Microsoft readies June preview of its full featured Office apps coming to its Windows, Education Stores

Microsoft will begin testing in June preview versions of its full-featured Office apps,which will be downloadable and updatable from its Windows and Education Stores.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

While Windows and new Surface hardware were the headliners of today's Microsoft Education event in New York City, Microsoft also revealed some new Office applications and services.


As has been rumored for the last few months, Microsoft is rolling out full-featured versions of a number of its Office desktop applications, which the company has packaged up using its Desktop Bridge (codenamed "Centennial") to make them available for download from the Windows 10 Store and Microsoft Store for Education.

The first three Office applications which will be available this way are Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. They'll be available to students, teachers, and administrators who are Office 365 Education subscribers to test starting next month.

The Centennial versions of the Office applications are more robust than the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) versions that previously have been available in the Windows Store. The Centennial Office apps, which will be 32-bit only, will support Office add-ins, but not COM add-ins when running on Windows 10 S. (Update: The Centennial Office apps will be able to run COM add-ins on other versions of Windows 10.) They will be purchasable, downloadable, and updated through the Stores.

Microsoft's plan is to make generally available these Centennial versions of the Office apps this Fall. After the initial introduction of the new versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, Microsoft intends to release Centennial versions of many of its other key Office apps, such as Access and Publisher. Microsoft does not plan to do Centennial versions of OneNote or Sway, officials said; both of these apps already exist in fully-featured/desktop and UWP form.

The Centennial versions of the Office apps are going to be available exclusively for students, teachers, and home/consumer Office 365 users at the start. Microsoft is looking into when and how to make these Centennial Office apps available to business users at some point in the future, officials said.

Microsoft is going to brand the existing UWP versions of the Office apps as "Mobile" to distinguish them from these Centennial versions. The web versions of the Office apps -- Word Online, Excel Online, PowerPoint Online -- will continue to exist as they do now. The company also plans to continue to make the original and truly fully featured (32/64-bit, COM support included) versions of the Office apps available for purchase and download outside of the Windows 10 Store and Store for Education for the foreseeable future (though probably not forever).

Microsoft's thinking in bringing the full-featured Office apps to the Store was to make them available "in places where you can only run Store apps" -- such as the just-introduced Windows 10 S version of Windows, explained general manager of Office, Jared Spataro.

"This also sets the example of us using our most valuable app franchise and putting it in the Store," Spataro said.

Microsoft also is adding new education-specific functionality to its Microsoft Teams collaboration product which competes with Slack. Microsoft began rolling out Teams to its Office 365 Education subscribers in March 2017.

As the company did with OneNote via various Classroom enhancements, Microsoft is adding new bells and whistles to its Teams for Education service that will make it more of a central hub for teacher and student collaboration. The Teams Classroom features will allow teachers to integrate Teams with quiz taking/giving, integration with Microsoft Planner, and more.

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