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April 9, 2014

6 things we’ve learnt today about Office for iPad

Ask us anything, they said – so the Internet did.

By Vinod

Reddit Office for iPad

Microsoft’s Office for iPad team has taken to Reddit to partake in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) interview, fielding questions from users regarding the latest addition to the Microsoft Office family. Sangeeta Mudnal, Jeff Zhang and other members of the development team (pictured above) covered a wide selection of topics, revealing some interesting pieces of information – here are some of the choicest titbits, straight from the team in charge.

The new offering is entirely new

Far from just being a straight port of the existing Microsoft Office programs, the team revealed that Office for iPad was built from the ground up. According to one of the Word developers , the team "started with the Mac Office code base, and ported it from [the older OS X Carbon infrastructure] to Cocoa/UIKit."

In fact, building the iPad versions of the Office apps is helping the team rebuild Office for Mac. When it arrives, the OS X suite should be fully built in the modern Cocoa infrastructure – resulting in faster and more responsive versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

The approval came from Steve Ballmer himself

In what might come as a surprise, it was revealed that far from being an early coup for new CEO Satya Nadella, the approval for Office for iPad actually came from his predecessor Steve Ballmer.

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"The decision to ship Office for iPad was made before Satya became CEO," Office for iPad Technical Product Manager Kaberi Chowdhury said. "Steve Ballmer approved the plan to ship Office for iPad."

The new apps are pretty polished…

Apps normally have to go through a long and intensive approval process after being submitted to the Apple Store, as the company’s staff look over the new offering. This was not the case with Office for iPad, however, as one of the train admitted that Apple approve the apps on the first try, stating that, "We’re very proud of that!"

The team also revealed that they have a "very normal" team Apple Developer account, when quizzed on their connections, saying that they had paid the necessary $99 fee needed to get an app store developer account.

However there are still a few flaws

It should be remembered that these are the first versions of Office for iPad, so there may still be a few missing features or teething problems. One of the most popular questions asked of the development team concerned the ability to print. As it stands, you are not able to print directly from the programmes, although this will soon change, the team said.

The Office for iPad team is also the Office for Mac team

Microsoft Office for Mac is reportedly due for an update later this year, so one Reddit user took the opportunity to ask the Office for iPad workers if they could ask the Mac team when this would be. The response caught a few people off-guard, as someone from the team replied back saying "actually, we are also the Office for Mac team".

Following this, another user asked if Office for iPad had caused Office for Mac to be delayed due to its transition from using Carbon to Cocoa in development.

"The code for Office for iPad and Office for Mac is shared, as the development platforms for both are very similar," came the reply.

"The iPad work required us to create an all new UI and to redesign the interface between UI and the internal logic. That work actually helps us with de-Carbonizing Office for the Mac, instead of delaying or hindering it. We’re able to create new Cocoa UI on the Mac and tie it into the new logic interface now."

The Microsoft office sounds like a fun place to work

The team also took time to show off some photos of their office, immediately making us all jealous. Shelves stacked with iPads featured in one photo, and the team also gave an insight into the camaraderie that kept them together during development.

"We had a team karaoke event and some of us convinced one of our dev managers to sing [’90s dance pop hit] Barbie Girl with us," a team member said. "A few months later, he went on an extended vacation, and we took the opportunity to upgrade his office to a Barbie Princess theme. We also stuck a speaker in his ceiling tiles that played Barbie Girl nonstop for a while before he figured it out and took it down."

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