Microsoft revamps Office for tablets, Internet

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at a Microsoft event in San Francisco, Monday, July 16, 2012. Microsoft unveiled a new version of its widely used, lucrative suite of word processing, spreadsheet and email programs Monday, one designed specifically with tablet computers and Internet-based storage in mind. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft unveiled a new version of its widely used, lucrative suite of word processing, spreadsheet and email programs, one designed with tablet computers and Internet-based storage in mind.

Like an upcoming redesign of Microsoft’s Windows operating system, the new Office will respond to touch as well as commands delivered on a computer keyboard or mouse. The addition of touch-based controls will enable Office to extend its franchise into the rapidly growing tablet computer market. Apple dominates that market with the iPad, though Microsoft has plans to compete with its own tablet, called Surface.

Microsoft said the new Office was designed as a service first, so the programs can run easily on multiple devices connected to the Internet.

The programs will store documents online through Microsoft’s SkyDrive service by default, meaning users will have to change settings to store documents on their own computer. The programs will also remember settings, including where you last left off in a document, as you move locations. The Internet-based services approach is one Google has been promoting with its own suite of similar programs.

“This is the most ambitious release of Office that we have ever done,” CEO Steve Ballmer said Monday in unveiling the new Office in San Francisco.

A preview version of the new Office suite is available at office.com/preview. Microsoft isn’t saying when it will go on sale or what the price will be. Those details will come in the fall.

Other features in the new Office:

Inkling, which lets you use a stylus to write on a device’s screen. Handwritten notes are converted automatically to text.

Integration with Yammer, a social network for businesses, and with Skype, a video chat service.

Bing Maps will be part of the new Outlook email program. If there’s an address in an email, just tap on it to get directions.

A “reading” mode on Word will make it easier to read word-processing documents on a tablet or e-reader. That mode will make the document look more like a book page.