back to article Office for ARM will lack features, report claims

Sources close to Microsoft claim that the version of Office 2013 that ships for Redmond's Surface tablet and other ARM systems will be missing features from the build for rival Intel-based Windows machines. Among the items to be pruned from the version of Office for ARM-based Windows RT will be macros, third-party add-ons, and …


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  1. Robert E A Harvey

    Oh come on

    It is not so many years ago that they released a version of office for MACs that did not have macros, largely because they could not port the code.

    I never expected the RT version to be identical, and if anyone did they were living in cloud cuckoo land. I've got a fairly advanced flaptop here with a 4-way core processor and loads of stuff. MS office can bring it to a screaming, shuddering halt. And does. I can type faster than it can render glyphs on this beast.

    What chance has it got running on an alarm clock?

    1. Epobirs

      Re: Oh come on

      You've got to be kidding. Office 2010 runs fine on my AMD A6 based laptop under Windows 8 RP, which is far from the fastest four-core option out there. What are you doing to get severe slowdown?

      Killing VBA on Mac was not a matter of porting code. It was a genuine desire to kill VBA. It was great in its day but had a lot of issues going forward. MS is trying to shift Office extension work to web oriented tools and APIs, which hooks into where so much else is happening today.

      1. Mark 65

        Re: Oh come on

        "Killing VBA on Mac was not a matter of porting code. It was a genuine desire to kill VBA. It was great in its day but had a lot of issues going forward. MS is trying to shift Office extension work to web oriented tools and APIs, which hooks into where so much else is happening today."

        and yet, undoubtedly, VBA will live on.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh come on

          > VBA will live on.


          brains... Brains... BRAINS!

      2. cynic 2

        Re: Oh come on

        Actually, killing VBA on the Mac back in 2006 was a porting issue. Lots of gnarly assembly language was involved. You can find the details here:

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Oh come on

          The problem is bigger than just gnarly assembly code - its a complete lack of understanding of what it does. This goes deeper than just VBA - MS have been trying to get away from legacy code for a long while and are failing. They are hoping that they can move to a new non-legacy burdened version of windows office et all without people realising that their old docs and apps will never work again.

      3. Ilsa Loving

        Re: Oh come on

        I have to disagree with that. If Microsoft was trying to kill VBA, why would they do it ONLY on the mac, and keep it going on the Windows side? They either had more difficulty porting it than they thought, or they were trying to deliberately introduce incompatibilities with the Mac version, making it harder for the Windows and Mac sides to interoperate with each other.

        It was brought back in 2011, no doubt due to the huge uproar that 2008 caused.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What are you doing to get severe slowdown?

        Maybe he's running a few malware macros. :-)

    2. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: Oh come on

      Those must be some documents you are editing!

      Windows 7/Office 2010 on a Thinkpad T60 (not even a dual core) works fine for most of what I do, typically ten or twenty page Word files with a few dozen mathematical formulas, half a dozen diagrams and a few pix.

      My Excel spreadsheets (topocentric coordinates of moon, sunrise, sunset &c, basically several hundred trig terms in formulas with 30 cols and 300 rows) run reasonably fast as well.

      PS: students are a good market, they want Word/PPT for assigment typing. As long as the comments and proofing tools work ok for marking that'll shift a few tablets.

    3. Hardcastle the ancient

      Alarm clock


  2. Epobirs

    Is this really an issue?

    Windows RT will not join Active Directory domains. Which great limits the value of Windows RT for the typical business that builds heavily atop Office. Those businesses are more likely to go with Windows 8 Pro tablets that do everything any other x86 machine is expected to offer.

    Also, keep in mind Microsoft is shifting away from VBA to a more web oriented extension platform for Office. Much as Windows RT won't support the desktop for anything other than Office (and that will likely go away as Office gets converted to being more natively Metro but it will be years for that) its version of Office will only support the the most current methods for extending Office.

    You have to set cutoffs somewhere and this is as good a place as any. A major cause of failed app installs on Vista/7/2008 was the cutoff of 16-bit support. A surprising number of companies were still using 16-bit installers that should have been done away with a decade earlier.

    Transitions are always hard.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Is this really an issue?

