Office 2013 Customer Preview now available

Not content with revamping Windows and Windows Phone this year, Microsoft is also cooking up a major new release of Office, too. During his a keynote earlier today, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer publicy demonstrated the new productivity suite. Ballmer also announced that, starting today, consumers and businesses can try Office 2013 for themselves by grabbing the Office 2013 Customer Preview.

The pre-release trial can be downloaded from this page. It's available as part of one of three subscription services—Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Small Business Premium, and Office 365 Enterprise—and it requires either Windows 7 or Windows 8 to run.

As you'd expect, Windows 8 integration plays a central role in the new Office release. Staple apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint have gotten a fresh coat of paint to fit in with the new Metro style, and they now support touch and stylus input. Two Office applications, OneNote and Lync, have gotten complete Metro makeovers. Microsoft says those two apps are the "first new Windows 8 style applications for Office." Here's the new OneNote in action:

Ballmer also touted the new Office's ARM support. Windows 8 RT, which will hit ARM tablets in October, is due to ship with Office Home and Student 2013 out of the box. (You'll have to buy the software for x86 editions of Windows 8, though.)

Cloud integration and collaboration are key components of Office 2013, as well. According to Microsoft, documents are saved to SkyDrive by default, and Office remembers settings, recently used files, and custom dictionaries across multiple systems and devices. Folks who don't have access to their main PCs can even stream "full-featured applications to an Internet-connected Windows-based PC." On top of that, Microsoft has integrated Yammer, an enterprise social network, with SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics. The firm plans to bundle Skype with the new Office and to offer Skype minutes to Office 365 subscribers, too.

Microsoft doesn't say exactly when it plans to release Office 2013, but it expects to announce the "the full lineup of [Office 2013] offerings and pricing plans" some time this fall. Among the new Office plans will be the new subscription offerings: Office 365 Home Premium, Small Business Premium, and ProPlus. As part of those subscriptions, customers will get access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access, and they'll enjoy "future rights to version upgrades as well as per-use rights across up to five PCs or Macs and mobile devices." Each edition will have its own perks, like extra SkyDrive storage or HD web-conferencing capabilities.

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