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Why touch in Microsoft Office is important

Software giant Microsoft has unveiled the next version of its Office suite, which will be launched alongside Windows 8 in October this year.

Use your fingers and hands to move through your pages and notes.

Use your fingers and hands to move through your pages and notes.

Appropriately named Office 2013, it’s a significant departure for Microsoft because unlike previous versions it won’t work with versions of Windows older than Windows 7. That means if you’re still using Windows Vista, XP or 98, you won’t be able to use the versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that make up Office 2013.

That might be a bit disappointing, but there is exciting news about Office 2013 that makes up for that. It’s been redesigned to work with touch sensitive screen and online storage – bringing it bang up to date and making it a tool for the future.

Office makeover

Some of the changes are fairly minor. In the ‘core apps’ like Word and Excel, little is superficially different. The Ribbon bar at the top of the screen has larger icons and has been simplified for finger control, and the on screen keyboard is much nicer to use if you’re on a tablet without a physical keyboard.

Some parts of Office, like Lync and OneNote, have had a major makeover, though. They take their new design cues from the large icons and sweeping gestures of the new Metro interface for Windows 8, and it’s likely that this redesign will follow through to later versions of the core apps depending on how users take to it.

Around the back, you can upload and download documents and spreadsheets from the online versions of Office as if they were stored on your own hard disk. Use this feature and you’ll never find yourself turning up to work without that important file you were editing last night, because it will be online and available to you anywhere in the world.

Is touch the future?

All the changes, however, are less important than what they mean for the future of Microsoft software. With Metro and Windows, the company had shown how committed it is to touch sensitive devices. Now that Office, which is used by almost every company in the world, is going touch too it’s a clear signal about what Microsoft thinks our computers will look like in a few years’ time.

The days of the mouse are over.

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