      "A surprising number of companies were still using 16-bit installers that should have been done away with a decade earlier."

      Er, why?

      Assuming they do/did a proper job that the business needs, why should they not be supported on 64-bit as for 32-bit OS?

      The idea that *working* software has to be replaced simply because the OS supplier can't be bothered to support it is a worry, and is the best argument of all for going open-source where you have the ability (or paid contractors can) support legacy stuff if it is cheaper then throwing away years of experience and bug-fixes in the pursuit of 'shiny'.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: Is this really an issue?

        I'd assume it's because the win16 environment was pretty much one gigantic security hole by that point and that it wasn't particularly well documented, or understood, or even compatible with the updated architecture of Vista. It makes sense to drop it from the default install, just like a default 64 bit Debian install doesn't come with the ia32 compatibility libs.

        Why should they include an outdated architecture by default?

        Now if you're arguing that they should have written a set of compatibility libs for 16 bit applications then you may well have a point, but that's a different issue to dropping default support.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is this really an issue?

      Ehm , many (most?) businesses also have lots of custom documents, that contain custom macros , and those are needed to work with these documents.

      Surface may not be able to join domains, but you can still get those documents on there. ANd if then it turns out that those documents cannot be edited, or behave differently or ....

      And while I agree that most businesses should not use Surface for business, try explaining to a manager who just bought (on a company card) a windows tabled with office that his (or her) new shiny shiny is actually a piece of crap.

      These are the people who buy a copy of Project on the company card at the airport, and then install it and get annoyed that their version of Project Standard no longer can connect to the project server, and then ask us to fix the server ...

  3. Tom 35

    So they can cripple the intel version of "Office Home and Student" then they can say that the RT version is the same as the intel version.

  4. J. R. Hartley


    What was the point of Windows RT again??

    1. Epobirs

      Re: So...

      To compete with iOS (and Android) tablets and other items in the lower price ranges. Those markets don't have much call for VBA apps. Do you know anyone outside of the corporate world doing much with VBA? It takes a certain scale to make the investment in such work worth while.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: So...

        No its not to compete - it a modern version of vapourware where you actually get the hardware and the software but none of the functionality you were waiting for.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: So...

      Yeah exactly I am thinking the same thing. No ability to join a domain and a cut down version of office means it's dead in the water for businesses.

      Home users may be more tempted for Windows RT due to the lower price point and invariably the better battery life it will offer compared to the X86 rivals, but the Windows 8 interface and the lack of ability to use legacy software will probably mean they won't want these devices either.

      Anyone who has fixed a PC for a family member of friend will know they all have one quirky bit of software they simply must have working on their PC or laptop and as well all know to the layman Windows = laptop / PC so once they see the Windows RT stickers they'll think it still runs all their apps.

      It's unfortunate that Microsoft had to drop the name Metro really as calling the ARM powered devices Microsoft Metro would've made so much more sense and given them that chance of a clean break from the Desktop and legacy that continuing the Windows name won't give them

      1. keithpeter Silver badge

        Re: So...

        "Anyone who has fixed a PC for a family member of friend will know they all have one quirky bit of software they simply must have working on their PC or laptop"

        Genealogy app. Develop one now for RT, you'll be minted. Add the ability to store photos in entries so the tablets with rear cameras can snap entries in register books/gravestones &c

    3. P. Lee

      Re: So...

      > What was the point of Windows RT again??

      To stop you buying a *nix pad and maybe using Open/LibreOffice. Once your organisation has a stack of windows tablets, they are probably not going to want to buy/support android/ios as well. It also gives devs another platform to use which might unfocus devs from the other two platforms.

      Its also a threat towards intel for its linux dalliances - it would be easy to port the rest of Office, once desktop and server ARM chips become available...

      1. Richard Plinston

        Re: So...

        >> What was the point of Windows RT again??

        To kill off Linux (and other) ARM devices being make by OEMs.

        It has worked with WebOS already. HP saw that they would lose more by having their 'loyalty discount' slashed by MS over all PC products than they would by dumping their tablet and phone products.

    4. Justin Clements

      Re: So...

      Beats the hell out of me what the point of RT is then. I thought the whole point was to remove the threat of the iPad in businesses.

