What you need to know about Office 2013 features

Office 2013 features some cool tools for IT administrators, such as DocRecrypt, Office Telemetry, improved digital signatures and more.

There are a bunch of new Microsoft Office 2013 features that can benefit both users and IT administrators, but whether or not upgrading to the suite is right for your organization depends on your needs.

Office 2013 has a lot of the same tools and features that previous versions of Office have. The difference is that Office 2013 also has support for touch, it works well on mobile devices, and through an Office 365 subscription, users can access their data from anywhere.

There are also new security features, such as enhancements to digital signatures and a tool called DocRecrypt that lets you open password-protected documents. That can be handy if a user leaves the company and takes the passwords to important documents with him. Read on to find out more about what's new in Office 2013 and how you can use its security features.

What's so great about Office 2013?

The Microsoft Office 2013 suite includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, Access, InfoPath and Link, plus a Visio file viewer and -- optionally -- Project. Office 2013 has touch and gesture support, which means it works well on mobile devices.

Office 2013 first came out in October 2012 and can run on Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows RT. You can get it for traditional, on-premises installation on PCs, but Office 365 also offers subscription-based access to Office 2013 tools for multiple users. One benefit of using a Web-based subscription service is that users always have the latest versions of the applications, whereas local installations require occasional updates.

What's new in Office 2013?

Office 2013 has some enhancements to Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus changes to the interface. It also has better integration with social and cloud tools. SkyDrive automatically saves users' documents. Excel has Flash Fill, an advanced auto-complete tool to fill in commonly used words.

Users can also insert a picture or an audio or video clip from sources such as Google Drive and Facebook directly to Word. In addition, Office no longer comes on a disk. Instead, users get an activation code and can download the suite. Users can also edit PDFs.

For IT pros, Office 2013 also has Office Web Apps Server, which delivers Office Web Apps through SharePoint Server 2013, Exchange Server 2013 and Lync Server 2013, so you don't need to manage Office Web Apps as an addition to these. The Office Web Apps Server also runs on its own farm, so you can scale it and update it more easily.

In addition, Click-to-Run lets users download Office 2013 applications from the Web, and the Office Deployment Tool gives you more control over Click-to-Run. Office Telemetry tracks Office documents and registered add-ins and stores the data it collects in a SQL Server database. Just use the Telemetry Dashboard to access the data.

Other administrator-focused tools in Office 2013 include Active Directory-based activation and Group Policy administrative template files and Office Customization Tool files.

What new security features does Office 2013 add?

Security configurations and authentication have both been upgraded, and Office 2013 has Protected View and Information Rights Management. The Office Customization Tool lets you control Windows Installer deployments, and admins can use Administrative Templates to customize Group Policy settings.

Authentication is now user-centric, so workers' content and personalization settings can move with them from one device to another, and they don't need to provide multiple passwords to open Office 2013 files from other locations or devices.

Though this may sound scary, you can manage identities with Active Directory Federation Services and Forefront Identity Manager. You can also add content publishers to the Trusted Publishers list. Microsoft has also improved digital signatures, and a feature called DocRecrypt that lets admins decrypt password-protected documents.

This was first published in September 2013

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