Office Universal Apps for Windows 10 Phones Arrive This Month

Early testers of Windows 10 for phones can take Microsoft's next-generation Office Universal Apps for a spin later this month.

Windows 10 for phones

Users of the smartphone version of Windows 10 Preview won't have long to wait to evaluate Microsoft's vision of cross-device productivity, announced the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant.

Jared Spataro, general manager for the Microsoft Office marketing team, took to the official Office Blogs to reveal "that the Office Universal apps preview for Windows 10 for phones is expected to be available by the end of the month." Universal Apps embody the company's code-once approach to writing applications that run across multiple Windows devices.

Beginning with Visual Studio 2013 Update 2, developers can target multiple devices with the same code and minimal customization. Universal Apps can run on smartphones, PCs, tablets and a range of new Windows 10 devices like the 84-inch, 4K resolution Surface Hub whiteboard and video conferencing system and the HoloLens augmented-reality headset.

In the meantime, Microsoft's own developers are laying the groundwork for an Office experience that moves seamlessly between mobile devices and PCs. Nearly three months after releasing Office Universal Apps for the PC and tablet version of the Windows 10 Technical preview, Microsoft is preparing to let adventurous Lumia owners discover how the apps fare on the relatively tighter confines of a smartphone's touch-screen.

Office Universal Apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint are "fantastic for reading and perfect for touch- and pen-based content creation," said Spataro. On a smartphone, the experience changes to suit different input patterns and behaviors.

"On a phone, the Universal apps adapt to the smaller form factor," he wrote. "Commands and controls are moved to the bottom of the screen so you can triage your work and make edits one-handed with your thumb. (That may sound like a small thing—but wait until you try it. It makes all the difference!)"

Beta testers will also get a taste of what awaits buyers of upcoming Windows 10 phones and mini tablets.

Office Universal apps "will be preinstalled for free on phones and small tablets running Windows 10, and available to download from the Windows Store for other devices," Julia White, general manager of Office product marketing, wrote in a Jan. 22 Office Blogs post. "As 'universal' Office apps, they truly are the same app across device size, providing a consistent way for independent software vendors and developers to extend and integrate with Office apps," continued White.

Microsoft isn't neglecting desktop power users, according to Spataro. "The upcoming release of our Windows Desktop apps (Office 2016) will offer our richest feature set ever for professional content creation," he stated. "These apps are tuned for sophisticated authoring, easy collaboration, pixel-perfect layouts and deep analysis—and are designed for the precision and control of a keyboard and mouse."

And last month, Microsoft invited Apple users to test Office 2016 for Mac (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook), the long-awaited update to Office 2011 for Mac. The software narrows the gap between the Windows and Mac versions of the productivity suite, while delivering Mac-centric features like Retina display support.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...