It looks like Office 15 client apps are going to get more touchy, but in a way that won’t force touch on users who don’t want or need it.

One of the big questions many Microsoft watchers have had is how Microsoft plans to make its next-generation Office client apps more touch-friendly, so that they’ll be optimized to work on tablets and PCs running the touch-optimized Windows 8 operating system. Microsoft officials already shared that the four Office 15 apps that will be “included” on Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) tablets will be Desktop apps, not WinRT-based Metro-Style apps. So how will Microsoft make these versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote work better with touch than their current-generation counterparts?

It seems that Microsoft is including a button in each of its Office 15 apps that enables a “touch mode.” This image of the technical preview version of Word 15 — shared by one of my contacts with access to the Office 15 technical preview — shows off that button.

(click on the image to enlarge)

Currently this button doesn’t really function, according to my contact, who requested anonymity. However, Microsoft’s intention is to enable the Office UI to switch to something more touch-friendly when Office 15 apps are used, my contact said.

This approach also seemingly would allow users who aren’t using Windows 8 on touch-enabled/touch-centric tablets and PCs to continue to navigate in a more natural keyboard/mouse-friendly way by not invoking the touch mode.

The Verge has a few more screen shots of the technical preview versions of some other Office 15 client apps. Given the Verge’s Word screen shot looks basically identical to the Word screen shot that my contact shared, I tend to think these are all the real deal. I’ve put in a query to Microsoft to see if the company has anything to say on these, but I’m not holding my breath.

In case you missed it, earlier this week, I posted some early tidbits about the next version of SharePoint (SharePoint 15). And The Daily posted new information about the alleged Office for iPad release, which may or may not be arriving in a matter of weeks.

My sources are saying Microsoft’s goal is to release to manufacturing the Office 15 client, server and Office 365 complements all by late 2012. Microsoft hasn’t announced its release targets or final name (Office 2012? Office 2013?) for the coming suite.

Categories: News

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