It's official. Office 2013 is headed to retail after Microsoft signed off on a Release to Manufacturing (RTM) build of the productivity software suite.
Moments after the Office team signed off on Office 2013 RTM, Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Office Division, spilled the news in a company blog post. "This milestone means the coding and testing phase of the project is complete and we are now focused on releasing the new Office via multiple distribution channels to our consumer and business customers," he wrote.
Office 2013 will officially launch during the first quarter of 2013, bringing with it many of the UI design elements and touch-enabled functionality (formerly Metro) that are emerging as hallmarks of Microsoft's tablet-ready, soon-to-be-released Windows 8 operating system.
While running on Windows 8, Office 2013 extends multi-touch gestures to the software's workflow. For instance, users can now "pinch to zoom" within documents and swipe across PowerPoint slides. Virtual ink support enables note taking and annotating documents using a stylus. In OneNote, radial menus sprout from under the touch of a finger.
Besides these finger-friendly features, Office 2013 also sports deeper cloud functionality. Office 2013 offers a save-to-SkyDrive option for online file storage and sync across devices. It also supports profile roaming, ensuring that personalized settings, templates, recently used files and several other customizations remain consistent across devices.
In a sign that the technologies behind two of the software giant's biggest acquisitions are ready for primetime, Office 2013 offers deeper Yammer and Skype integration. The software supports the Yammer social enterprise platform via SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics. Skype comes bundled with Office 2013, allowing quick access to Skype calls or instant messages.
Should buyers hold off on Office 2010? Not necessarily.
Beginning next week on October 19th, Office 2010 purchaser will be eligible for a free Office 2013 upgrade when it goes on sale. For testers and IT pros, Microsoft plans to release a downloadable version of the RTM version on TechNet and MSDN in mid-November.