Microsoft Office 2013 for Windows RT - Things we love and hate

A look at how Office 2013 for Windows RT stacks up against the traditional Microsoft Office for x86/x64-based systems that we know and love

Microsoft has released its new Surface tablet running the Windows RT operating system that has been designed specifically for mobile-device-friendly ARM processors. OEMs are expected to start shipping their own Windows RT-based tablets soon. These products come with a different version of Microsoft Office; one that’s tailored to ARM-based devices. Here’s how Office 2013 for Windows RT stacks up against the traditional Microsoft Office for x86/x64-based systems that we know and love.

Office apps have been rewritten and optimised

The official name of Office 2013 RT is Office Home & Student 2013 RT. It includes versions of Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Word, which were rewritten to run on ARM processors. The code is optimised for use on tablets and other mobile devices by reducing their power consumption, improving their memory caching, and keeping their installation size streamlined to fit on a 16G or 32GB SSD.

Office 2013 for RT is preinstalled

You don’t have to go out and buy Office 2013 RT. It isn’t sold separately - either as a download or boxed product. It comes already loaded on tablets running Windows RT. Microsoft’s own Windows RT tablet, Surface, includes Office 2013 RT.

Tweaked for touchscreens

In terms of its overall appearance, Office 2013 RT looks nearly identical to the x86/x64 version. The big difference is that the user interface of Office 2013 RT has been adjusted to better accommodate for touchscreen use: menu items and other UI elements including the Ribbon are sized larger and laid out with more spacing among them. (This “touch mode” is a feature that’s also available on the x86/x64 version of Office 2013, which can be switched on to help you use the office suite more effectively should you be running it on a touchscreen device.)

Cut and paste goes 'touch'

Among the touch-based features added to both the RT and x86/x64 versions of Office 2013. Highlighting text to copy-and-paste is executed via a text selection handle interface.

Onscreen keyboard

A virtual onscreen keyboard is available that features predictive lists of application functions.

OneNote goes 'radial'

OneNote 2013 has a “radial” tool where this application’s functions are arranged in a circular UI that’s been designed for ease-of-use on a touchscreen.

Office file compatibility

Although applications originally written for x86/x64 versions of Windows won’t run on Windows RT, Office 2013 RT itself is compatible with Microsoft Office file formats. That means you can load and edit documents into Office 2013 RT that were created on the x86/x64 version of Office 2013, as well as save them in file formats that can be loaded into the latter. This compatibility works across all of the Office 2013 applications with their respective file formats (that include xls, xlsx, ppt, pptx, doc, docx).

No final version, yet

If you buy a Surface tablet, you’ll be getting a beta version of Office 2013 RT. The final public version of Office 2013 (x86/x64 or RT) hasn’t been released. Users will be able to upgrade to the final version as a download, free of charge, when it’s available.

Missing features: PowerPoint audio

There are a couple of features that Office 2013 RT lacks from the x86/x64 version. Most of these are related to the way audio and video media are handled: In PowerPoint 2013 RT, you cannot record audio narration.

Missing features: OneNote recordings

Similarly, in OneNote 2013 RT, you cannot record audio or video notes.

Missing features: Audio/video file search

Also, you cannot search embedded audio or video files, nor import images from a scanner connected to your device.

Missing features: No Excel Data Model

In Excel 2013 RT, you cannot create a Data Model.

Missing features: No Active X add-ins

Office 2013 RT cannot use macros and add-ins that require ActiveX controls.

Missing features: Outlook

Because Windows RT doesn’t support Outlook and other desktop mail applications, documents cannot be emailed through Office 2013 RT.

  • Office apps have been rewritten and optimised
  • Office 2013 for RT is preinstalled
  • Tweaked for touchscreens
  • Cut and paste goes 'touch'
  • Onscreen keyboard
  • OneNote goes 'radial'
  • Office file compatibility
  • No final version, yet
  • Missing features: PowerPoint audio
  • Missing features: OneNote recordings
  • Missing features: Audio/video file search
  • Missing features: No Excel Data Model
  • Missing features: No Active X add-ins
  • Missing features: Outlook
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Missing features: Audio/video file search

Also, you cannot search embedded audio or video files, nor import images from a scanner connected to your device.

Microsoft has released its new Surface tablet running the Windows RT operating system that has been designed specifically for mobile-device-friendly ARM processors. OEMs are expected to start shipping their own Windows RT-based tablets soon. These products come with a different version of Microsoft Office; one that’s tailored to ARM-based devices. Here’s how Office 2013 for Windows RT stacks up against the traditional Microsoft Office for x86/x64-based systems that we know and love.

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