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'Office Tech Preview' Screenshots Offer Few Details

Leaked screenshots of the next Office suite to come may not inspire midnight lineups of crowds outside retail stores anytime soon.

The screenshots appear in a recent article by Tom Warren of The Verge. Apparently, what's being shown is the next "Office Technical Preview." It's purportedly the next "boxed" Office productivity suite release under development, rather than the next Office ProPlus software associated with Office 365 subscriptions.

If you get inspired by the deprecated Clippy help character reemerging as a static light-bulb icon, then perhaps the next Office suite upgrade might be right for you. The next Office will include a "Tell Me" help dialog box that is supposed to make the discovery of Office features easier. Users just type what they want to do to get the help. The Tell Me feature is already used in Office Online applications.

The next Office is also thought to include a new black theme, although the "ribbon" menu system doesn't appear to have changed very much, based on Warren's account.

Veteran Microsoft reporter and Redmond columnist Mary Jo Foley also added her insights about this so-called Office Technical Preview. She noted that it isn't the same thing as the touch-enabled Microsoft Office for Windows that's still under development. It may be some early release that's expected to arrive before the release of the touch-based version, which is code-named "Gemini." Foley describes the Office Technical Preview as the "public preview of Office 16," which may appear "later this fall, possibly October 2014."

Office 16 (possibly to be called "Office 2015") may get released as a final product in "the spring of 2015," Foley said. At that same time, Microsoft is expected to be rolling out its first Gemini Office apps that are enhanced for touch, she explained.

Microsoft first released a touch-based Office for the iPad back in March, although it lacks mouse support. A touch-optimized Office for Windows hasn't yet emerged.

Warren's article described a few other features in the Office Technical Preview. It will use camera metadata to correctly orient photos placed in documents, he explained. Microsoft also expanded Outlook e-mail download options, allowing users to download "1 day, 3 days, 7 days, or 14 days of email," Warren wrote.

Foley added a few other details, based on her sources. She said that the new Outlook will function on devices with smaller footprints. Panning and zooming on charts and art objects will be enabled. Visio will have "information rights management" protections, which is a Microsoft document classification scheme used by some organizations. The OneDrive cloud-based storage service will get an ability to share the most recently used files, both for locally stored files and files stored in the public cloud, she wrote.

And that appears to be all of the innovation that's been leaked so far for the next Office releases. Foley's earlier breakdown of what's to come, which was posted back in July on Redmondmag.com, contains some more expectations for the next Office.

Microsoft hasn't confirmed any such details so far and has said little about what to expect in its next Office releases. The release cycle, as described by Foley, is also unconfirmed by any statements from the company.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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