OneNote 2013 In-depth Review

New Microsoft Office is on its way and now everyone can download Office 2013 Preview for free and use all features and all applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote etc) without any limits.

We do recommend you to try this new Office at least because of its new installation mechanism. Today you don’t have to download a huge installer, then wait for half an hour for installation to complete and fight weird error messages. Imagine you can get all Office apps running in a couple of minutes, error-free. Here is how:

1. Go to

2. Click on any application (of course we clicked on OneNote).

3. Click Try it (or you can go directly to

4. Click Try it on any version once again.

Now you can click Install if you have a 32-bit Windows. Microsoft does not detect your version of Windows (anyway it did not detect our Windows 7 64-bit) so if you are on 64-bit, click Language and install options and choose Office (64-bit). Otherwise it won’t install a 32-bit Office on a 64-bit machine.

After that you’ll download a very small file, which appears to be a launcher for installer. Office 2013 uses a new technology called Office on Demand, which makes it possible to start using Office in a few minutes while something is still still being downloaded and installed.

Office 2013 streaming application features

After few moments you will see a License screen. You don’t even have to read it:

Office 2013 License screen - installation

…Then you watch a short cartoon about the entire planet using new Office…

Office 2013 installation cartoon

…after which you can login to your windows Live account…

Office 2013 installation - sign in

…then select appearance for your Office. In fact that is the screen you can spend most of time on because you don’t understand immediately what it is and why. Importance of this option during setup is arguable.

Office 2013 installation

A couple of more screens to go through…

Office 2013 installation - skydrive


Office 2013 installation - getting ready

And finally you can start using Office while the installer finishes some downloads.

Office 2013 installation - wrapping up

In fact, integration with Microsoft online services and SkyDrive is very tight. SkyDrive is always the first option for saving files and your account is always shown in the top right corner, next to two emoticons, a sad and a happy one. They are buttons for sending good or bad feedback:

Office 2013 - feedback

So we are starting OneNote now. It catches all your existing notebooks that were last time opened in OneNote, the interface looks much cleaner but familiar, no need to become a switcher. The ribbon is still there, pages, sections and notebooks are in their old places.

OneNote 2013

There are two main changes. One is File menu. It is redesigned and now includes just one step for creating new files:

OneNote 2013 - new notebook

Compare with OneNote 2010:

OneNote 2010 - new notebook

There is a new Account tab where you can add your Flickr and Youtube as image sources.

OneNote 2013 - Account menu

However, when you add Flickr, it launches the authorization dialog in Internet Explorer… Other apps usually open Flickr authorization page in your favorite browser.

OneNote 2013 - Flickr add

The other big change is improved tables. Now you can convert your tables in OneNote to Excel format, sort data, and change shading for individual cells. Still no way to move columns.

OneNote 2013 - improved table

Adding pages is improved. In addition to the old Add Page button, you can now click anywhere between existing pages to insert a new page there.

OneNote 2013 - adding pages

What format does OneNote 2013 use? Right-click on a notebook, choose Properties and it’s good news – the format is called OneNote 2010-2013, which means there are no significant changes to file format and Outline will be compatible with OneNote 2013. We’ll dig deeper for full compatibility report later.

OneNote 2013 - notebook properties

One more significant change is touch mode. You start it by clicking a small arrow and selecting Touch mode. Looks like Outline logo! With this mode enabled, OneNote adds a little more spaces to buttons so that they are easier to press with a finger. At the same time it eats up some space on your touch-enabled device that is – let me guess – not so huge. All other elements like sections and pages keep their normal sizes so they don’t become any easier to touch. That reminds of old days when Microsoft made an attempt to switch from stylus interfaces on Windows Mobile Pocket PCs to finger-friendly screens. It worked fine for simple actions but here and there you opened menus with tiny controls that could only be pressed with a stylus.

OneNote 2013 - touch mode

In about an hour Office will finish installing and you can go offline.

Office 2013 - setup complete

Interesting that the Office logo is similar in color and perspective to Andrew Kim’s idea of MS rebranding and his ‘Slate’ shape from

Office logo

Overall we can see that OneNote 2013 sports mainly cosmetic changes and little improvements. We are sure we will discover some new handy additions as we use it everyday, and the new colors and shapes for sections and notebooks are sexy but the tables improvement could have been supplied as update for OneNote at an earlier point. We foresee a confusion between Office 365 and Office 2013 as well as between Metro interface and old desktop in Windows 8 – a number of people commenting first reviews of Office 2013 pointed that already. We hope that Microsoft will find a way to deal with that because all people want is just Outlook, OneNote or Word.

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