      And why are businesses going to buy the full fat version, when they never bought Windows Tablet either?

  5. Paul Hatch

    More Important than missing functionality is....

    So what if the Arm version of Office does not support Macros.

    There is a more important issue when it comes to 'mobile' or any 'cutdown' version of a full application that is marketed by the same company that is acknowledged by them as missing functionality of it's parent application.

    What happens when a document generated on the parent app and utilizing functions not present on other versions is exportrd to them?

    If the Arm version does not support macros, will it just ignore them or will it strip them from the file? Similarly elements such as tables of contents, indexes etc. If they are stripped out of the document, it makes updating a document from anything but the full desktop version a futile and pointless exercise and fails to give any benefit over any 3rd party app on the mobile platform capable of importing MS Office files.

    For Arm or mobile variants of MS Office apps to be worth anything, If they do only offer a subset of the desktop functionality, they must retain the unsupported elements within the file to allow subsequent editting on the desktop with minimal remedial work to account for the mobile edits (such as updating TOCs.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: More Important than missing functionality is....

      Meh, this problem was solved 15 years ago, when Word macro viruses were popular. Most Word users on Windows can (very likely, do regularly) open documents containing macros, and the macros just don't run. I doubt if one user in ten even knows how to enable them if they want to.

      Whether to ignore them or strip them out - well, that's determined (on Windows) by the options with which you save the file. If you want to include macros, you have to save as a .docm (or .dotm), rather than the more usual .docx. How hard can it be to port that functionality?

      Personally, I think MS Office without VBA is - well, basically, something between OpenOffice and Google Docs. I wouldn't install it on any machine of mine unless you paid me handsomely for the disc space.

  6. Gordan
    Thumb Up

    Office for ARM will lack features, report claims

    That's OK, OpenOffice for ARM won't lack any. :)

    The quicker M$ auto-euthanise themselves out of our software ecosystem's misery the better.

    1. Epobirs

      Re: Office for ARM will lack features, report claims

      Except the only way OpenOffice for ARM will find its way on to Windows RT tablets is if it operates entirely within the Metro framework. Likewise, on iOS and Android there is desktop environment. If it doesn't run in one of those three environments, it simply may as well not exist.

      What else running an ARM CPU is going to offer it any meaningful numbers? A 20+ year old Archimedes?

      1. Manu T

        Re: Office for ARM will lack features, report claims

        OpenOffcie doesn't need to run on Windows RT? They could as well port it to ARM Ubuntu, Android (which has already quite a few competing productivity products) or indeed iOS (when God and the Apple board pleases).

        Plus isn't there some cloudbased office suite hiding somewhere on Google's servers somewhere?

        The big question here is: Do we actually need Windows in 2013?

        Perhaps Microsoft can join Nokia in the same grave of incompetence.

        1. Gordan

          Re: Office for ARM will lack features, report claims

          @Manu T

          OpenOffice already runs just fine on ARM Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora, almost certainly others).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters


      And in addition to what Epobirs just said: the only way to get software onto the whole Metro setup is through the MS Marketplace (that is: I'm not aware of any other approaches). And something tells me that MS wouldn't agree easily in allowing OpenOffice to publish their software on their marketplace.

      This is /exactly/ why I'm heavily opposed to the whole idea of a Marketplace in the first place. Especially for a desktop operating system.

      This isn't about security or safety anymore; this is allowing a company to tell you what you can and cannot use on your own computer. And they expect to get paid for it too.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: @Gordan And ShelLuser

        So perhaps it becoming clear why UEFI is being pushed for ARM desktops - MS is TERRIFIED of what FLOSS can do on ARM. They don’t want you to see that LibreOffice can do on an ARM machine compared to their crippled version of MSoffice.

        People on this forum are fudding ARMs performance when a 4 core 1G machine would have made most people (other than MS and battery manufacturers) ecstatic 5 years ago and easily outperform most 'legacy' desktops in business and may even pay for itself in power usage over a reasonable lifetime.

        MS are about to loose their only selling point - backward compatibility and they will do anything to prevent you looking for alternatives.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: @Gordan And ShelLuser

          "MS are about to loose their only selling point - backward compatibility and they will do anything to prevent you looking for alternatives."

