2015 is indeed turning out to be the year Microsoft finally delivers on the vision and features it promised users in the run up to its Windows 8 operating system. This morning Microsoft released three more of the Office for Windows 10 apps that it promised users with a touchscreen.
Word, Excel and PowerPoint are officially available in the Windows Store for anyone to download – provided that they’re running Windows 10, the next version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system coming later this year. Each of the apps look exactly like what Microsoft showed off at its Windows 10 Media Briefing this past January.
Each of the apps are essentially, simplified versions of the Desktop versions of Microsoft Office that have sold for years. Design-wise, they’re closest to Office 2013, the last big version of Office to get released. In Windows 10’s tablet mode a colored bar sits at the top of the screen letting users know what app they’re using. Below that is the ribbon that separates different actions in Microsoft Office apps today.
The links for these apps take users to the new version of the Store being worked on in Windows 10. Again, Microsoft isn’t making these apps available to users running Windows 8.1. It’s almost a given that they’ll use them as bait to lure Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 users to Windows 10. The company has already confirmed that users of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 for the first year it’s available.
It’s impossible to underestimate just how big of a deal the Microsoft Office Windows 10 apps are at this point. When Windows 8 launched, Microsoft hinted at a touch-centric version of Office coming at some point. In the meantime it released a version of Office with bigger buttons and a touch mode to tide users over. That was in 2012. Until today, it’d only ever released a touch version of Office’s OneNote app.
Understandably, taking so long to get their own house in order got Microsoft into some major trouble. It used Microsoft Office as a way to lure people over to its Surface RT and Surface 2 tablets, but those versions weren’t great for anyone without a mouse, even with the touch enhancements. To make matters worse, Microsoft released Office for iPad last year and kicked off an Office for Android tablets preview program after that. It seemed, Microsoft was perfectly willing to leave its own users in the lurch while it tended to users on Apple’s tablets and smartphones.
Windows 10 users got a preview of the OneNote Windows 10 app a few weeks ago. The only missing piece of the puzzle is Outlook Mail and Outlook Calendar. Both were also revealed at that Windows 10 Media Briefing a few weeks ago. They’ll replace the somewhat lackluster Mail and Calendar apps available in Windows 8.1 today.
All of the Office Windows 10 apps are what Microsoft calls Universal Apps. Really, it’s Microsoft branding what’s known in the web design community as Responsive Design. Instead of building one app for different form factors, the Office Windows 10 apps will adapt to whatever device users have running Windows 10. For example, the PowerPoint app users are downloading from the Store in Windows 10 is the same app that’ll run on Windows 10 for phones.
Microsoft says it plans to launch the final version of these apps alongside Windows 10. So far, we only know that Microsoft plans to release Windows 10 later this year. There’s another version of Office coming strictly for mouse and keyboard users later this year too. It’s called Office 2016 and we haven’t seen a preview of what it can do yet.