In the second in a series of articles detailing the new features in each of the Office 15 applications, I take a look at Microsoft Word 15, the Office word processor. This is one of the most venerable of the Office applications, and the one I've used the most over the years, by far.

 

So what's new? Here are some of my favorite new and improved features. Note that this list isn't comprehensive but is rather those changes I enjoy the most.

 

Read mode and PDF compatibility

 

Microsoft is really pushing Word as a reading tool  in this release, no doubt because users with tablets in particular can use it in either landscape or portrait mode to consume content casually. To this end, Word 15 works as a PDF reader--yes, really--for the first time. But more important, perhaps, it offers a stunning new reading experience for both traditional Word documents and PDFs that reflows text in a columnar view automatically. Interesting, the default layout on a traditional landscape PC screen uses a left-to-right scrolling mode, not top-to-bottom as has always been the case with such document-based applications.

readmode
The new Read mode scrolls from left to right

 

Resume Reading

 

Courtesy of a very cool new bookmarking feature, Word 15 will prompt you to return to your previous editing or reading point when you re-open a document. It's not automatic, but very, very welcome.

bookmark

 

Section expand and collapse

 

A new control that appears to the left of headings allows you to expand and contract sections of text, hiding and revealing the sections so you can focus just on what you're writing.

expand-contract
That little blue arrow toggles that section between displayed and hidden

 

Design tab

 

A new Design tab in the Word 15 ribbon provides quick access to document themes, watermarks, page colors and borders, and other design-related elements.

design_tab

 

Present Online

 

In Office 2010, PowerPoint users gained the ability to broadcast presentations over the web, opening up virtual presentations dramatically and providing a way for anyone, even those without PowerPoint, to enjoy that content. In Office 15, Word picks up this ability via a new feature called Present Online. So now you can share a document with others over the web, including those that do not have Word installed.

 

(In a semi-related addition, you can also add web video to Word documents, as you can to PowerPoint presentations.)

 

Track changes, now with password protection

 

Word has long sported a track changes feature that highlights the additions and changes that multiple authors make to a document. But with Word 15, you can now password protect your changes, ensuring that others don't simply delete something without a trace

 

Improvements to existing features

 

In addition to the new features noted above, Word 15 includes improvements to many existing features as well. The big one, to me, is the Navigation pane. It sports a new look and is a nice way to navigate through a document using its structure as a guide. I used to disable this view routinely in Word 2010, but I like the way it looks in this version.

navpane
The new Navigation pane

 

Things I don't like

 

Word 15 utilizes a new smooth scrolling feature that I find annoying. Worse still, however, is the Word-only typing animation that makes this product unusable. Courtesy of a registry hack, I was able to disable it, thankfully. I don't understand why you can't turn this off in the Options UI. More to the point, I don't get why it's even part of the product.

 

More to come

 

There's a lot more to Word 15, of course, but these are the improvements that stick out to me. Next up, OneNote 15...