          MS deliberately lost large chunks of backwards compatibility with Office 2003 and it's service packs - remember having to modeify the registry after installing SP2 and SP3. I therefore think you mean cross platform consistency and compatibility, something that is still problemmatic between Windows and Mac...

  7. Tony Paulazzo

    >something of an about-face<

    You mean when they finally got a surface RT tablet properly up and running, Office '13 killed it dead and somebody shouted 'damage control!'

    I think less people would be pissing themselves laughing if Microsoft had just said right from the beginning that surface RT would be coming with a 'special' version of their popular office suite, especially as it's being bundled with the machine, an unusual step for Microsoft.

    Mind you, with a price point still to be confirmed...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Is this really an issue?

    It's clear that MCSFT is working together with Intel to slow down the market penetration of ARM-equipped devices. They are deliberatly causing confusion to generate more sales on Intel versions of their software. Sure you can buy a tablet to COMPLEMENT your PC NOT as a replacement FOR your PC. Though some cellphones are as powerfull today as former desktop systems were a few years ago. They can record and play back full HD movies, have the graphical and computational capabilities to play HD ready 3D games and ARE powerfull enough to handle image-, audio and videoprocessiong. I fail to see why a stupid productivity suite wouldn't run good on it. Unless the programmers creating the lot are incompetent.

    RISC OS a full WSIWYG object-oriented multitasking desktop system which had e.g. full screen desktop publising with blistering fast vector graphics rendering, real-time bitmap manipulation and real-time text antialiasing ran on 25Mhz ARM3 cpu in 1992 (without FPU). It was top notch in 1994 with the Risc PC on that 30MHz ARM610. And now ARM cpu's (quad core + fpu + over 1GHz) aren't suffiecent enough?

    Yeah right!

  9. LinkOfHyrule

    ARM chips just cant handle the awesomeness of Visual Basic for Applications!

  10. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    portability issues.

    cynic2 beat me to it. Parts of office are reportedly an unholy mess. From the description of the Mac implementation, it was running a PowerPC-specific Just In Time compiler; I read at some point that the Intel one is/was similar. I recall reading that at some point in the past, parts of Office no longer even had source code (or the tools needed to build it!), these blobs of code were just copied over from one version to the next since they worked. Of course it's the 21st century and Microsoft could use LLVM for a portable JIT compiler, but of course due to Not Invented Here syndrome that would never happen. (Plus, of course, it is true that VBA is effectively obsolete anyway.)

    Anyway... yeah, I think any expectation of having reasonably complete implementations of your apps (not mine since I don't use Windows..) is a fantasy. WinRT requires a full-scale port of an app at best, and rewritten from scratch possibly. Microsoft's applications are complex and I do not think they have the level of portability required to make a WinRT port easy.

    As for speed and such... sorry that's a pretty weak excuse. I don't know how bloated Office is these days, but I've ACTUALLY run OpenOffice on an ARM (1.2ghz ARM running on a Droid 2 Global, running to a remote X display.) Not only did it run but it was SNAPPY! Guess what? PDF writing support, printing support, macros, VBA, odd formatting options, and on and on -- until I *USE* those features, it's inactive code sitting on the disk (well, flash...), NOT using up CPU time or RAM. In reality, porting a huge app that is not meant to be portable is difficult, so features are dropping off.

    I want an ARM notebook bad for it's superior battery life. Running Ubuntu. (Why should I put up with stripped down experience just because I'm getting away from x86? I shouldn't and i won't. The 1.2ghz ARM in my old phone benchmarked 10% slower than the 1.33ghz Atom in my netbook -- i.e. exactly the same per-clock. And it's still fast enough for a pleasant desktop experience. A newer-design, dual-core ARM? Fugghedaboutit.)

  11. Steve Knox

    Sounds like...

    Among the items to be pruned from the version of Office for ARM-based Windows RT will be macros, third-party add-ons, and support for Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).

    ...Microsoft are actually taking security seriously? Nah, must be a porting issue like you said.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Where is Office for iPad please

  13. Techs UK

    Porting Office - the best bits and used bits.

