The new Touch Bar was arguably the biggest news at yesterday’s MacBook Pro announcements. And yes, Microsoft Office already supports this dynamic new interface.
“It’s been an exciting week, and a particularly rewarding two days for us here on the Office team,” Microsoft’s Kirk Koenigsbauer explains. “As you can imagine, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to bring these ideas to life, and it’s a thrill to finally show you what we’ve been up to.”
For those who missed it—and you’d almost have to be trying to miss it, as this feature first leaked months ago—Apple’s new MacBook Pro laptops features a multi-touch enabled glass strip that appears above the keyboard. Called the Touch Bar, this interface replaces the row of function keys. And because it’s dynamic, it can change on a per-app basis, offering shortcuts to the features you need on the fly.
Microsoft announced support for the Touch Bar at the event, but now it has expanded on that a bit, and we have a better idea of the experiences users will get on these expensive machines.
“We have a long history of working with Apple to support new form factors and devices, and we’re continually evolving Office to take advantage of the latest and greatest hardware innovations across the industry,” Mr. Koenigsbauer says. “Through the Touch Bar, Office intelligently puts the most common commands at your fingertips—all based on what you’re doing in the document.”
Microsoft Word will provide quick access to a new Word Focus Mode directly from the Touch Bar. In this mode, all of the on-screen ribbons and other UIs fade away so you can focus on the document you’re writing or editing. But commonly-needed commands will still be available in the Touch Bar, off screen.
In PowerPoint, the Touch Bar will offer tools related to graphics manipulation. You can slide your finger across the strip to rotate graphics, for example, or use the Reorder Objects button to view a graphical map of the slide layers and then select the object you want.
With Excel, you can type an equals sign (“=”) into a cell to display the most-recently-used functions in the Touch Bar. This interface will also provide quick access to borders, cell colors and recommended charts, Microsoft says.
And then there’s Outlook, which will display commonly-used commands in the Touch Bar as you navigate around the app’s UI. When you’re composing an email, for example, the Touch Bar will display recently-used documents you might want to attach. In the Today view, the Touch Bar will show you calendar events and shortcuts for Skype for Business.
With Touch Bar-enabled MacBook Pros started at a lofty $1800, it will be a while before this functionality impacts a huge audience. But I like seeing this kind of support right up-front, and regardless of your take on the controversial nature of Apple’s support of touch on its PCs, this functionality looks smart.