New Office for Mac will be based on Office for iPad code

microsofts ipads

IPads at Microsoft's engineering lab. 

Credit: Microsoft

The Office for iPad engineering team answered questions this morning on Reddit, offering a peek at what's to come for the app as well as what went into designing it. Since launch a week and a half ago, Office for iPad has been downloaded more than 12 million times, Microsoft said.

Here's what's to come:

  • Microsoft plans to add a print capability "in due course," Sangeeta Mudnal, group program manager for Excel said. This is one feature that was missing at launch and that many people have said they'd like to have.
  • The engineers are thinking about adding support for mathematical notation in OneNote for iPad, since Microsoft has heard from "several students" that they would like to see that capability, said "Avneesh," who is a project manager on OneNote Mac/iOS.
  • The list of capabilities to add to the Excel app include add/change conditional formatting and also comments. The engineers didn't say that the ability to do pivot tables was on their list but they did say requests for the capability is among the top feedback from users.
  • Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Office for iPad will be able to support third-party Office apps. When Microsoft launched Office 365, it began allowing third party developers to build apps that integrate with Office 365 and that users can download from within the app. However, Office for iPad engineer "Schwieb" wrote that since Apple forbids downloading, installing, or launching code other than your app's own code, it's not clear that Apps for Office would be allowed. Don't hold your breath.

The engineers also revealed a bit about the development process, which offers some hints at future new products and features.

  • Mac users have reason to hope that the long awaited updated version of Office for Mac might be coming relatively soon. "Yes, we are working on the next version of Office for the Mac," Schwieb wrote. He said that since the code for Office for iPad and Office for Mac is shared, the work on Office for Mac hasn't been delayed by the development of Office for iPad.
  • Microsoft developed Office for iPad completely natively, which means if Apple comes out with different size devices, the app should scale ok, according to "Dan," who works on Excel for iPad. "We feel pretty prepared for any eventuality," he wrote.
  • The engineers insisted that the reason it has taken so long for Microsoft to release an Office app for iPad is because they wanted to get it just right. An example of one challenge they faced is related to resource constraints, "Rick" wrote. For instance, if you opened a Word document that had a lot of attached comments, the app would run out of memory. "Fixing some of these required re-architecting some features, which is one of the reasons it took us so long," he said.

The engineers also confirmed that former Microsoft CEO approved work on Office for iPad. He hinted as much late last year.

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