Microsoft Office 365
When I was first asked to review Office 365, I’ll be honest, I was pretty worried; I mean, it’s just Microsoft Office, what was I supposed to talk about? But then I actually started thinking about it as I used it and realised just how good it is.
Office, with its well-known programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, is something we’ve all used at one time or another, whether at school at home or at work, and I feel like it’s definitely one of those thing where you don’t realise just how much you need it until you don’t actually have it anymore.
Office has come a long way since I first started using it; my earliest memories being back in Junior school and being allowed on the computers to write up pieces of work and being taught how to change the colours of words and the fonts; it was all very exciting at the time and using Office 365 somehow brought back that excitement as I discovered all the new features it had to offer.
Easily the most exciting thing about this new version is how it’s all centred around cloud storage and a subscription model, which is definitely very popular at the minute. You only have to look at Adobe to see how successful Creative Cloud has been to see why this is a great step forward for Office.
The great thing about having these programs on a subscription basis is that it means you’re only paying for it as long as you need it, so it ends up being really good value for money, because if you decide you don’t want to use it anymore after you finish school or uni then you just cancel the subscription and you don’t have to pay for it anymore.
Office 365 has brilliant integration with SkyDrive as well, which is Microsoft’s cloud storage system (essentially their answer to Dropbox or Google Drive), which means you can access your files anywhere you want, whether you’re at home, uni, or sat on a bus. I feel like this is going to be really useful at uni, particularly for group projects because you can share folders to give everyone access and you can all edit the same document at the same time and it will get updated on everyone’s device so it’s great for collaborations, even if you can’t all get together in person!
The version I have, which is Office 365 Home Premium, comes with pretty much every program I could ever need for uni work; Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, OneNote, Outlook and Access. So far OneNote has definitely been the most useful to me. I’d never used it before I was given this pack but I can honestly say I’ve fallen in love.
The first thing to Note (awful pun intended and I won’t apologise...) is how it allows you to organise all your work. First you can split it up into Notebooks; I currently have one for revision and then one for every module I’m taking next year. Then within these Notebooks you can split that content up into tabs, so for the revision notebook I had one for each subject I was resitting, but for the module notebooks I’ll probably split it up via topic or lecture. Then within each tab, you can split it up into pages, which I used for splitting it up into areas of each lecture or notes on separate articles and reports. Ultimately, you end up with a very, very well organised document where you can find exactly what you need immediately.
Furthermore, Office 365 allows you to install the programs onto mobile devices as well as desktops so I’ve been using OneNote mainly on my Microsoft Surface Pro (so much Microsoft in my life right now!). Using the stylus with the program means I can write straight onto it as though it were a sheet of paper; I can highly papers, make notes, even sketch out tables and graphs if I have to. It’s just so easy to use and it all looks really neat. As a weakness, it’s not so good for using when you’re writing with your finger, you really do need a stylus, however, if I ever forget it or don’t have it for whatever reason, I can always switch to typing with a single click and continue making notes that way!
On the whole, Office has had a bit of a makeover the past couple of years and the new design, in 365, makes all the programs really easy and enjoyable to use. The whole design is much flatter and, therefore, looks more modern and up-to-date and really fits in with things like Windows 8, which adopts a similar flat design. My favourite thing that office have done in recent years and this is used really well in the newest version of Word, is to move away from the masses of menus and submenus and, instead, make everything icon based. Whenever you need to perform an action, instead of searching through tonnes of menus, you simply press a little icon; it’s dead simple.
Word’s got some really exciting new features this time, it allows you to import and edit PDF files, a feature I’ve been waiting for, for so long! And, as with the rest of Office 365, it’s really big on online integration, as it allows you to import images and other media from sites such as Flickr and other online sources. PowerPoint is the same; it will allow you to import images and even videos from Youtube, which means using online resources in my PhotoSoc training sessions is now really easy.
As well as this, PowerPoint has some other pretty impressive features this time; as a default all presentations are now widescreen so Microsoft are really bringing this program up to date! And, perhaps taking inspiration from programs like Prezzi, PowerPoint now allows you to zoom into certain areas of the slide while you’re presenting which is going to be great for showing off certain details in photos and things like that.
Actually presenting becomes a lot easier in 365 as well with the introduction of Presenter View; this allows you to have your normal presentation on the board you’re presenting on and then have your screen show all the important stuff, so as well as the slide you’ll see any notes and the next slide coming up so you’ll always know where you are in the presentation and never get lost – it makes class presentations (and my training sessions) a lot easier!
So I’ve rambled on enough, after all, it’s only office; except it’s so much more. I’ve really enjoyed using this version as it just feels really nice to use, it’s up to date and with the Sky Drive integration it’s so easy and convenient to use and access your files. All in all, I never thought I could get to excited by a copy of Microsoft office but either it’s pretty awesome, or I’m a bigger geek than I thought... on second thoughts, maybe it’s a bit of both?