For the first time, Windows users can let their fingers do the walking through their Office applications. Microsoft released previews Wednesday of its long-awaited touch Office apps for Windows 10. The final version of the release is set for the second half of the year.
Previews of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are now available to download and, at least for now, can be used free, albeit with preview (meaning possibly limited) functionality. The right-click menu is contextual, but consists mostly of Cut, Copy and Paste. All other right-click functions are either tucked away in navigation bars or are not available. The suite of Office products was designed for tablets and PCs. The apps each include interfaces that are comfortable for traditional mouse and keyboard users, but also touch users for the first time.
"Today, we're excited to announce that Word, Excel and PowerPoint are now available for technical preview on PCs, laptops and tablets running the Windows 10 Technical Preview! In the coming weeks, we'll open up our preview for the same apps on phones and tablets running Windows 10," Microsoft said in a blog post on its Web site.
Word, Excel and PowerPoint are the first Office apps that are built to be Windows Universal Apps, which allows the same software to run substantially in essentially the same form on phone, tablet or PC. According to Microsoft, the corresponding phone apps will be available as previews in a few weeks. Word, Excel and PowerPoint will not make up the full touch Office suite. Similarly compatible versions of Outlook and OneNote are also in the works.
In reviewing the preview versions, the WinBeta Web site used them on both a 27-inch 2560x1440 desktop PC and a 7-inch 1280x800 tablet display, and reported that all three apps worked as well on a smaller screen as on large devices. The apps work much like the Web apps found on the OneDrive Web site, meaning users don't have to save manually since the apps save automatically at regular intervals, WinBeta reported. All that saving will probably mean that using the apps mean having to be signed in to a Microsoft account.
Starting soon, Windows 10 phones and tablets of less than 8 inches will ship with those three Office apps for free. Microsoft hasn't yet specified how users of larger devices will pay for the software. When it comes to Office applications included with iOS and Android, some functionality has been available for free, while other features can only be unlocked with an Office 365 subscription.
One source of confusion for users on Wednesday was where to get the free previews. They were originally available on the same page as the blog post announcing them, but after problems with accessing and downloading the apps were reported, the links were moved.
The touch version of PowerPoint can be downloaded at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/apps/powerpoint-preview/9wzdncrfjb5q, Word at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/apps/word-preview/9wzdncrfjb9s, and Excel at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/apps/excel-preview/9wzdncrfjbh3.