Microsoft demos touch-first version of Office for Windows at Build

Microsoft Office logoWhen Microsoft announced and released Office for iPad last week, it said that an Android tablet version would be following, but it didn't mention a full touch-focused version of the software for Windows. The company remedied that situation today at its Build developer conference, where it showed off a work-in-progress version of a touch-first Windows version of Office. We don't have a release date for these applications yet, but the apps shown appear to be reasonably far along.

Based on what was shown, the touch-friendly Office for Windows appears to have a lot in common with Office for iPad. The ribbon interface is still present, but it's been reduced in size to take up less vertical screen space. Everything has been sized to be finger-friendly, and moving and resizing images or swiping between images in a PowerPoint deck is easy to do by just tapping and dragging. Microsoft has built the applications "from the ground up" on DirectX, and Microsoft is presumably coding these applications to run the same way in both Windows 8.1 or Windows RT.

PowerPoint for Windows

The current Office 2013 suite includes a touch mode, but the feature only increases the spacing between the desktop version's labels and buttons, and it still runs as a desktop application—it's not a great interface to use without your mouse and keyboard, and trying to use it on small-screened tablets is especially frustrating. If the new applications are anything like Office for iPad, they should substantially improve the situation when they're released.

Without finalized code, it's hard to say how the Windows applications stack up to the iPad versions, but the ribbon in Microsoft's demos appeared to be more densely populated than the ribbon in the iPad applications. While Microsoft under new CEO Satya Nadella has made a lot of noise about being on all of your devices no matter what operating system you're using, it wouldn't be surprising if the Windows versions of the Office applications remain more capable than the iOS or Android versions for the foreseeable future.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Microsoft, Microsoft Office

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