Microsoft Details Office 2013 RT Availability and Features

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Users have known since back in June that Microsoft intends to release Office 2013 for Windows RT for ARM based devices, and that the initial build would be a “preview” version. But in a recent blog post, Microsoft explained the availability of the final version while also outlining some of the details regarding the differences between the Windows RT and x86/x64 versions of Microsoft Office 2013.

For starters, users will not be able to buy Office 2013 for Windows RT separately, as it will come preloaded on Windows RT tablets and PCs and will function as a Desktop app. As such, it will not be available through the Windows Store.

Word 2013 vs Word 2013 RTBut the inclusion of the final version of Office 2013 RT will not be a feature from day one of the new RT devices’ availability. Microsoft is currently saying that final version of Office Home & Student 2013 RT will be available to customers anywhere between November and January 2013, which is quite a wide window. But to put things in perspective, the current rumored release date for the final version of Office 2013 for x86/x64 hardware is November, so hopefully the final RT version will be released on the earlier side of Microsoft’s projected window. Also, the exact release timing will ultimately depend on language, so some may get it sooner than others.

All users who buy Windows RT devices prior to the release of the Office 2013′s final build will still have the preview build to work with in the meantime. Once the final version is released, their preview build will be automatically upgraded for free via a Windows Update.

Microsoft said that more specific information regarding the release schedule for Office 2013 RT will come on October 26, when Windows 8 and Windows RT devices will hit stores.

Optimized for RT

Microsoft Office 2013 RT will not be identical to its x86/x64 counterpart, however, as some changes had to be made to accommodate certain aspects of ARM-based hardware, like battery life and security. So for instance, this new version of Office wakes up the CPU 95% less frequently than Office 2010, while Windows 8 can also detect ARM System on a Chip (SoC) processors to take advantage of them.

Windows 8 LogoAnother effort made by Microsoft to create a pragmatic version of Office 2013 for RT devices is the choice to include fewer templates, clipart, and language packs to help accommodate the smaller capacities of solid state drives (SSD) that are usually found on Windows RT devices. Should users decide at any point that they wish to have more of these resources, they can be accessed and downloaded for free either online, via a Windows Update, or the start center in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Then, finally, there are some obvious features, like the inclusion of touch support for Office 2013 RT and cellular network detection. Windows RT has APIs that enables certain apps, including Office, to detect the user’s current network state and can identify if the user’s network is unrestricted or metered (i.e. has a data cap). This allows the program to not only throttle network traffic in the event that a user is working on a metered network, but it also allows Office 2013 RT to alert users when they are roaming or reaching their data limit, and gives them the option to turn off network traffic all together.

But while Microsoft implemented a number of changes to accommodate certain aspects of RT systems, some features didn’t make the cut. As such, Office 2013 RT will be lacking in certain features in comparison to the x86/x64 versions, which Microsoft compiled into the following list:

  • Macros, add-ins, and features that rely on ActiveX controls or 3rd party code such as the PowerPoint Slide Library ActiveX control and Flash Video Playback
  • Certain legacy features such as playing older media formats in PowerPoint (upgrade to modern formats and they will play) and editing equations written in Equation Editor 3.0, which was used in older versions of Office (viewing works fine)
  • Certain email sending features, since Windows RT does not support Outlook or other desktop mail applications (opening a mail app, such as the mail app that comes with Windows RT devices, and inserting your Office content works fine)
  • Creating a Data Model in Excel 2013 RT (PivotTables, QueryTables, Pivot Charts work fine)
  • Recording narrations in PowerPoint 2013 RT
  • Searching embedded audio/video files, recording audio/video notes, and importing from an attached scanner with OneNote 2013 RT (inserting audio/video notes or scanned images from another program works fine).

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