Microsoft Surface Tablet

Since the launch of the Surface tablet Microsoft has been revamping and refactoring its applications so as to make them best suited for touch devices running Windows 8, mainly targeting UX of Surface users. We have also covered some Microsoft applications that have been changed to adapt the Surface tablet environment.

Recently Microsoft released the next version of its most anticipated product, Microsoft Office 2013. This version of MS Office is specially optimized for touch screen devices. There are many changes that Microsoft has to made to develop a version of Office that can run seamlessly on touch devices running Windows 8.

Microsoft had gone through a rigorous research before making this Office version. As it is the most wanted software for document processing so developing it for the touch-screen PCs that have entirely different experience from the desktop or laptop PCs was quite a challenging task.

There are very limited ways of using laptop PCs. Desktop PCs have even less ways of being used. For example, a laptop PC is used by placing it on the table, lap, holding it in arm while standing and using it with the other hand etc. Also a laptop and desktop PC have the same traditional input and output methods but tablets have different input and output mechanisms. Their primary input/output is the same unit i.e. the touch-screen. Though tablets can also be used along with mouse and keyboard but tablets are more trending because of their touch-screen input and output.

So optimizing a software for tablets means optimizing the software for the touch. The software application must work perfectly so as to please the user. The more it will be touch friendly, the more user will love to use the software application. Touch is popular for its realness to the physical world. It should feel and look natural as you drag and tap on the touch-screen. For this Windows 8 should work well with the hardware and office applications must communicate perfectly with the graphics so as to give the best UX of touch.

Slow touch is very disliked and hated. The touch must be swift and app must respond quickly to the touch events. When you have to drag the things around then the touch must know that you are dragging something around. Moving fingers close and away on the screen should immediately signal the app that the user is trying to zoom in or zoom out. To give such a level of touch experience the Office needed to be refactored (i.e. changing the source code while keeping the user experience same). At this point many changes have been undergone. While dragging the text written in the document, the text is first turned into an image then dragged and dropped on the place where the user releases its finger and then the image is again converted into the text. Office used to use GDI for this work but for Surface tablet they had to communicate directly with the hardware so as make the touch efficient and feel natural. Here is a video from Microsoft about the touch responsiveness of the Microsoft Office.

There are many other changes that have been made in the Office to optimize it for the touch devices. In the next few posts of mine we will be discussing these changes one by one.