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Finally, it’s here. The new Office suite. Microsoft Office 2013!

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At the Mindbite office we’ve been running Office 2013 Preview since its release in July. Two weeks ago, Microsoft finished the code and it was released to manufacturing (RTM). As a Microsoft Gold Partner we receive their products earlier than the consumers. At first we were informed that we would get our hands on the RTM-version in November, but we were surprised when Microsoft released it to us yesterday.

All Office 2013 applications (Word, Excel, Outlook etc.) has a beautiful and clean design. They have also put a lot of effort into Cloud integration. Working with files and notes on SharePoint or SkyDrive works like a charm.

 

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The new icons from my most used Office applications. Looking good!

 

Installation

Installation is as easy as usual, and takes only a few minutes. Product activation has been expanded with other options than the usual product keys.

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The Windows 8 Start Screen with Office 2013 applications

This is my Start Screen. There isn’t a lot of focus beyond Visual Studio and Office ;)

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Screenshots from some of the applications

Notice that little smiley face in the applications? I don’t know if it’s remains from my old installation of Office 2013 Preview. We’ll see after my next reboot. It shouldn’t be there anyway.

Microsoft Word 2013

Word

Microsoft Excel 2013

Excel

Microsoft PowerPoint 2013

PowerPoint

Microsoft Outlook 2013

Outlook

Closing comments

I love the new Office. This is a product update you should consider buying when it’s released.

By the way, Microsoft has also released the following products in the Office Family; SharePoint Server 2013, Exchange Server 2013, Lync Server 2013, Visio 2013 and Project 2013.

With the release of Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and Visual Studio 2012, this is year to remember. It’s probably the biggest release year in Microsoft history. And they have done it with honors!

A common issue with Office 365 is the password policy that forces a password expiration every 90 days. So I wrote a PowerShell script that updates the entire organization with a Password Never Expires flag. However, the script must be executed everytime a new user is added to the organization, since it only applies the new rules for existing users.

First of all, you must install the Office 365 cmdlets from here:

http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/office365-enterprises/hh124998.aspx#BKMK_install

Fire up PowerShell and execute the following:

$oUsername = "administrator@organization.com"
$oPassword = "administrator-password"

$password = ConvertTo-SecureString $oPassword -AsPlainText –Force
$credential = New-Object System.Management.Automation.PsCredential($oUsername,$password)
$cred = Get-Credential -cred $credential

Import-Module MSOnline

Connect-Msolservice -cred $cred

Get-MSOLUser | Set-MsolUser -PasswordNeverExpires $true
Get-MSOLUser | Select UserPrincipalName,PasswordNeverExpires

 

The script will connect to Office 365 and fetch all existing users and apply the new rules to them. Then it will display a list of all users with the value of PasswordNeverExpires.

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As of December 2011 our company Mindbite is a certified Microsoft Cloud Partner (in addition to our Gold Certified Partnership). That means we are authorized to sell and service Office 365.

With Office 365 you get online access to the following major Microsoft products:

  • Microsoft Exchange
  • Microsoft SharePoint
  • Microsoft Lync

Migrating your e-mail accounts to Exchange gives you access to your e-mail on almost any device. Received and sent mail is also synchronized over every device. So if you send an email from your phone, you can see it in your Outlook client on your computer (PC or Mac).

Sharing calendars within your organization is also very easy. It works great in your Outlook client and also in the Outlook Web Access.

With SharePoint you can share and work with Office documents. All documents are accessible in both your Office applications installed on your computer, and also in the SharePoint web application which you can access from the web browser.

Microsoft Lync is a powerful system for communicating within the organization. From the Lync client you can start and attend conferences and share information like your screen or a Word document. If you have a microphone and/or a video camera you can communicate with voice and video.

All data like mail, calendars and documents are stored in the Cloud, so you won’t have to worry about backups. And the best thing, is that Office 365 is very cheap.

If you are interested in how our company can help you migrating to Office 365, you are welcome to contact us using this link. We are professionals at Office 365.

Last Thursday I gained access to the Office 365 beta. Office 365 is Microsoft’s response to Google Apps with advanced e-mail and content management/storage. Basically it’s your everyday services hosted in the cloud, bought as a monthly subscription. I will not go into pricing since the pricing plans are likely to change during the beta phase. A major difference is that while Google offers a free subscription (with advertising) Microsoft has no such offering (yet).

Office 365 is currently in beta, with a rumored release this summer. But already the service is extremely well packaged and the services and management parts are a delight.

Setup

The setup process is very simple and in just minutes the service is almost fully configured. Initially you choose a temporary domain name for the service (e.g. myservice.onmicrosoft.com), and later on you replace it with your own domain.

Home

The layout is as simple as can be.

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Outlook

Office 365 provides messaging and collaboration using Exchange technology, with Outlook Web Access (web mail and ActiveSync). From here you can manage your inbox, calendar, contacts and tasks. If you have been using Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 the interface looks familiar.

You can also setup your account on a mobile device. I’ve only tested this on my iPhone and iPad, and it works great.

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SharePoint

Office 365 comes with a SharePoint 2010 instance with Office Web Apps. This is the perfect storage for your Office files (and other files of course), and with Office Web Apps you can create and edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote-files using your web browser. If you have Microsoft Office installed on your computer you can connect to your SharePoint site and work with your documents live.

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Lync

Lync is a messaging service for voice, text, video and phone with conference capabilities. I’ve not been able to test this yet.

Administration

As an administrator you have access to the Administration view. The layout is one of the greatest I’ve seen in a Microsoft product. It’s very straightforward and it’s easy to find whatever you might be looking for.

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From the Administration you manage Users, Domains and Subscriptions. You can also manage default settings for the applications (Outlook, Lync and SharePoint).

Licensing

Since Office 365 is a subscription based service you buy licenses and distribute them to your users. The beta offers 25 licenses.

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User administration

The user administration is, as everything else in Office 365, very simple.

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After setting up a user you define what services the user will have access to.

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Domain management

You can add your own domain(s) to Office 365 and let users use different domains in their e-mail addresses.

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Here I found the first hick up in Office 365; Microsoft wants control and they want to take over your DNS Zone file. This would be ok since they configure the records properly and let you manage custom A-records and CNAMEs. But by default they point your domain’s A record and www CNAME to SharePoint, and you can’t change this at all.

This however will not work for us since we want them to point to our SiteFactory CMS site. So the alternative would be to have two domains; one for the website and one for Office 365. The workaround for this is to let Microsoft think that they have taken over the DNS Zone, and instead copy all preconfigured DNS records and configure them at your own provider. Microsoft doesn’t check the configured name servers so this works perfectly.

Closing comments

Office 365 is powerful already in its beta phase, and will most likely be a great competitor to Google Apps. The prices are relatively low, but still, Google Apps have free subscription. At our office we use Microsoft Exchange and love it so what’s better than Exchange hosting in the cloud?

During the beta phase we will evaluate Office 365 and when it’s released and the prices are set, we know if we can recommend it to our customers. Even if Microsoft won’t have a free subscription, there is a lot of bang for the buck.