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The world is an exciting place once again thanks to Microsoft’s recent release of the Office 2013 preview. New features! Cloud integration! An interface based on classic Swiss graphic design! The press has left no stone unturned: Roundups abound, curmudgeons have chimed in, and thumbs are generally heading upward for the new version.

Here are 12 things we think you should know about Office 2013:

Excel's new Flash Fill feature.

Excel’s new Flash Fill feature. (Click image to enlarge.)

1. It will not work with Windows XP or Vista. See system requirements.

2. Built-in integration with SkyDrive, which enables users to store documents online and work with them between multiple computers and mobile devices. This is a tricky one. The traditional Office 2013 software bundle, which includes SkyDrive as a cloud-based storage option, may not present a problem for IT. However, SkyDrive is deeply integrated into the cloud-based version of Office 2013, which may not sit well with some IT departments.

3. The look is “flatter” and more like the Metro interface (see Swiss graphic design above), which was perhaps necessary to allow it to run on devices with less video processing power, such as tablets. Unlike Windows 7 and the Aero look, it there is no indication that it will turn the flashier features on when the device has sufficient video processing power.

4. The ribbon interface appears the same as in Office 2010, which helps ease adoption. Even though the ribbon was reviled when it was first released (or, better yet, when companies began implementing it), it really is an excellent interface once you get over the learning curve and the innately human resistance to change.

5. Excel’s new Flash Fill feature is getting ample buzz. No wonder: It automates processes such as splitting first and last name that used to require multiple steps using Text to Columns and/or lengthy nested formulas. It will be interesting to see if it handles people with three names (Frank Lloyd Wright, Arthur Conan Doyle) better than Text to Columns does.

6. Look out Adobe! Word 2013 can edit PDFs and save the edited versions.

7. Microsoft has gone full-on social with this new version. One notable inclusion is the integration of Yammer, a secure, private enterprise social network that was recently purchased by Microsoft.

8. Skype, which Microsoft purchased in 2011, will be integrated into Office 2013 as well. At least one question remains, however: Does this mean enterprise internet pipes will be open to bandwidth-sharing for the benefit of other Skype users?

9. Resume Reading, a new feature available in Word and PowerPoint that remembers your last editing position so you can continue where you left off the next time you work on the file. This is one of the features that syncs via SkyDrive, so if you sign in with a Microsoft account, you can use it across PCs and tablets.

10. I have no doubt that Excel’s new Quick Analysis Lens will be welcomed in the workplace. The user selects a range of data and the Quick Analysis Lens offers various visual recommendations for charting, formatting and more – pivot tables included. It will even create the chart/formatting for you.

11. One of the options in the Quick Analysis Lens is Recommended Pivot Table feature, which looks at the columns of data, and creates suggested pivot views based on contents. You can preview the table before you select it.

12. Another Quick Analysis Lens option is Recommended Charts, which is much like Number 11 on this list, but involves plain old charts. Handy nonetheless.

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