With the release of Project 2013, Microsoft have made a number of enhancements and improvements to our favourite project scheduling software.
The first thing you will notice are the changes to the look and feel, not as radical as the introduction of the ribbon, but a gentle evolution to provide a flatter, minimalistic look and feel that is common across the rest of the Office 2013 platform. Project 2013 also allows users to sign in, ensuring their preferences and cloud based services such as SkyDrive, Office 365, SharePoint are configured and roam between applications.
With the impending release of Windows 8 and the proliferation of touch enabled PC’s and Slates, Office 2013 introduces a number of enhancements to improve the experience for touch users. The most obvious improvement is a new touch mode which can be accessed via the Quick Access Toolbar. When clicked the ribbons will explode out to a larger finger friendly design as can be seen below.
This also extends to the data entry screen where if you use a touch input, the screen shows two finger friendly nubs to use for selection.
There are a few other touch improvements, including help selecting objects and ‘Minibars’. Microsoft published a great post outlining some of the touch support changes in Office 2013 over at the Office Next blog which I would encourage you to check out.
One of the major investment areas in Project 2013 is a new reporting capability that allows rich dashboard style reports to be built quickly and easily. I’ll be digging into the improvements around reporting in a future post, but to give you a quick overview, Project 2013 includes a number of pre-canned dashboard type reports including work and project overview dashboards and an excellent burn-down report. Of course you are not limited to the provided reports, a powerful design capability has been included that allows you to build customised reports for your organisation and theme them in the way you want. These reports also leverage another new capability of Project 2013, the introduction of improved office art.
A small but significant inclusion is the addition of presence information to resources in the schedule. Now as a project manager, wherever I see a resource name, I can see at a glance their status and connect to them with one click to ask about the status of a task, or to confirm their actuals. Of course when you use the presence information you won’t get a lovely picture of me
A new feature that will be of particular use for heavy schedule users is the new Task Path feature. As the name suggests, Task Path enables you to see the path for a specific task you have chosen, the paths you can see include Predecessors, Driving Predecessors, Successors and Driving Successors.
As you can see below, clicking on Task 2 has caused two paths to change colour, the driving predecessors (those that cause the task to be scheduled when it is), turning orange and the driving successors (those that cause the successor task to be scheduled when it is) to turn purple. I will write more on this cool feature in the future.
One of the most exciting additions to Office 2013 is the inclusion of new app model allowing you to extend certain client and server applications with add-ons that can be either be purchased from a central app store, or from a catalogue of approved corporate apps. Project 2013 is one of those client apps that supports these new apps, allowing new capabilities to be added to Project 2013 via these apps. Again, I will be digging into building Project 2013 apps in some future posts.
In addition to the main points I highlighted above, there are a heap of other improvements to Project 2013, ranging from animations & fit and finish through to a number of under the cover changes to improve performance and product capability. I have only started digging into the new client capabilities and will be posting more info as I uncover it myself. In the meantime, I encourage you to give Project 2013 a go yourself by downloading the preview from office.com/preview.*
* Project 2013 will install side by side with Project 2010. Please note that if you are using Project Server 2010, Project 2013 will not connect to Project Server 2010 and you will still need to use Project 2010.