculated field, I would create a column with the calculation I needed in my source data, and that worked fine.

Today, though, I accidentally discovered Calculated Fields, and they are sweet. All you need to do to create a Calculated Field is click on the Fields, Items, & Sets menu in the pivot table ribbon, and select Calculated Fields…. This will open a new dialog box that allows you to create a named field generated from a formula you create from the already-available pivot table fields.

Once created, your Calculated Field is available in the Pivot Table Fields list for you to use as data in your pivot table!

Office 2013 Preview Display Issues Resolved!

I’ve been using Office 2013 Preview since last week, and I’ve been generally happy with it. There have been a number of quirky display issues that have had me seriously considering reverting back to 2010, though. Scrollbars weren’t displaying properly, drop-down picklists weren’t showing up; there weren’t significant issues, but they were definitely usability problems.

I was sitting in on an educational lecture this morning and figured I’d use the time to install some updates. I’m currently using a Lenovo W510 laptop, and I run the Lenovo System Update utility from time to time to grab the latest drivers and system software. After installing several updates, all my Office 2013 display problems were resolved!

I can only speculate which update is responsible for fixing these issues, but I thought I’d include the list from my installation history in case others are experiencing similar display problems. (Click the image to see full size.)


Additional system info: Win7 64-bit, Office 2013 Preview 32-bit

Fix OCS 2007 R2 Integration with Outlook 2013 Preview

As noted last week, I installed the Office 2013 Preview and was generally excited about it except for the fact that I wasn’t getting any presence information for contacts from Lync. I assumed this was because I was using an unsupported configuration with my 2010 Lync client connecting to an OCS 2007 server.

I decided that Office 2013 was more important than Lync 2010 and reverted to OCS 2007 in hopes that it would fix my woes, but it did not. After a bit of Googling and tinkering, though, I was able to find a solution to get things back on track.

There’s a registry key that lets Outlook know what the default IM provider is, and this value was set to Lync on my workstation. In looking at the two sub-keys, I could see “Lync” and “Communicator.” So, I took a guess and changed the value to “Communicator,” restarted Outlook, and–voila–I was in business!

Here’s the full registry key and value that I changed to fix it:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\IM Providers]

Just as a recap, here’s what I had going on:

  • 32-bit Office 2010 w/ Lync 2010 client and this registry hack on 64-bit Win7
  • Upgraded to 32-bit Office 2013 Preview
  • Uninstalled Lync 2010, installed Communicator 2007 R2
  • Removed the aforementioned registry hack
  • Made the registry changed noted above
  • Restarted Outlook, restarted Communicator

Update 10/26/2012:
I upgraded to the RTM version today, and OCS 2007 R2 is still functional.

First Look: Office 2013 Preview

Well, I did it. I took the plunge and upgraded to the Office 2013 Preview. So far, I’m pretty happy. It took me some time to get used to the bright white interface, but everything feels shiny and new now that my eyes have adjusted. I’ve had a few hours to play with it, and I wanted to offer my first impressions.

As noted previously, the first thing you’ll notice when you open any of the new applications is the white-on-white design. The lack of contrast is really distracting at first, and I’m not sure if this is a feature of the preview or if this is how it will look in the final product. Microsoft has introduced some themes that allow you to add a small embellishment to the ribbon area, but the themes don’t affect window color at all. I’m not that into any of the themes, but here’s a post that gives you a quick look at what’s available, if you’re curious.

The applications all have the same look & feel, but there were a few new suite-wide features. One of my favorites was the animated cursor. This was interesting to me, and modifying the cursor behavior is not something that ever would’ve occurred to me. It’s neat, though. When you type, the cursor slides to the right. When you hit enter, it slides down to the next line. It’s weird, but it makes typing in Word and Outlook feel like an enhanced experience.

The next significant feature I came across was the weather in Outlook. You read that right: the weather. I was looking at my calendar and noticed temperatures and a graphical forecast. It’s hard to say how useful this will be since I’m not used to having access to weather in my calendar, but I’m excited about it! There’s a fade-and-slide-in effect that occurs when switching between areas in Outlook (Mail, Calendar, etc.) that feels slick, but I haven’t noticed much else that’s changed aside from the appearance.

With both Word and Excel, I was most excited about the new document templates. In both applications, the templates presented allow you to create legitimately good-looking and functional documents. The screenshot below shows the “family budget” Excel template, which includes a worksheet for setting up categories, a worksheet for tracking income and expenses in the categories, and a dashboard worksheet that includes summary data complete with charts and graphs! This is way better than the budget spreadsheet I whipped up a few years ago.

What’s also great about the templates is that they walk you through how to use them effectively. For example, there’s a “student report” template in Word that has in-line instructions for adding graphics, adding a table of contents, and adding a bibliography. How cool is that?!

Another much-improved feature in Word is the comments. Comments now flow like a conversation. You can see who made what comments, and you can reply. Replies show as nested responses, so it’s easy to follow what’s been happening. This will be very helpful when passing documents back and forth for review.

OneNote has been arguably my favorite Office app since I started using it in 2007, and I’m happy to report that the improvements to OneNote in 2013 seem great. The first thing that happens when you open it for the first time is you’re asked to connect to SkyDrive. Sync everything to the cloud and make it available everywhere automatically? Yes, please! The colored tabs look nicer, and they actually work well with the new very-very white theme. Some screen real estate has been freed up by moving the notebook tabs on the left part of the screen to a drop-down next to the section tabs beneath the ribbon. Everything feels a little more polished except the cursor when you type; it doesn’t slide along like in Word and Outlook. That made me a little sad, but maybe they’ll get it into the final version.

OneNote does have some other cool features, though. I’m not sure if this was in the previous versions or not, but I was pretty impressed with the “Ink to Text” and “Ink to Math” features. These are what they sound like: draw some text or math with the mouse/stylus/etc., and OneNote converts it to what you meant. Very cool.

The only disappointment I’ve had with the new Office is that integration with Lync is broken. To be fair, I’m using an unsupported configuration (Lync 2010 client connected to OCS 2007 server), but it’s still unfortunate. My IM conversations are still recorded, but I’ve lost contact status in emails and meetings. I’m sure this will all be fine once we upgrade to Lync.

Overall, I’m pretty excited about the new version of Office. I’m looking forward to using it over the next few months and exploring the new features. Are there cool features that you’ve discovered with this new version of Office? Please share–I’d love to hear!

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