Microsoft’s already released Android and iPad-specific versions of Microsoft Office, but a version for Windows tablets and touchscreen laptops is still missing. While Microsoft Office for Android and iOS continue to be good productivity tools, the biggest gap is the lack of a physical keyboard, which can slow down an otherwise useful tool.
Could a touch version of Microsoft Office unify platforms and make Microsoft Office more productive for iPad, Android, and Windows tablets? Here’s what we know about the forthcoming rumored ‘touch’ suite from Microsoft.
The official name and possible release date
According to Paul Thurrot, the touch-based version of Office will simply be called Office “Touch.” It’s been rumored that an updated version of Microsoft Office is coming in the spring of 2015 and will also include a touch version of Office, but with Windows 10 set to be released in the summer of 2015, that date could be pushed back.
Official and leaked screenshots
Office Touch was just a rumor until Microsoft Build, where the company showed off the first screenshots in PowerPoint.
Microsoft PowerPoint in Office Touch
It has a similar look to Office for iPad, but keep in mind that the iOS Office suite was specifically designed for the tablet. Office Touch will probably offer more features than the Android and iOS versions.
Unofficial screenshots were also leaked from an internal Microsoft presentation in May. In the screenshots, you could see that the ribbon interface from Office on desktop was visible.
It’s likely that this presentation was probably an old version of the app and not what Microsoft will release to the public, and even though the app’s tabs aren’t very visible, the images show a common design for all platforms.
Office Touch for Windows: which apps?
As opposed to just Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, Office Touch should include all the major Office apps like OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Lync. For apps that currently exist, expect an updated and optimized version for the Touch suite.
The Radial Menu in OneNote
Kirk Koenigsbauer announced at Build 2014 that Office Touch would provide better performance by using DirectX. The proprietary API provides tools for high quality visuals and performance. In theory, Office Touch with DirectX should run very smoothly.
Rumor: combining the finger and stylus
The leaked presentation also showed a combined selection of tool for a stylus and finger input. It’s still unknown if this feature will be included in the final version, but it could offer extended use of the Surface 3 or other tablets that are compatible with a stylus.
Long time coming
Microsoft has been lagging with a proper touch version of Office for any platform. While there is an optimized iPad suite and Android version for phones, Windows still doesn’t have a native app for its devices.
Considering that many people already have a lot of options for productivity on their devices, whether Office Touch will make a difference won’t be known until the suite is finally released.