Office has been the gold standard for office suites for a very long time. Microsoft is working hard to keep it that way as it’s expanding to new platforms and technology.
Last year, Microsoft released Office apps for Android and iOS. This year, universal Office apps for Windows 10 will follow. Moreover, the official release of a new desktop suite, Office 2016, is expected in the second half of 2015.
Here’s a brief summary of what’s been going on with Microsoft Office and what else you can look forward to.
Free Mobile Universal Office Touch Apps
During their Windows 10 media briefing on January 21st, Microsoft announced that touch optimized universal Office apps will come pre-installed for free with Windows 10 on small tablets and phones. For other devices, the apps will be available via the Windows Store.
Currently, Windows Insiders are able to play with the touch-friendly Office universal apps on the Windows 10 Preview. Universal Office apps support real-time collaboration; you can add collaborators to a document using their email address. A new Bing powered feature, Insights for Office, integrates online resources such as images, web references, and definitions in Read mode. Taking a cue from Office Online, the apps have the new Tell me feature that we’ll also see in Office 2016 (see below). Finally, users can send feedback via a smiley face.
Below are the Office universal apps for Windows 10 screenshots Microsoft released as a teaser, as well as a demo video by Office Mechanics.
When you first launch the Word app, you’re taken through a small tour that introduces you to basic features, including tap and drag to move pictures or how to switch to Read mode. The app looks remarkably like the desktop version of Word and works much like it.
Excel is probably the last Office tool you’d expect to be touch friendly. Microsoft promises you won’t miss your keyboard or mouse when managing Excel data with touch-first controls.
Much like the Word app, Excel launches you into a short tutorial, explaining how to add and move columns. On the surface it resembles the desktop app, but the functionality is limited. The Excel Universal app doesn’t support Pivot Tables for example.
Presenter View and Ink Tools support live presentations and real time annotation of your slides. You can also open notes with a single tap. Animations are supported, but you can’t create new ones inside the app.
Microsoft’s cloud-based PowerPoint alternative Sway suddenly sounds much less interesting.
OneNote has been a rising star of the Office suite. The universal app comes with a ribbon interface and you’re able to share your notebooks with other users.
Outlook for Windows 10
The Outlook app looks much like the Windows 8.1 Mail app. It will come with Microsoft Word editing features and new touch gestures. This Universal app will be made available shortly.
Microsoft Office on Android and iOS
Meanwhile, free mobile Office apps for Android and iOS have been tested and positively evalulated by millions of users. In our comparison of Microsoft Office for Android vs. Google Docs we concluded that Office for Android clearly is the better choice. Consequently, the Android apps came out of their preview state in January.
Due to popular demand, Microsoft also released an Outlook app for Android and iOS.
New Microsoft Office Suite to be Released in 2015
Along with all the touch first mobile apps, Microsoft is also preparing to release a new desktop Office suite. Recently, early versions have been leaked from the limited preview program. Here is a brief look at the Office 16 Beta January build 16.0.3629.1008.
The Office 16 preview build is a complete business suite, including Access, Database Compare, Excel, Lync, Office Upload Center, OneDrive for Business, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, Spreadsheet Compare, Telemetry Dashboard, Telemetry Log, and Word. Interestingly, Office 16 installed into a folder called Microsoft Office 2013 and all the applications came with the 2013 suffix.
Office 2016 builds on the ribbon design of Office 2013. While the interface will be familiar, new features obviously require some not so subtle changes. Most notably, Lync was re-branded to Skype for Business.
The design appears flatter and has generally been adapted to what we’ve already seen in the Windows 10 Preview.
Microsoft Office has never been more convenient to use than today.
With Office 16, Microsoft is bringing Tell Me, a feature first seen in Office Online, to the desktop. It’s a quick way to search for an option. Unlike a Help file, it doesn’t waste your time with lengthy explanations, but instead enables you to jump straight to the desired control or feature from the results.
In Word, rotating images becomes more intuitive and several advanced features, including Pivot Tables in Excel, have been updated with new functionality. Neowin recently provided an in-depth review of the advanced changes that came with the new build, as well as an Office 16 image gallery, featuring the new dark theme.
A New Office for a New Era
With its Office suite, Microsoft is building on decades of experience. Yet they don’t get tired to innovate.
Do you think they’re doing enough? Does Microsoft Office still have an edge over its competition? Share with us what you think about the modern Office suite and which featuers you think are still missing.