Since Windows 8 was released in 2012, users have been waiting for a touch interface for Microsoft Office. After all, Windows 8 has a huge emphasis on touch-first, but Microsoft’s most important software suite is stuck with desktop-style controls. We still don’t know when a touch-first version of Office will make it to our Windows devices, but due to a document released (and then retracted) by Microsoft Research, we now have a good idea of what it might look like.
The screenshots included in the document primarily focus on the editor interface, so it’s hard to compare it directly to Office for iPad, the touch-focused version of Office launched earlier this year. At the very least, the interfaces are superficially different: Word on iPad features a navigation bar at the top of the screen with traditional Word options like Insert, Layout, and View. The bar on iPad also includes back and forward buttons, which are absent from the leaked screenshots and would most likely be addressed through a Windows gesture. Both the leaked Windows version and the iPad versions include a truncated ribbon with fewer but well-selected formatting options.
A subtitle, “UX proposal for pen and ink for Office Gemini,” confirms the screenshots are of Microsoft’s mobile Office interface: Gemini is the code name it has been using for touch Office since at least early 2013.
The Research document, spotted by Paul Thurrott, has a 2013 copyright date and concerns a pen-based interface currently under development. The Office screenshots are included because many of the primary use cases for a pen involve scribbling over Office files. The pen and ink features are intriguing, as the Surface Pro currently supports digital pens, but there are rumors that the feature could be headed to the ARM-based Surfaces in the near future.
While Microsoft has pulled the document from its Research site, mirrors are still available around the web if you want even more screenshots. Microsoft is hosting a Surface event tomorrow and we’ll be on hand for any announcements and news.