Since the release of Windows 8, we have all been wondering when we would see a touch-optimized Office experience. We saw apps delivered to both iOS and Android first, but still nothing for Windows other than Office 2013 for desktop. All of that changed February 4, 2015 as Microsoft released previews of Word, Excel and PowerPoint as Universal apps for Windows 10 called Office for Windows 10 Preview. If you are not familiar with the term Universal app yet, this is a single app that can run on Windows 10 desktops, tablets and phones. Support for Xbox One has even been pledged but there hasn’t been any updates on that in quite some time. These look just like existing apps for Windows 8.1, formerly known as Metro, Windows Store, and now Modern applications in Windows 10.
You’ll need to be running the latest public build (9926) of Windows 10 to try these previews out. Julia White, general manager for the Office Product Management team, posted on the Office Blogs links to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. These links only worked for me in Internet Explorer. If you try them on a Windows 8.1 computer, you won’t see the “Get” button nor will you be redirected to the Windows Store to download the app. The blog posts says you can do a search from the new Windows Store (Beta) app, but I haven’t had it work yet. This is typical when a new app is released to the store.
Word Preview for Windows 10
Excel Preview for Windows 10
PowerPoint Preview for Windows 10
After you have installed the Office Preview apps, launch them from your Start menu or by asking Cortana. We’ll start with Excel Preview. Notice that the dialog box shown in Figure 1 lists Excel Preview as a Modern application where Excel 2013 is a Windows application.
Figure 1: Launching Office Preview from Cortana.
When each Office Preview for Windows 10 app starts, it will show you a quick three-step tutorial on how to get started specifically highlighting touch features. In Figure 2 you learn how to move columns in Excel Preview by touch.
Figure 2: Tips for using touch-friendly Excel, part of Office Preview.
You can add rows and columns with a tap (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Adding rows and columns in Excel, part of Office Preview.
As Figure 4 shows, you have the option to join the customer experience improvement program.
Figure 4: Get started using Excel for free Office Preview.
After the three-step tutorial is over, tap Use Excel for free to start the Excel Preview app. You’ll see a familiar screen (Figure 5) with templates that you can use to get started. Excel Preview will automatically pull in your recent files that you have used on OneDrive.
Figure 5: When Excel launches, you can see your OneDrive and Office 365 documents in Office for Windows 10 Preview.
Be sure and tap the Accounts menu (top-right corner of Figure 5) to add your Office 365 account if you have one. The menu will slide out on the right side (Figure 6) and then you need to tap Accounts again to add your new accounts. Unfortunately, you have to do this in each app separately.
Figure 6: Adding an Office 365 account in Excel, part of Office Preview.
You’ll then be able to see a list of all your apps across OneDrive for Personal and Business like you see in this example from Word Preview (Figure 7).
Figure 7: Choosing one of my OneDrive accounts in Word, part of Office Preview.
If you create a new Excel document, you’ll see a new touch friendly Excel (Figure 8). The buttons and icons are spaced apart to make them easier to touch with your finger.
Figure 8: Note there is more space between menus and icons in Excel Preview to accommodate touch.
One feature I really like is the light bulb icon (see the top-right corner of Figure 8), where Excel will prompt you to “Tell me what you want to do.” Tapping this icon will allow you to search for functionality that you can’t find in the Ribbon. For example, if I wanted to insert a chart, Excel Preview shows me the options by typing the word Chart (Figure 9).
Figure 9: Using the “Tell me what you want to do” prompt in Excel Preview.
Excel Preview should be able to open many of your existing spreadsheets (Figure 10). However, I found that Excel Preview crashes quite a bit more than the other Office Preview apps. Some of my spreadsheets it just refused to open. That’s to be expected though. Excel spreadsheets can get complicated quickly and this is a preview product.
Figure 10: Opening a document in Excel, part of Office Preview.
Some spreadsheets are not supported. If you are pulling data from a SharePoint list (Figure 11) or using Power View, it will display an error message telling you why. I’m not surprised this doesn’t work but maybe it will some day in the future.
Figure 11: Excel Preview is unable to open files from SharePoint lists or when they contain Power View sheets.
For desktop users of Office 2013, the biggest change you will have to adjust to is that you can only have one file open at a time. Now before you start bashing Universal apps on Windows 10, keep in mind that the Office apps on iOS and Android have this same restriction.
I’ve been pretty excited to see the launch of Office for Windows 10. I’ll cover Word Preview and PowerPoint Preview in an upcoming article. While you may not use these apps on your Surface Pro 3 in desktop mode, I think these apps will do great when the device is running in Tablet mode. If you have been thinking about running Windows 10 on your device, be sure and check out my review on IT Unity.