Microsoft unveils touch-optimized version of Office

Microsoft Office 2013 allows for integration between tablet platforms, Windows 8 and stylus, as well as traditional mouse and keyboard.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced a new version of Microsoft Office aimed at the growing market for tablets and other touch-screen devices. Microsoft Office 2013 will be primarily cloud-based, and will save documents to the company's SkyDrive by default. The new version will be included in Windows RT, which will be released on the Surface tablet when it ships in October.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Office 2013 supports touch natively. The touch interface separates icons and menu items slightly to lower the possibility of accidental selections, and the Office 2013 interface responds to gestures including multitouch zooming. Office 2013 will include OneNote and Lync, which have been available previously in some versions of Office, but which are now optimized as touch-first applications.

The new version of Office will be available as a cloud-based subscription service, as an update to Office 365. The cloud-based version allows use on multiple devices, and can provide synchronization between a document on different devices. This means that if you're looking at a specific PowerPoint slide on your desktop computer, and move to a tablet, you'll be on the same slide when you open PowerPoint.

The subscription feature of Office 2013 includes automatic updates, extra SkyDrive storage, integration with Skype and multiple installs. Office 2013 will include integration with Yammer, which Microsoft describes as a secure, private social network for business, and which integrates with SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics.

The new version of Word includes a Read Mode which presents documents in an easy to read version similar to what you'd see if you were reading a document on Amazon's Kindle software. The Read Mode will adjust automatically to screen size, it will support zooming, streaming video and the use of touch to turn pages. PowerPoint will include a Presenter view that shows current and upcoming slides, as well as speaker notes.

Current subscribers to Office 365 will be automatically upgraded to Office 2013 as it becomes available. The new version will support up to five PCs, Macs or mobile devices. There will be a small business version of Office as well as an enterprise version. Microsoft will also be offering a home version of the software. A desktop version of Microsoft Office 2013 will also be available for use with or without cloud access.

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