Microsoft's next-generation Office suite recently reached the Technical Preview stage, allowing third parties to test Microsoft's pre-beta code. The software giant released early copies of Office 15 to a number of businesses, partners and OEMs in January ahead of a public beta this summer. Thanks to a source with access to the Technical Preview, we've been able to get a closer look at Microsoft's plans for its next Office suite.

Office 15 applications all run as standard desktop apps across Windows 7 and Windows 8, and some will even come packaged in an ARM edition of Windows 8 later this year. Office 15 takes a different approach to design, minimizing the ribbon by default and using a full screen "backstage" menu (similar to Office 2010) with navigation controls on the left. A pin icon controls whether the ribbon interface is open or minimized, and it remains largely untouched at this stage of development. Microsoft's Outlook 15 application, missing from the company's preview of Office 15 on ARM, looks the most changed - with a Metro-style navigation at the bottom of the application and the switch to "People" instead of the traditional "Contacts" naming.

One interesting part of Microsoft Office 15 is the ability to broadcast documents online by sharing them with others. Microsoft introduced a Broadcast Slide Show feature with PowerPoint 2010 but the company has renamed this to "Present Online" in Office 15 and has expanded it to other Office applications by using Windows Live to share the document online.

Overall, the application is said to be in the early stages of any UI changes or features, and appears to be focused on working well in a fullscreen environment like Microsoft's Metro app plans. Although Microsoft is clearly working on the look of Office, we expect to see the majority of new features in the first public beta over the summer.