The Microsoft Office suite remains hugely popular for use in work and at home, despite increased competition in recent years from services like Google Docs. In keeping with Microsoft’s strategy of cross-platform equivalence with Windows 10, this version of its Office software attempts to deliver the same experience whether you’re working from your desktop or your mobile.
Members of the Windows Insider program will be able to test out early versions of the new Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps today. So long as they’re already running the preview build of Windows 10 released a couple of weeks ago, the new “universal” apps will be available to download from the Windows Store.
These touch-friendly apps take a slightly different approach from the standard Office package, with their focus on delivering a similar experience across different devices rather than offering as comprehensive a program as users might expect from their desktop-centric relation. Central to this is the simplification of the ‘Ribbon’ interface, with many of the tools you would expect to see on-screen at all times moving away from the default toolbar.
As with any change to such a widely used piece of software, it’s something that will turn off many users, even if it’s implemented with the best intentions. It’s obvious why these decisions have been made — to make parity between devices with differently sized screens easier — but whether it can offer the same functionality as the full desktop package remains to be seen.
However, Office purists needn’t be too worried about the future of the software. While these touch-friendly apps are a big focus of Microsoft’s Windows 10 push, they’re far from the be-all and end-all. The more traditional Office 2016 is still on track to launch in 2015.
While members of the Windows Insider program are entitled to an early peek at these new apps now, it won’t be too long before the rest of us get to test them out for ourselves. These touch-friendly Office apps are set to be released before the year is out, so expect to see plenty more on how the software is shaping up ahead of its launch.