The next version of Microsoft Office is expected to arrive later this year. We don't know for sure what new major features will be added to its individual applications (i.e. Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, Word), but several tidbits about the overall suite have been subtly revealed or officially announced by Microsoft. Plus, there's been plenty of speculation by the tech news media.
1. "2012" (or maybe "2013") not "15"
Although the next version of Office has been referred to as "Office 15" (even the official Microsoft Office blog calls it that), "Office 2012" will probably be its final release name -- provided that things stay on schedule and the next Office is released this year. (The "15" refers to the version number of the overall Office suite.)
2. Technical preview
Microsoft announced on Jan. 30 that a "select group of customers" had been granted access to a "technical preview" of the next version of Office to test it, and provide feedback to Microsoft. These people are under NDA, but on March 6, a number of details about the individual applications (Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word) were leaked, which reveal clean layouts that emphasize the use of white space.
3. "Office 15" leaked?
A year ago, a very early look at the next Office was leaked to the Internet. (It can be found via bittorrent sites.) But this version very likely has little in common with the more recently released Technical Preview. Although it features a media management tool code-named Moorea, it looks to be a pretty much Office 2010 relabeled as "Office 15," considering that its UI, applications and tools are essentially the same.
4. Teaser video
On Feb. 9, Microsoft released a video that discusses the development of Windows 8 for devices running the ARM processor, but which also teased a few screenshots from the new Office. It gives |sneak peeks of how the next versions of Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Word will look.
5. Is the Ribbon UI gone?
The Windows 8 ARM video appears to show that the Ribbon UI has been dropped from Office 2012, and the suite will return to a more traditional desktop application GUI. But the Ribbon could have just been minimized or deactivated for this video. Either way, this suggests that maybe the Ribbon won't be emphasized as a selling point of Office 2012.
6. Touch screen-friendly
Microsoft stated that the Office 2012 applications will have user interfaces designed for them to be used with touch screens. It has since been leaked that there will be a touch mode button, which, when activated, will enlarge the ribbon interface and other elements of an Office 2012 app to make it easier to access through a touch screen.
7. Will it be Metro...?
Based on what is shown in the Windows 8 ARM video, Microsoft won't be fully replacing the Office user interface with the one the company will be implementing on a massive scale into the next version of Windows: the swipe-heavy, panel-centric Metro. Office 2012 will probably stick with a traditionally functioning GUI similar to Office 2010's (which will be reassuring to enterprise and business users loathe to change).