Word for Windows 10 Preview

Posted on February 5, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 0 Comments

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Like many of you, I was quite happily surprised by this week’s unexpected preview releases of the Office for Windows 10 apps: Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Since I use Word every day, I thought I’d take a quick look at this new app and see how it compares to Word on the PC desktop and on rival mobile platforms like Android and iOS.

Word for Windows 10 Preview is a universal app, and it will ship for free on Windows 10-based phones and small tablets when these solutions are finalized later in 2015. (They will also be available for free from the Windows Store for other Windows 10 PCs too.) Today, we can test this initial preview release on any PC running Windows 10 Technical Preview 2, but of course the app is really designed to be used on touch-first devices such as small tablets where a keyboard and mouse—and more full-featured desktop Office applications—either wouldn’t be available or wouldn’t make much sense.

As its name implies, Word for Windows 10 Preview is also pre-release software, and that means it’s not complete or ready for general use. Among the issues I’ve identified immediately, you cannot, for example, browse your OneDrive or OneDrive for Business storage (at least easily): when you open a file you’re only provided with a view of the local file system—heck, it’s using a standard Win32 File Open dialog for now. This and other similar problems will be fixed, of course, and I’m not going to worry about that kind of thing now.

Once you get into Word for Windows 10 Preview, you see a familiar ribbon UI, though as on Android and iPad it’s truncated down to a single toolbar row with a set of tabs. That said it’s also a bit large, with big finger-friendly buttons that look a bit goofy on a big desktop PC screen.

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This app very closely follows the layout and general command selection found in Word for Android tablets. Aside from the File tab—where on Android it offers access to your OneDrive and OneDrive or Business libraries and in Windows Preview it does not—the available commands are essentially identical between these two versions.

The one advantage I see in the Windows version is the new Insights feature—”powered by Bing,” as Microsoft would like to remind everyone—that lets you find out information about selected words or terms without leaving the app. This is a very cool research tool.

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Comparing Word for Windows 10 Preview to Word 2013 is of course quite unfair. But what the heck: Many seem to want to replace Word 2013 with something simpler, and even as a professional writer I use only a tiny portion of Word’s features.

The basics are all there. So too are some common keyboard shortcuts I use regularly, like CTRL + H for Copy and Replace.

But I’d miss many features I use every day. Paste Options. Format Painter. You can’t insert symbols, and many keyboard shortcuts (like CTRL + K for inserting a hyperlink) don’t work at all. (Indeed, that Copy and Replace functionality doesn’t have the advanced features—like match case and so on—that are available in desktop Word.)

Where Word for Windows 10 Preview shines, of course, is the consumption experience. This is going to be a great way to read Word documents and make light edits, and I think that’s the point. I could possibly write a book in this app, but I wouldn’t, only because I’d miss so many power user features. But I could absolutely read a book in this app.

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Read mode is also nicely customizable with a variety of options so you can find a style you’re most comfortable with. This is very nicely done.

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Ultimately, Word for Windows 10 Preview appears to fulfill Microsoft’s promise to deliver a touch-first version of this application to the mobile Windows world and do so in a way that both addresses the biggest needs of these users and matches what’s available in Word on other mobile platforms. So far, I think it’s looking pretty good.

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