There’s almost an overload of information to digest from the Windows 10 event yesterday. Everything from cross platform gaming and Windows 10 for phones to holographic lenses that bring the virtual world into reality was mentioned but there’s one major announcement that was not included.
Today, in the aftermath of the Windows 10 announcements, Microsoft announced two new versions of Office that will soon be available. There are very few details available about Office 2016, but we know that it will be a full desktop version of the Office suite and the naming suggests that we won’t see it until 2016 (Microsoft will have more details in the coming months). The biggest news is that a touch version of the Office suite will be available when the January Technical Preview (JTP) of Windows 10 comes out in a couple weeks for Windows Insider participants.
At the end of the event yesterday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella promised that Microsoft devices are always going to be the best place for Microsoft products. Many had doubted Microsoft putting their own products first when a touch friendly version of Office was released for iOS and Android before Windows. The feature list of the upcoming touch version of office should appease any dissenters. The interface looks smooth, the layout looks touch friendly, and the feature list is plentiful.
Touch versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote will all be available with the new technical preview scheduled to be released in a couple weeks. Office will also come free to mobile devices when Windows 10 reaches mobiles later this year. The new apps will be universal and will scale from phone to the massive 84-inch Surface Hub. The universal apps will even sync recent documents between devices.
The most recent video of ‘Office Mechanics’ on office.com outlines the new features. A feature that will be available on Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote is the Office ribbon which is the bar near the top of the screen that allows you to select bold or italics, and create bullet points. This is a new edition to OneNote and is currently in the other programs. The new touch Office is built from the ground up to make them touch friendly and scalable across all devices.
Word will have a reading mode that allows users to easily swipe through multiple pages of a document in a layout more similar to reading a book or e-reader. On those pages, users can view comments made by team members and add their own comments to the document. The reading mode also adds a feature titled ‘insights’ that allows you to select part of a document and select options from a menu that retrieve information from the web.
If users are having trouble navigating the new version of word because a feature is located in a different location that previous versions or they simply don’t don’t know where a feature is, they can use the new ‘Tell Me’ bar to search for that feature. As opposed to searching for ‘headers’ and being brought to a selection of Bing search results, the header option appears right below the bar and can be selected to edit the header of the document. Word also will have the ability to lock the keyboard away so that it doesn’t pop up when scrolling through documents.
Excel in its current state is one of the least touch-friendly versions of Office, especially if a user doesn’t have a Wacom stylus to select small boxes or locations. The touch version of office can be navigated with finger touch and is optimized for touch interface. Users can select cells and convert them into a chart or a table.
PowerPoint won’t gain as many features as Word, but the ability to annotate presentations will be available. Users can either mark a presentation while working on it and save annotations to use as notes to edit later or draw directly on the slides during the presentation to highlight points of a presentation. PowerPoint will heavily use the stylus as an annotation tool.
OneNote probably gains the least amount of features because a touch friendly version of OneNote has been available for Windows tablets for quite some time. While it doesn’t have every feature, the current touch version lacks the ability to convert an entire document into text. The Windows 10 version of OneNote will add the ribbon across the top of the screen. Other features may be available but they weren’t highlighted in the video.
The new Outlook app will feel a lot more like you’re using Office within an email. Users will be able to insert tables and pictures directly in the app.
Office is a staple of Microsoft. Even with competing platforms in the mobile and computing world, Office is ubiquitous when it comes to creating documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. Until now Microsoft has struggled to optimize the successful Office to their tablets. With a new list of features for the touch devices and the universal apps scaling from phones to 84” Surface Hubs, Office will reach many more of Microsoft's 1.5 billion users.