Posey's Tips & Tricks

Re-Examining Office 2013 on Windows RT

Due to reader reaction, Brien clarifies exactly what is missing on the RT version of Microsoft Office 2013.

I have been writing about Microsoft products and technologies since the release of Windows 95, back in the mid-'90s. As you can imagine, writing about technology for so many years has taught me a lot. However, not everything that I have learned is directly tied to technology.

One lesson that I learned early on was that I could expect to receive a lot of e-mails related to the stuff that I write. It always seemed kind of funny to me, but the e-mail responses to almost every article are widely varied. There are always some who loved the article and want to say thank you. On the flip side, there is never a shortage of people who want to tell me that my article was garbage and is easily the worst thing that they ever read. Most often though, I get a lot of messages with questions and suggestions for future articles.

After nearly 20 years of writing, I have come to accept that these are the standard types of responses that I usually get from my articles. Every once in a while though, something happens that totally catches me by surprise. My recent series of blog posts on Microsoft Surface and Windows RT received some really unexpected responses.

Initially, almost all of the responses that I received were positive. However, one of my recent Surface-related articles actually resulted in a considerable amount of hate mail. I'm not talking about the usual "you're an idiot" or "Microsoft is evil" kind of e-mails that I receive on an almost daily basis, but rather a large volume of messages from people who were really, really upset!

The anger seemed to stem from something that I said about Microsoft Office 2013 being included with Windows RT. At the time that I had written the article, I was under the impression that "Office 2013 RT" was identical to the X86 / X64 version of Office aside from the absence of Outlook. What I didn't realize at the time however, was that there are some Office features that do not exist in Windows RT.

Contrary to some of the allegations that have been made, I wasn't trying to cover anything up. Believe it or not, Steve Ballmer did not call me to tell me that features were being excluded from Office 2013 in Windows RT, nor did I receive any sort of press release.  Likewise, I did not notice any missing features while using my Surface tablet. As a writer, I usually open Word, write my article, save my changes, and that's it. I almost never use any of the advanced features and therefore did not notice that some had been removed.

I'm sure that by now some of you are probably wondering what exactly is missing from Office 2013 in Windows RT. The biggest missing feature is Macro support. Most of the angry letters that I received were because I failed to mention that Excel macros don't work in Windows RT.

Also missing is support for add-ins, forms and ActiveX controls. Additionally, Microsoft has neglected to include the ability to perform screen recordings in PowerPoint and OneNote. OneNote is also missing the ability to search audio and video recordings. Similarly, PowerPoint lacks the ability to play legacy media and flash videos. Finally, the Equation Editor is missing.

Although there are a number of features missing from the Windows RT version of Office 2013, most of the omissions probably won't affect all that many people. Of course if you do use Office macros or if you depend on any of the features that have been omitted then a Windows RT tablet probably isn't going to be the best choice for you.  If you want the full Office 2013 feature set then you will have to use an X86 / X64 platform.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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