updated 12:06 pm EDT, Wed August 22, 2012
Augments new interface, makes targets larger for fingers
In a post on its team blog, Microsoft's Office Web Apps Program Manager Renu Devi announced that its preview version of Office Web Apps and Office 365 -- online versions of Microsoft's popular office programs -- has added touch support on the iOS version of Safari and Windows 8 in order to make the programs easier to use on tablet devices. The improvement is on top of a major interface redesign rolled out last week.
The service lets users of Microsoft's various communications services (such as Outlook.com, Hotmail, Skydrive, and even third-party services like Facebook and Docs.com) to work with web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Users can see, download, or work with documents directly through a web browser rather than downloading files into a computer-based version of Office and then re-uploading them.
Microsoft has adapted the Office interface to web browsers, leaving the suite predominately aimed at traditional desktop and notebook, mouse-based users. The new touch-enabled dimension re-thinks elements such as the size of targets and legibility of the interface on the smaller screens of an iPad. Users can easily switch from editing a document on a computer with a mouse to working with the same file on a tablet.
The UI for Office Web Apps now includes larger icons and wider spacing to accommodate fingers, while keeping the document creation area as large as possible. User work with familiar gestures such as "pinch to zoom," hold for options, swiping and tapping as they manipulate files.
Precision moves such as selecting text to be edited is achieved by tapping a word. "Grippers" appear around the selection to let users easily stretch and drag the selection to encompass whatever they want to select. The support, which is considered to be in the experimental stages, even allows contextual menus.
The controls are seen as a preview of the next major version of Office, aimed at Windows 8 tablets as well as Windows PCs. As such, a toggle control is available to allow users to switch from touch to traditional controls, even on the same device if supported.