Reviewed: Microsoft Office 2013, should you upgrade?

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Reviewed: Microsoft Office 2013, should you upgrade?
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Microsoft PowerPoint

Verdict: No major upgrades, but the clutch of small improvements and the addition of touch support are welcome

When Microsoft first announced PowerPoint 2013, it made great play of several key features. What it didn’t mention was that none of these features is completely new – they already existed in PowerPoint before.
 
PowerPoint 2013 is packed with smaller, less glitzy changes that make a big difference. The online video and picture search tools, for example, are brilliant and make it easy to add extra whizz to your slides.  
 
Presenter View may not be new, meanwhile, but it has been refined. There’s now the facility to smoothly zoom in and highlight an area of interest on slides, and the laser pointer gives presenters another slick tool for drawing the attention of the audience to bullet points, graphs or tables. 
 
And with PowerPoint 2013 now introducing touch support, those with a Windows 8 tablet need no longer worry about fiddling with a touchpad in the dark or finding room for a mouse on the lectern during a presentation – they can simply swipe, pinch and tap as they go.
 
Other small improvements include the ability to output presentations as MP4 files as well as WMVs, to play music in the background across multiple slides and to use an eyedropper tool to select colours for graphics from other elements on a slide. The addition of widescreen versions of the core templates, meanwhile, will help workers with widescreen laptops to make better use of the equipment at hand.
 
The user interface has changed for the better, too, and not only in terms of look and feel. The properties of design elements in particular may be adjusted far more quickly and intuitively. It’s also nice not to have to drag the dialog box out of the way to see what’s happening underneath. 
Finally, although it isn’t a new PowerPoint feature, the chart-formatting controls brought over from Excel make adjusting the appearance of graphs, and even filtering the data in them, a faster process than before.
 
Although touch works for presentation delivery, creating and editing slides is still best left to mouse and keyboard. Even with the ribbon and its tabs completely hidden from view, there’s simply too much going on in the average PowerPoint screen for touch operation to be practical for anything but basic edits. 
 
On balance, though, PowerPoint 2013 is an effective revamp and a big improvement. As with the rest of Microsoft’s core applications there aren’t any killer new features, but the UI tweaks, the addition of touch (for presenters) and a scattering of enhancements make it a worthwhile upgrade.
 
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