Windows 8 and Microsoft Office

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Microsoft has given reporters a brief ‘hands on’ look at Windows 8 – what does it mean for Office users?

Windows 8 will have two interfaces – a traditional mouse/keyboard system similar to Windows 7/Vista/XP plus ‘Metro’. Metro is a ‘grown up’ version of the tiles system seen on new Windows Phones and is designed for touchscreens.

1610 Windows 8 screenshot startScreen web - Windows 8 and Microsoft Office

So there will be two types of programs – ‘Metro’ ones using the new interface and ‘traditional’ programs which will use the keyboard / mouse system.

This might work well. You can carry a tablet device and poke at it with your fingers, then plug in a keyboard or mouse to use more complex applications on the same machine. Touch based interfaces, Apple or Android, in our experience, are limited or useless when you get beyond a narrow range of features. Compare the options you have in Word or most photo editors to what’s available on an iPad or Android tablet. Windows 8 is intended for use with keyboard / mouse, a stylus or fingertips.

There is a standard virtual keyboard

1610 Windows 8 screenshot keyboard web - Windows 8 and Microsoft Office

And also a ‘thumbs keyboard’ so you can hold the edges of the tablet and type at the same time. That will be fun to try …

1610 Windows 8 screenshot thumbKeyboard web - Windows 8 and Microsoft Office

Office already has touch screen support, you can add handwritten notes to documents though few people do. It will be interesting to see what useful features can be added to Office with a better underlying support for touch / stylus beyond novelty value.

Windows 8 promises better handwriting support including converting written notes into text, something that OneNote already does ‘behind the scenes’ for indexing.

Windows 8 will also have a lot more use of the Office interface with ribbons and tabs. Microsoft resolutely thinks that the best for customers. They know how unpopular that will be with many potential buyers, which explains the lack of Windows 8 images showing Explorer with a ribbon.


Microsoft also promises a faster startup of Windows, something that they’ve promised for every Windows for a decade. It’s true on the test devices, but how true it will be in practice is another matter.

(In truth, many people could get faster startups on the Windows they already have by using the Hibernate feature instead of a full shut down.)


All Windows 7 applications will run in Windows 8 – boasts Microsoft saying “All the existing desktop apps will continue to run in the desktop environment” however watch out for one big exception. ARM based computers, probably portable devices will have Windows 8. ARM is a different type of processor from the Intel based chips that run all Windows desktop and portable machines at present.

Because the core processor is different, both the operating system and applications have to be rebuilt to work. There will have to be a separate Microsoft Office for ARM based computers. Whether that will be another purchase or bundled into a single SKU remains to be seen.

Windows 8 programs will be available from an App Store online and you can bet Microsoft Office will be for sale there.

There’s a long way to go before a release version and so there’s plenty of time for a regular drip feed of news about Windows 8 from Microsoft.

One thing is for sure, long time Microsoft users will be wary of Windows 8, if only because of boasts about it being a ‘revolutionary’ change – the last time Microsoft promised big changes in Windows, we got Vista – ouch.

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