Microsoft adds Touch Bar support to Office for Mac

Brad Stephenson

Office for Mac and the new Touch Bar

It’s been an exciting time for Microsoft with their special event earlier this week where they revealed more powerful iterations of their Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book products as well as the completely new Surface Studio and Surface Dial devices. The week isn’t over yet though and the tech giant has some more news to announce, this time during an event held by their biggest rival, Apple.

While Microsoft has been pushing ahead with touchscreens on all of their new devices for the past few years now, Apple has been steadfast in keeping their laptops and desktop computers completely touch-free. During their event this morning though, Apple did show signs of compromise when they unveiled their latest MacBook designs which featured a thin strip of touch technology on the keyboard called a Touch Bar. Possibly by pure coincidence, Apple’s new Touch Bar works in a remarkably similar way to Microsoft’s new Surface Dial despite their obvious physical differences. Both can be used within a variety of apps and their functionality varies greatly depending on the user and which program is running.

Microsoft has actually been one of the first companies to announce support for Apple’s new Touch Bar and revealed today that Office for Mac would be getting an update that would add numerous Touch Bar features across the range of Office apps.

“We have a long history of working with Apple to support new form factors and devices, and—as you can see from the news this week—we’re continually evolving Office to take advantage of the latest and greatest hardware innovations across the industry,” said Microsoft’s Kirk Koenigsbauer. “Through the Touch Bar, Office intelligently puts the most common commands at your fingertips—all based on what you’re doing in the document.”

In Word, the Touch Bar support will activate a new mode, Word Focus Mode, which essentially removes all of the UI from the program and focuses on the main content. Touch Bar commands in PowerPoint add a new Reorder Objects button and allow for swipe gestures to rotate objects while in Excel, the Touch Bar displays recently used functions for faster access and quick access to borders, cell colors and recommended charts. In Outlook, the Touch Bar presents the most commonly used features such as attaching a file to an email. The Touch Bar’s Today view can also display Outlook calendar events and provide a faster way to join a Skype for Business call.

Are you an Apple user and are you interested in the new Touch Bar? What do you think about Microsoft’s implementation of it within Office? Let us know in the comments below.