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The touch interface for Office is coming

Microsoft is still the dominant figure in the office/productivity tool sector, despite the efforts like Google Docs and Apple iCloud, and innovations like Box Notes and Quip (see Taking another look at Quip, the social editor). The company finally got their suite to the iPad (see Office comes to the iPad, at last), but the user experience has not been optimized for a touch platform, to say the least.

Recently, Paul Thurrott uncovered some screenshots of a leaked presentation of the rumored touch implementation. Here’s a few shots that give a sense of what will be possible when this rolls out, supposedly in the fall.

Word

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Excel

In the following two screens, you can see that Microsoft is developing a scripting language, allowing the user to write via stylus ‘find image of saddles’, which leads to a Bing result.

excel-search-w-pen-2 excel-search-w-pen2-2 excel-w-penmarks-2

Powerpoint

ppt-pen-n-touch-2

Implications of the Touch Interface

It looks to me that Microsoft may have a breakthrough release on its hands, and will be staying alive in this niche, especially if they become available on iPad and Android tablets. I hope Nadella has the good sense to open this up, and not build it just for Surface tablets running Windows.

There doesn’t seem to be any contextual communications *outside* of documents, but Thurrott said that indications in the depiction of Windows — the start screen — makes this presentation at least a year old, so we don’t really know what has been going on in the meantime. A whole lot of this may have changed, and new capabilities may be been developed.

There are also leaked screens of Outlook, Lync, and some other system tools, like a post-it note app.

They are setting a high bar for others.