Previewing the new Microsoft Office 2013 is a blast. It’s totally unlike our experience trying to preview Windows 8, which crashed our test computer every few minutes.

Office 2013 Preview is a free download from The preview leaves your existing copy of Office in place, so there’s no risk of overwriting it. Unfortunately, 55 percent of Windows users won’t be able to try it, since it doesn’t run on the still widely used XP or Vista operating systems.

But here’s our take for the Windows 7 users: While the Office 2013 preview is installing on your machine or tablet, you can experiment with a PowerPoint presentation that comes up automatically to tell you about the new features. You can insert a video from YouTube or play around with the new clip-art tools. There are now three sources of online clip art, counting your own stored pics. We brought in a flower and clicked “color” to change the petals from purple to blue. Unfortunately, it also painted the leaves blue.

When you hit “save,” you’re prompted to save your document, spreadsheet or presentation to the online storage area they call “SkyDrive.” No matter what computer or tablet you’re using, it will be there when you need it. (At least that’s what it says in the promotion.) There’s also a “share” button for collaborating online.

We tried out a greeting card template in Word 2013 but had to remove the word “Thank You” from one side of the card or it would have printed upside down on the back. The online templates were much better, and included cards, brochures, reports, flyers and the like. The only thing that bugged us was how the “ribbon,” a familiar feature to Windows 2007 users, disappeared when we didn’t mean to make it go, and it didn’t immediately return when we clicked. A couple times, the program just froze.

We were impressed with the new Excel. Highlight a few columns, choose “quick analysis” and have the data converted to one of several suggested charts, with quick previews of how they will look.

Office 2013 Preview is a free trial. It expires 60 days after the official launch in late October. You’ll still be able to use it to read and print documents but it won’t have full functionality.


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