Microsoft has overhauled the user interface of its Free Office Web Apps to make them more friendly and efficient when used with touchscreen devices, including the iPad. Speaking as one who is abidingly frustrated by the vagueness and imprecision of touch input, especially for editing documents, this effort represents Microsoft paying welcome and commendable attention to the needs of folks like your editor, who would like to use touch tablets for serious production duty, but find ourselves thwarted by their crappy and cumbersome input response. Potentially huge.
“We introduced the new Office Web Apps a few weeks ago. We’ve added new features, improved the performance of our apps and continue to provide access to your documents anywhere in a variety of popular browsers.
“Today, we are excited to introduce you to a new dimension for input – Touch – to bring the full-fledged capabilities of viewing and editing in the Office Web Apps to tablets and browsers that support touch, including IE on Windows 8, and mobile Safari on iOS.
“In designing the Office Web Apps for touch, we set out to achieve the following goals:
• Users should be up and running with touch-enabled Office Web Apps right away
• Users don’t need to learn to navigate a new user interface
• Users can easily move back and forth between touch and mouse/keyboard experiences
• The full feature set of the Office Web Apps, including editing tools, must be enabled on touch devices like tablets and touch monitors.
“Building the user interface to be touchable and responsive to touch input presented interesting design challenges. In this post, I will describe how we achieved it.
Developing the Framework for Touch
“We developed a unified framework consistent with the platforms that we support and Touch Interaction guidelines for Microsoft Office Desktop Applications, Windows 8, and iOS. We also balanced that with the experience and touch manipulations that users expect when using a particular touch device.
“We used the following principles to build the user experience across the platforms:
• Deliver delightful end-to-end experiences using only touch input
• Focus on scenarios and experiences on a touch device
• Ensure users can touch the user interface with confidence
• Build simple and intuitive touch manipulations
• Leverage browser capabilities
• Ensure great end-to-end experiences using a combination of touch, mouse, and keyboard
• Users can easily switch back and forth between using touch, or mouse and keyboard to interact with the application
• The application will respond to the input.”
Devi also observes that:
“The mouse is a tool for precise and controlled interaction with the user interface. In combination with a physical keyboard, it gives the user confidence in accurately placing insertion points, making selections, hitting buttons and invoking context menus, drop downs and other UI.
“In comparison, human fingers come in all varieties of shapes and sizes. They are clumsy in placing an insertion point and imprecise in controlling the interaction with the user interface.
“Our goal was for users to fearlessly touch the user interface and get the results they expect, as they would with a mouse.
“Making something easy to touch is dependent on the size of the target. Many user interface elements such as the ribbon controls and context menus fell well below the “touchable” size limits defined by Windows 8 and Microsoft Office.
“All of these elements have been made easy to touch in the new Office Web Apps. Great care was taken to balance the increase in physical size of the UI with preserving as much real estate as possible for the actual document content.
“One of our core objectives was to get users started right away with Office Web Apps on tablets using simple and intuitive touch manipulations rather than complex gestures that require learning and remembering….
“We made it easy for you to get the context menu by simply tapping on a selection to display it. Tapping away from the context menu dismisses it.”
I say: Bravo! CM
For the full report/tutorial visit here: