It could be about 4 years late to the sport, however Microsoft is lastly able to carry its Workplace suite to Android tablets — nicely, virtually.
Microsoft announced an open preview of types for the Android tablet-friendly variations of its Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps final week. The apps, which had been accessible in a closed preview program since November, can now be downloaded from the Play Retailer by anybody with a compatible device — a pill of at the very least 7 inches with Android 4.4 or later, an ARM-based processor, and at the very least 1GB of RAM. They’re fully free to make use of for the second, although they require a Microsoft account for something past primary doc viewing.
As a result of the brand new apps are thought-about previews, I will withhold remaining evaluations till the official client variations arrive. Even now, although, the software program feels pretty full — sufficient to provide us a good suggestion of the place Microsoft is headed and what sort of expertise we will anticipate.
Whereas no official launch date has been set, anybody curious about taking over Microsoft’s name for suggestions ought to be part of the Workplace for Android preview pronto and get cracking.
Person interface and design
The very first thing you discover in regards to the new Workplace pill apps is that they do not look like they have been designed for Android. Microsoft’s person interface is engaging sufficient, but it surely feels misplaced on the platform — with little effort given to conforming to Android UI requirements or the fundamental navigational conventions which might be native to the setting.
Maybe not surprisingly, then, getting across the apps is not all the time intuitive. While you open one of many applications for the primary time, as an example, you are given the selection to sign up with a Microsoft account or to skip that step and sign up later. However when you choose to skip sign-in, you’ll rapidly understand that you’re unable to make use of a lot of this system’s performance. Worse, there isn’t any clear solution to sign up to a Microsoft account from the app’s predominant display screen. There’s not even a lot as a menu anyplace in sight.
To get to the sign-in choice, it’s a must to faucet “Open different paperwork,” which brings you to one other web page that has a Settings choice — and that is the place the sign-in command resides. I am undecided anybody would determine that out with out a wholesome dose of frustration.
One other instance: All three Workplace apps have top-of-screen tabs for File, Dwelling, Insert, and so forth. Tapping many of the tabs brings up a collection of choices on the display screen, instantly under the tab titles and above your doc. Tapping File, nevertheless, takes you out of your doc and to an entire different web page — the identical one you get whenever you faucet “Open different paperwork” from the app’s predominant display screen. It is an sudden and jarring habits that looks like a lazy adaptation of a desktop setting as an alternative of a design for the pill type.
Some primary instructions are additionally bafflingly hidden and troublesome to seek out. Wish to print a doc? You may should exit the modifying course of and go into that separate File/”Open different paperwork” web page to entry the choice. Wish to copy, paste, or delete a PowerPoint slide? You may should faucet the slide’s thumbnail on the left facet of the modifying display screen, then long-press the thumbnail, then faucet an overflow menu icon that seems close to it to ensure that these choices to look.
I may go on, however you get the purpose. For an app this lengthy within the making, I might anticipate a bit extra polish and a spotlight to person expertise.
Interface quirks apart, Microsoft’s Workplace apps for Android tablets provide a good quantity of performance (as long as you sign up with a Microsoft account).
In Phrase, you will discover choices for inserting and modifying tables, footage, shapes, feedback, headers, footers, and footnotes. You may don’t have any bother managing columns and margins or performing spell-checks. Microsoft’s personal Observe Modifications characteristic is even in place, and it really works nicely — although the UI surrounding it’s considerably complicated at first. The identical may be stated for Phrase’s find-and-replace operate: Considerably mockingly, it could take you a minute to seek out it — however when you do, it does not disappoint.
Excel has most all the things you’d need in a spreadsheet editor, in the meantime, together with a full checklist of mathematical features together with instructions for formatting and sorting information. Choices for inserting tables, footage, shapes, and charts are additionally current.
PowerPoint has all of the instruments you’d must create and edit displays on the go. Along with a powerful array of ready-to-use templates, the app has a great deal of structure choices and a variety of slick-looking transitions to your slides.
What’s lacking from all the new Workplace apps is assist for real-time multiuser collaboration, as you’d discover in Google’s (in any other case much less strong) Google Docs office suite. There is no ongoing computerized saving or synchronization, both, which implies you’ll be able to’t work on paperwork from a number of gadgets on the identical time. Microsoft’s apps are additionally somewhat restricted in cloud connectivity choices: Although the corporate now lets you hook up with Dropbox along with its personal OneDrive service, that is a tiny checklist in comparison with the vary of distant storage selections most third-party Android office suites provide.
The preview Workplace apps additionally lack the flexibility to save lots of information in alternate codecs like PDF and RTF, and so they provide no technique of password-protecting your paperwork.
The large image
If Microsoft’s Android Workplace apps had come alongside 4 years in the past, they’d have appeared fairly spectacular. The issue is that whereas Microsoft waited, different corporations jumped in — and a few of these corporations have finished an admirable job at filling the void.
The best overall office suite on Android right this moment, OfficeSuite 8 Premium, affords the identical primary performance as Microsoft’s apps after which some, together with broader cloud storage assist, the flexibility to save lots of to a greater diversity of file codecs, PDF viewing and modifying, and password safety for information — all with a superior UI that is extra intuitive and simpler to make use of than Microsoft’s effort. It really works equally nicely on telephones because it does on tablets, whereas Microsoft’s phone-based app remains pitifully lackluster. (For some motive, Microsoft has opted to keep up separate telephone and pill apps for Android as an alternative of creating a single app that scales intelligently to gadgets of any measurement, as the platform is designed to support.)
Of their present incarnation, Microsoft’s new Android-tablet-focused Workplace apps are effective — fairly good, even. They’re solely a small step behind the corporate’s iPad-based equivalents, which add in a rudimentary system for multiuser collaboration. However until your small business is dead-set on utilizing official Microsoft software program solely, it is arduous to get excited over “fairly good” when wonderful choices can be found — and people choices are absolutely suitable with Workplace requirements and ship constantly compelling experiences on telephones and tablets alike.
For Microsoft’s apps to matter to anybody apart from hardcore or myopic Workplace devotees, they should provide one thing meaningfully higher than — or on the very least on par with — what’s already on the market. Except we see important modifications from these preview variations to the ultimate client builds, I am undecided they’re going to be as much as the duty.
Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.