Initially, Windows RT devices, including Microsoft’s own “ARM-ed” Surface tablet, will only be available with a preview version of Office 2013 RT, Microsoft announced today in a post on the Office Next blog. But don’t scrap your Windows RT purchase plans yet because, starting in early November, these devices will be automatically updated with the final version of Office Home & Student 2013 RT.
The final version of Windows RT will be rolled out in a graduated fashion between early November and January, with the choice of language pack determining who gets the update and at what time. Microsoft will be revealing the exact update schedule on Windows 8 launch day, October 26, on its official Office blog.
This announcement occupies a very small part of what is a fairly lengthy blog post. In the post, the Office team has touched upon a number of things, including the raison d'être of Office for Windows RT and the various tablet-specific optimization it packs.
According to Microsoft, the Office for Windows RT project was started with the aim of delivering the “same level of polish and reliability” as Office for x86/x64 on ARM-based tablets. The task was easier said than done, though. The Office team had to accomplish this while keeping in mind the many special requirements associated with Windows RT tablets, including touchscreen support, portability, and the optimum use of limited resources.
If Microsoft is to be believed, Office for Windows and Office for Windows RT are very similar, with only a few subtle differences here and there. Office 2013 RT lacks the following features:
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)