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Microsoft just debuted Office 2013 on Monday, and, naturally, the internet is already flooded with reviews, observations and opinions on the new version and its counterpart Windows 8. They will not be officially released until October (that’s the rumor), which leaves us enough time to try it out and join in the conversation – Are they consumer-friendly? Secure enough for enterprise? Tablet-friendly? Too radical an interface change or just what was needed?

One question in particular that’s been brought up in the media is how well Office 2013/Windows 8 will work on a touch screen device. The quick answer? It depends on where you get your information.

Matt Rosoff of Business Insider thinks the combination is perfectly suited for touch screens. The Office team has done such a stellar job, he writes, they deserve a raise and a vacation.

“Not only has Office 2010 been responsible for most of Microsoft’s revenue growth for the last year and a half, but the crew has done a fine job reworking Office 2013 for touch screens in a very short amount of time,” Rosoff writes.

He’s impressed with Office 2013, but his focus in this article is on Windows 8, which he says is made for touch screens. Here are his reasons why:

  • The ability to swipe from the edges to reveal extra functionality
  • Switching between Metro and the traditional desktop is less jarring on a touch screen
  • The on-screen keyboard is as good as the iPad’s

But back to Office 2013: Rosoff concedes that there are some features that are meant to be accessed using a mouse and keyboard, but they aren’t sullying his overall opinion of the suite and OS.

“At least I can see the direction Microsoft is moving now, and it makes sense,” he explains. Read the full article here.

Peter Bright of Ars Technica  is not as impressed. In an article titled “Why Bother? The sad state of Office 2013 touch support,” Bright offers a handful of examples to make his point.

Ribbon on a PC and on a touch screen

Screen grabs from Peter Bright demonstrating the modified spacing.

First, while he welcomes the touch screen modifications and improvements Microsoft made – wider spacing in menus and hovering formatting toolbars; full screen mode; two-finger zoom – he doesn’t think it’s enough.

Which brings him to his second point: A significant number of features and options are not enabled for a touch screen in 2013. Among them, the new “peek” feature, which is invoked with a mouse hover and enables quick glancing at calendar, contacts and tasks.

What’s more, dialog boxes are exactly as they are on a computer, complete with teensy-tiny checkboxes packed in like sardines. Not exactly finger-tap-friendly.

Bright maintains that the new Office apps are designed for mice and keyboards, and making the buttons on the ribbon larger for touch screens does nothing to change that “fundamental fact.”

Using Office 2013 on a touch machine is, for Bright, a “tremendously frustrating experience.” He says Office applications are too complex to be partially covered by an on-screen keyboard, and their interfaces are too big for extra ribbon spacing to work.

He offers a solution: “Having the real Office applications and their perfect support for Office documents is valuable — but this needs to be married to simpler interfaces that are engineered around reading and light editing, and that remove entire features and user interfaces that are too complex for finger usage.”

Read Bright’s full piece here.

What do you think of Office 2013 and Windows 8? Have you tried them out yet? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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