New Microsoft Office Embraces Touch, Cloud Features

Dennis Faas's picture

One of the most visible new additions to Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system (OS) is expanded touchscreen functionality.

But it's not just Windows that is getting the touchscreen overhaul, as the firm's Office software is also being updated to better accommodate navigation using fingers and styluses. Microsoft recently showed off these new features in a preview of its next version of Office.

Touchscreens Supported by Word, PowerPoint, Excel

The first thing that stands out about the new Office is the added ability to navigate any program with a touchscreen display. For example, the traditional ribbon in Microsoft Word has been expanded to include touch controls.

PowerPoint, which is used most often for showcasing ideas and images in a layout ideal for presentations, now offers users the ability to use their finger to direct a virtual laser pointer. Users simply touch the screen and direct their audience's attention to a specific part of the projected image.

Even Excel is getting the touch treatment, with cells navigable by finger and stylus.

However, it's important to note that if you're using a mouse and keyboard and don't like the new interface, Microsoft says it's easy to revert to the more traditional navigation system.

Cloud Functionality Also Expanded for New Office

But updates to the new Office aren't limited to the addition of touch functionality. Microsoft is also expanding the program's cloud computing and storage capabilities; in fact, the company's chief executive officer, Steve Ballmer, says his firm designed the new Office from "the ground up," with cloud features in mind.

What does that mean? Microsoft says documents produced in Office will by default be saved not just to the local hard drive but also to Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service. That means Office users can access their documents and spreadsheets from any web-connected PC.

It also means users will be safe from losing important data if a hardware problem causes a local crash. (Source:

All in all, Microsoft believes it's built the most revolutionary version of Office yet. "This is the most ambitious release of Office that we have ever done," Ballmer said. (Source:

It's not yet known when a final version of Office will be made available. However, interested consumers can sign up to participate in a free preview by clicking here.

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