    I guess they're doing a re-write as they add more and more stuff to their cloud based Office 365, etc. maybe that is the basis for the RT version - not cloud based, but more code in common with that than the x86 code base.

    I'm really up for the Surface RT - doesn't replace my desktop - it's in between phone and desktop and complements the xbox maybe?

  14. Magnus_Pym

    Those who live by the sword

    Microsoft has always made its living from the idea that the only replacement for your windows/office box is another windows/office box because nothing else will do 100% of what your old box did. For Microsoft a 'PC' must be synonymous with a WinTel box and all devices must be seens as a kind of 'PC'. This has lead to them having to continue with more and more outdated technologies to support the claim. Apple has been able to break with the past with the launch of OSX and split their market with iOS. Microsoft can't do this, they can't afford to tell users that some things may not work on he new version (even though this has always been the case) else the spell is broken and the computer becomes a commodity and people go to buy a 'device' rather than a 'PC' . So they will have to will continue including all the legacy crap until it outweighs the useful stuff. This day is rapidly approaching.

  15. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    In it to cripple it?

  16. Irongut

    People are actually complaining about MS removing VBA?

    This is why we can't have nice things.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >Among the items to be pruned from the version of Office for ARM-based Windows RT will

    >be macros, third-party add-ons, and support for Visual Basic for Applications (VBA)

    It's about time that junk got the chop.

  18. Mage Silver badge

    Well, is it a big deal?

    1) Macros are often badly written, badly designed and a vector for Malware.

    2) Libre Office / Open Office

    3) Goggle Docs (Yuch actually).

    Obviously someone may have existing Macros they want to use. But generally it's a sign that someone is trying to (mis)use a spreadsheet or Word Document rather than get a proper application or use a real database.

    I bought my last copy of MS Office in 2002. I'll not bother buying updates anyway.

  19. A J Stiles

    For sale: One pair of boots. Slight bullet damage.

    ..... and meanwhile, LibreOffice (for GNU/Linux, iOS and Android) will have the full feature set. Sure, it's incompatible with VBA (which has its own macro language) but -- and it's a big but -- LibreOffice comes with a gold-plated guarantee that its macro language will never, ever go away.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Bet it's because Office is so bloated. LibreOffice will probably humiliate MS when it gets ported to Win 8 RT.

    Anyhow, the whole idea of an in-app scripting engine seems stupid and limited to me; the approach commodore took with AREXX on the Amiga was far more powerful, and made in-app, cross-app and OS scripting far easier than sluggish junk like COM. GUI AREXX Applications were even available for the Amiga (e.g. BBS messaging, news and forum software) and I think this functionality predated VB.

    1. A J Stiles

      Re: ROTFL

      I agree whole-heartedly about turning the "in-app scripting engine" model inside-out.

      LibreOffice 4 should be rewritten from the ground up, in a scripting language for which at least one Open Source interpreter implementation exists. The document would then just be an object, as understood by that language; menu items would correspond to methods of document, paragraph or character objects. The main program would consist of little more than class declarations and an idle loop.

    2. Richard Plinston

      Re: ROTFL

      > LibreOffice will probably humiliate MS when it gets ported to Win 8 RT.

      The only programs that will be available for RT will be those in the Microsoft app store. MS will control what is available and will take 30% of the revenue.

      LibreOffice will not be in the store, nor will any other FOSS product, the only 'free' stuff (ie no money) will be there to benefit MS in other ways.

      This part of the plan: eliminate Linux with 'secure boot', control what is available with app store, take revenue from all the partners (OEMs and retail stores).

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    massive elf pwnage for microsoft

    loser takes nothing.

  22. perkzi

    "... will lack features ..."

    I think MS O has far too many "features". I started using Google docs a few years ago. Just to dash out something quick and be able to use it on my cellphone, too. Years later, I use it for everything. Havent even updated my Office 2003. Am I really missing something? How many features does one really need in a spreadsheet and an editor? I don't think that business letter template really is going to make or break that business deal.

    The key thing was collaboration. The cloud based sharing has that trick done. Less "features" would improve the Office productivity and value to a corporation. Need a macro? Best rewrite it as a js function now to save you the headache later.

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