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A Look at Windows 10 Universal Apps: Word, Excel and PowerPoint

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 3/18/2015

With the latest build of Windows 10 Technical Preview, Microsoft has given users access to Universal Apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. These versions aren't the official “next version” of Office, but these are focused on giving users a new interface – especially for touch enabled devices.

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    Getting Started

    Figure 1 - Windows 10 Store Beta The first thing you’ll need is the latest version of the Windows 10 Technical Preview. You can follow the instructions here on how to set up your own test machine. Once you have Windows 10 installed you’ll need to install the Universal Apps using the Beta version of the Windows Store.

    When you open the Start menu you’ll see the Store icon in grey (Figure 1). Click it and you should see Word and Excel on the front page, but in case you don’t, just do a search for “Word preview”, “Excel preview” and “PowerPoint preview”. Go ahead and install whichever apps you want to give a try.

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    Word Preview

    Word Preview 

    When you open the Word Preview for the first time you’ll be introduced to a few new features focused on improvements to Word when used on touch devices such as an ebook reading mode and touch friendly controls.

    Once you pick a document type (blank or one of several templates) you will immediately see this version of Word is focused on touch input (Figure 2). Icons are significantly larger and the menus are pretty basic compared to the full version of Word.

    For example, you are limited to about 8 styles compared to Word 2013’s 16 built-in styles. Using the Word Preview on a touch device definitely makes a difference – the icons are easy to touch and you probably aren’t going to want to do heavy formatting and editing on a touch device anyway. Let’s move on to Excel. 

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    Excel Preview

    Excel Preview 

    Just like the Word Preview, Excel is a bit more basic than the traditional desktop version, but again is optimized for touch-based input. Icons are larger and easy to touch. All of the basic functionality is there including formatting options, and formulas.

    As an example of the touch friendly interface, in order to add a new column you can tap the column header and in the sub menu that pops up (Figure 3) you can select insert. Although it looks like most of the formulas made it from the desktop edition over to the Preview, advanced options such as data validation and data manipulation are missing.

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    PowerPoint Preview

    PowerPoint Preview 

    The PowerPoint preview showcases one major benefit of using touch over keyboard and mouse – laser pointers. With the power of your finger you can easily move your virtual laser pointer across your presentation while wowing those in the audience.

    Well… there’s not a ton to add about the PowerPoint Preview. It is, in essence, a stripped down version of PowerPoint. All the basics are here – slides, transitions, virtual lasers – all optimized for touch. You won’t win any PowerPoint awards with your presentations made in this preview, but it’s enough to get the job done.

    Although these preview editions are more simplified versions of their desktop counterparts, it is nice that the file formats remain the same so you can easily knock out the outline and guts of a document and save the advanced formatting and editing for your desktop version.

    The Universal App version of Office will be pre-loaded on several mobile devices and will remain free. Another main selling point is the idea that these apps are “Universal.” They will work on small phone screens all the way up to a large format Surface display – all experiences will be the same.