An American Editor

September 26, 2012

The Business of Editing: Beware Office for Windows RT

Coming soon to virtually everywhere is the release of the new version of Windows — Windows 8. It will be released in basically two forms: RT for tablets and other devices using the ARM processor and a PC version for devices that use non-ARM processors. So far, so good.

The problem is not with Windows 8 per se. The problem is with Microsoft Office 2013, which is scheduled to be released shortly after the release of the Windows operating system. Office for devices that will run Windows RT will be crippled from an editor’s perspective. As the Office Next blog says,

Office Home & Student 2013 RT is Office running on the ARM-processor based Windows RT OS. It is full Office built from the same code base as the other versions of Office, with small changes that were required as a result of differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT.

But those changes aren’t necessarily small, at least not for the productive editor. According to Microsoft, the following are the primary differences between Office for Windows RT and Office for the PC; that is, Office RT lacks these capabilities:

  • 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)

The key difference for an editor, I think, is the inability to use macros. The lack of macro support is an absolute deal breaker for me, and means I will not even consider buying an ARM-based device, which leaves out the Microsoft Surface RT tablet (the higher end Surface Pro will be using an Intel processor and so will use Office Pro, which is the standard desktop version of Office; see this comparison of iPad with Surface RT and Surface Pro by Laptop Magazine).

I have spoken with several editors who are either currently using tablets or are thinking of buying a tablet in the near future. I have to admit that the idea of the tablet intrigues me as a tool for editing, although I suspect I would quickly miss my three 24-inch monitors. I suspect that the tablet would end up like my laptop — brought out only a couple of times a year when I’m traveling and never really doing any real work on it.

(My laptop is at least 6 years old and is still in excellent shape. It runs Windows 7 and Office 2010 without a problem, albeit more slowly than a newer laptop would. But what I found with my laptop is that I wasn’t very productive when it came to editing because of its format and because I couldn’t hook up my three large monitors; the laptop has the ability to use the built-in 17-inch monitor plus one additional monitor. I’ve become spoiled by my three 24-inch pivoting monitors.)

Right now, I can’t see justifying the expense of buying the Surface Pro or a similar tablet and I wouldn’t consider an ARM-based tablet now that I know macros Office would be crippled in the RT version, which would set my productivity back to the stone age of editing.

But I am planning on buying Windows 8 and Office 2013. Microsoft plans to offer a great upgrade deal for users of Windows 7 wanting to migrate to Windows 8 — $49 for the software. Even if I don’t install it right away, I’m going to buy it at that price. One of the reasons I am interested in Windows 8 is because Microsoft has finally developed what looks like a great cross-platform operating system (OS). I have been holding off upgrading my 8-year-old cell phones because I would like to get a Windows 8-based cell phone, too. I’m one of those people who likes to make life simple and easy, and using the same OS on my desktop, my laptop/tablet, and my cell phone strikes me as being the easy path to take. I may be wrong, but that’s the plan.

In any event, those of us who are dependant on Microsoft Office for our editing need to be cautious about deciding which tablet, if any, to buy, if the tablet is going to be used regularly in our business as a laptop and/or desktop replacement. It appears that Office 2013 will not be available for the iPad; instead iPad users will have to use Office for the Web, which raises other worries for me (see The Business of Editing: What Happens When the Cloud Isn’t Available?).

If all I want is a tablet that will give me e-mail and Internet access, I have one already: my Nook Tablet. If I want a professional’s tablet, that is one that gives me access to all the tools I use as a professional editor, I will have to look at the Surface Pro or an equivalent from other makers. If I simply want to get my work done in the most efficient manner I can, I’ll save my money, stick with my desktop and its three monitors, and go the cheap route, buying the Windows 8 OS and Office 2013 Pro upgrades. Right now, it’s looking like a safe bet that I will choose the latter path.

What plans do you have?


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