As you research Windows tablets, you will want to consider which Microsoft Office versions they support.
While any Windows 8 tablet is likely to have a lot of bells and whistles, different versions of Windows 8 could determine what type of Microsoft Office suite you will be able to install on the tablet.
Making Your Windows Tablet Productivity Choice
According to Oliver Roll of Microsoft's Office Team, a recent Morgan Stanley Research found "...that 61 percent of potential tablet purchasers consider Microsoft Office to be the single most important software feature when considering a tablet purchase."
For example, Windows RT is a version of the new Windows 8 operating system for tablets and other ARM devices. If you choose this type of tablet, your Office choices become more limited.
Bottom line, if you want the full Office 2013 desktop version, which is also still only available as a free Office 2013 Preview, you will need to opt for a Windows tablet with Windows 8 Pro, rather than an RT version.
That said, the RT version may be sufficient for your needs, thus saving you some money.
Meet Office Home & Student 2013 RT
The RT programs--Word 2013 RT, Excel 2013 RT, PowerPoint 2013 RT and OneNote 2013 RT—are not the same as the full Microsoft Office programs. They all come together as Office Home & Student 2013 RT.
You cannot buy this RT version of Office separately. It will be sold on Windows devices such as the Microsoft Surface. Technically, a preview edition of Office Home & Student 2013 will be installed, at least for early buyers.
- No automatic file syncing to your desktop. Wi-Fi connection availability is assumed because Microsoft Office RT’s default saving location is SkyDrive. Anything you want on your desktop will have to be manually and separately saved there.
- No email features. A Windows RT tablet does not support desktop email applications such as Outlook. Your email options on an RT tablet are the standard Windows RT email app or another email app from the Windows Store. This means email features in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote will not show up in the ribbons and menus, such as mail merge, broadcasting a PowerPoint slide show, and more.
- No Equation Editor. While you can view equations written with Equation Editor, you cannot edit them in Office Home & Student 2013 RT. Instead, you can go to Symbols, then Insert and you will find a toolbar that may suit your needs for authoring equations.
- Microsoft Lync is not supported on Windows RT devices at this point.
- No Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), meaning no macros, add-ins, InfoPath forms, or similar custom programs. OneNote may be the exception to some of this.
For Word 2013 RT, be aware that grammar checking or style checking will be available for only the following languages, and Microsoft is not promising that these features will be working in all these languages during the initial Preview stage:
- Norwegian Bokmal
- Portuguese – Brazilian
- Chinese – Simplified and Traditional
Spell checking and other proofing features may be available for more languages.
Excel 2013 RT
The Excel 2013 RT experience should be very similar to the full version experience, but you cannot create and use a Data Model.
Essentially, you can still make PivotTables, QueryTables and Pivot Charts, but you cannot take advantage of Excel 2013’s Data Model relationships and other advanced tools.
PowerPoint 2013 RT
- No playing or adding Flash video
- No narration recording
- No support for older media formats, but you can try to convert to modern formats through Backstage View, using the Optimize for Compatibility feature
- No Slide Library ActiveX Control (SharePoint Slide Library toolbar). As an alternative, Microsoft suggests going to Home Tab -> New Slide -> Reuse Slides
OneNote 2013 RT
- No audio recording or searching for words contained in embedded audio
- No video recording or searching for words contained in embedded video
- No importing images or documents from a scanner
Microsoft Office RT Requires a Commercial Use License of Organizations
Microsoft Office RT is not immediately available for “commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities.” Entities wishing to use any version of Microsoft Office 2013, including Microsoft Office RT, must purchase a commercial use license.
Alternatives: External Apps and Free Microsoft Office Web Apps
Missing features in Office 2013 RT programs might be accomplished outside the program with a separate app. For example, you could record audio, save it, and then insert it into OneNote 2013 RT.
Keep in mind that the free Microsoft Office Web Apps for 2012 are of course an option no matter which Windows 8 tablet you choose. These web apps are, however, streamlined versions of Microsoft Office, so do expect even more limited functionality.