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Microsoft Surface RT review

Wed Nov 14 2012, 11:38

One of the biggest selling points of the Surface RT has to be Microsoft's Office 2013 productivity applications suite preloaded on the device.

Unlike the mobile office suites available for other tablets, these are the full versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Onenote that are available in preview form for PC Windows, and support all the same features.

Outlook is not included, but the Mail app built into Windows RT serves the same function here.

Microsoft Surface with Windows RT running Excel

The applications are broadly similar to those in the existing Microsoft Office 2010 suite, but add support for touch input and link to Microsoft's cloud services, so that documents are saved by default to a Skydrive account.

We found that we were able to open and edit Office documents created on a desktop PC from our test Skydrive account, as you would expect, and save them back.

When combined with the ability to access your Exchange emails via the Mail app, it becomes clear how the Surface RT is well equipped as a productivity device, especially when combined with a Touch Cover or Type Cover keyboard.

The Microsoft Office 2013 applications run in the desktop Windows 8 environment, and are tricky to use with a fingertip touch gesture because of the small size of the on-screen controls and menus. This means that either a Touch Cover or Type Cover with built-in touchpad control and mouse buttons is an essential accessory if you expect to use the Surface RT for real work.

Because the Microsoft Office applications here are Preview versions, users will be able to install an upgrade when the final release of Office 2013 is made available, according to Microsoft.

Consequently, if a user ever has to use the built-in Reset function in Windows RT to restore their device to its factory settings, they will find that Microsoft Office 2013 will also revert to the preloaded preview version and will need to be upgraded again.

One more thing worth noting is that while the built-in version of Onenote runs on the Windows 8 desktop, a second version of the application is available from the Windows Store that runs as a "Metro style" app with an enhanced user interface including a touch-optimised radial menu.


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