A month ago, I was able to spend a few days using a Windows RT tablet with the preview version of Office 2013 Home & Student 2013 RT, which will come bundled with all RT devices. For some reason, this version of Office is very mysterious to people, but having actually used it, I can only reach one conclusion: It looks and works exactly like Office 2013 on a Windows PC.
If you were looking for something a little more dramatic—perhaps a unique full-screen mode that makes the suite operate more like Metro-style apps, or whatever—then this may be disappointing. But if you were hoping for a bit of consistency, then this is good news. In use, the functionality and performance of Office RT, as I’ll call, is identical to that of Office 2013. As it should be.
That said, there are a few major differences, and thanks to a recent communique from Microsoft, there are a number of minor differences I’d never notice after only a few days of use. So here’s a guide to the differences between Office Home & Student 2013 RT and the mainstream Office versions will use on x86/x64 PCs.
Four applications only. As with its PC counterpart, Office RT only includes Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint. These are rare Windows RT desktop applications, not Metro-style apps, just as on the PC. And each is technically named a bit differently (Word 2013 RT, for example) to differentiate them from the PC versions. Note that Microsoft will be making two Office 2013 Metro-style apps available to Windows RT users—OneNote and Lync—as well as related apps like Skype. These apps will all ship by next week.
Outlook is not included. Since I get a lot of email about this, I feel compelled to stress that Microsoft Outlook is not included in Windows RT/Office RT. Instead, Windows RT includes Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) productivity clients such as Mail, Calendar, and People, which handle much (but not all) of the functionality in Outlook. You can also use web clients via Exchange and Office 365 (Outlook Web Access), Hotmail, or Outlook.com, each of which provides an Outlook-like user experience.
Preview versions. When Windows RT devices ship on October 26, they will include preview versions of the Office RT apps. But the final edition of this product, simply called Office Home & Student 2013 RT will become available in November and will be made available to users via Windows Update. This final version of Office RT will be preinstalled on new devices starting in early 2013. (Microsoft says that those who use the PC Reset and Refresh functionality in Windows RT will be returned to whatever Office RT version was preinstalled on their device. So if you buy a Surface on day one and reset it next year, it will have the Preview version of Office RT sitting there after the dust settles. Just fire up Windows Update again to upgrade.)
Non-commercial use. As with the PC version of Office Home & Student, Office RT is licensed for “non-commercial” use only. However, those who wish to use this product for work can do so, as I explain in the post Microsoft: Relax, You can Use Office 2013 RT for Work Too. This basically involves purchasing a commercial license.
Missing features. Microsoft says that Office RT includes “the vast majority of Office Home & Student 2013 features available on PCs,” which says to me that there are some missing features. (Though, again, in use, these applications look and feel identical to their PC cousins.) These missing features include macros, add-ins, and other custom programs written by users or developed by third parties, as well as Outlook integration features like Send Mail (since Outlook is not available on RT), automatic SkyDrive integration (since the SkyDrive desktop application is not available on Windows RT; that said, you can still access your SkyDrive storage through the normal Save and Save As mechanisms), equations written with the legacy Equation Editor from older Office versions, and a number of application-specific features. While you should refer to Microsoft’s Introducing Office Home & Student 2013 RT Preview for a complete rundown of the missing features, none are particularly problematic, aside, possibly, from some missing recording features in both PowerPoint (narration) and OneNote (audio/video notes).
More features are coming. Microsoft tells me that more features will be added to Office RT in the future, both at the “final” release of the product in November and in the future. This is in keeping with the new services-based update schedule for the broader Office 2013 family of products and services.
Put simply, Office 2013 Home & Student 2013 RT is exactly what it should be, and exactly what you think it is: A version of Office 2013 Home & Student 2013 that runs on Windows RT. There is literally not much to say about this product beyond the fact that it looks and works as it should.