When Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer announced the new Office 365 on Monday July 16th, it got us wondering what all this will mean for Microsoft Project users in the future. So we signed up for the 365 trial to take a closer look at Microsoft Project and get some insight into where things are headed.
Before we go on, there are some conceptual questions to answer since things are getting a little confusing with this new product range. Firstly there are going to be two types of Microsoft Office available.
1. The New Microsoft Office (a.k.a. Office 2013 – so called to keep things simple) will be the updated equivalent of the current Office suite that is installed on your PC.
2. Office 365 is a tiered subscription service offering different capabilities depending on which one you choose. The options start with Home Premium, offering 20GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype world minutes a month included. Next there’s Small Business Premium, offering shared calendars, business-class mail and HD conferencing. Finally there’s ProPlus which is the enterprise version.
One disappointing aspect of this release for some is that it appears there won’t be support for Windows XP; the still massively popular legacy operating system of more than a decade ago.
At this point the standalone office suite isn’t available as part of the trial, so we worked with Microsoft Project 365 to get an idea of what it looks like, how it behaves and to test its compatibility with current Microsoft Project 2007 and 2010 files.
Here’s what we saw when we first launched Microsoft Project Pro for Office 365 Preview and successfully opened a Project 2007 .mpp file into it.
The file opened without any hitches and the data was identical to the original 2007 source file. The interface was similar to Office 2010 and seemed very responsive. If you want a little more real-estate on your screen, you can now unpin the ribbon to hide it away leaving the tabs in place, which is very nice. Simply clicking on one of the tabs re-opens the ribbon.
Here’s a compilation of all the main tab ribbons in the New Office 365.
We spent some time creating new projects, entering tasks, defining predecessors and successors, entering and assigning resources and experimenting with the ribbons, views and Gantt chart interaction. For those already familiar with Microsoft Project 2010, this version will be immediately usable and easy to navigate. The interaction was generally smooth with no errors performing all the common scheduling tasks that we attempted.
We did notice some slight differences in behavior from earlier versions, for example there was no default duration value when a new task is created, which means no task bar appears in the Gantt chart until the duration is entered. We also noticed that the Resources column was piling text upon itself once more than one resource was assigned to a task and focus was taken of the cell. It also appeared to be happening on some of the Gantt chart text items.
However this is a preview version and these items may well be fixed by the time the formal release goes live.
When Microsoft releases the final version of Office 2013, we’ll take a deeper dive into functional changes and new features, so stay tuned folks.
Deltek Cobra and Primavera P6 Compatibility
One of the key questions we wanted to explore was the compatibility of the new Microsoft Project 2013 .XML with two systems we commonly share data with: namely Deltek Cobra for project integration and Primavera P6 for import.
While there are differences in the structure of the 2013 .XML file when compared with 2010’s .XML format, the initial results were encouraging. Over the next few days we will be publishing blogs on both the Deltek Cobra testing and Primavera P6 testing.
Click on the link below to see initial import tests.