Ty Anderson

Development for Office 2013 RT: Starter Kit

Wow. I went about my day yesterday in my typical fashion. I awoke, drank coffee, worked on various items and projects, drank some coffee, and planned my day today. I then watched baseball all night long and browsed the news. The news is terrible on the baseball front… But on the Office front, there is some surprising news!

Office 2013 is ready to go!

Microsoft calls it RTM for "Released to Manufacturing".

What this means is the Office team can put away the Red Bull, the M&Ms, the caffeine injections, the EPO and other doping practices (hey, it’s not illegal if you’re coding!). It means they settle down and live a normal life for a few days. But they will need to return quickly to write the documentation. This is the only reason I can think of to account for the timeframe between the RTM milestone and the eventual release to the public… slated for… wait for it…

Office 2013 RTM – mid Q1 2013!

They better hire some interns fresh from Mavis Beacon’s school of typing if they want to beat that deadline. While we wait for the "release of the manufacturing", I have 5 Qs and 5 As that… together comprise the Office 2013 RT Starter Kit.

1. What’s the meaning of the Office 2013 "RT"?

To answer this question we must begin at the beginning… with Windows 8 RT. You can read the articles below for the full details but if you are impatient know this: it’s Office 2013 built to run on ARM processors which means it won’t eat up your battery inside of 20 minutes.

2. What’s the difference between plain Jane Office 2013 and Office 2013 RT?

Office 2013 RT is mostly the same Office you know and love. It includes Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote. From here we have some serious departures. For your convenience, here is a bulleted list along with selected comments.

  • IT DOES NOT INCLUDE OUTLOOK! :: This situation kills me. I really want an Windows-based ARM device so I can hang it all day at the coffee shops with mac boys. But you will have to pry Outlook from my cold dead fingers. So, I guess, there goes that.
  • Touch :: there is some pretty cool touch support in Office 2013.
  • Office RT does not utilize the Windows metro UI :: They are desktop apps. They are the only desktop apps allowed on Windows 8 RT.
  • You cannot create data models in Excel :: Luckily, Pivot Tables are alive and well in Office 2013 RT.
  • PowerPoint narration recording is unsupported.
  • OneNote does not support searching of embedded audio & video files. Nor can you record audio or video notes. Bummer. You can however insert these media types into OneNote.

As always there’s more but I’ve saved some for another question. For the rest, you can read these articles:

3. So what’s the point of this Office 2013 RT version then?

Pure and simple, Windows RT and Office 2013 RT is intended for consumers. This is a tool that will most likely be ignored by business and enterprise customers. At least, initially it will. The fact that it lacks Outlook and other key productivity features (which I will discuss in a moment) is a clear signal this device is a consumer device. It is meant to be used much like an iPad… to consume information.

But don’t think this is Microsoft’s answer to the iPad. I think it’s better than that. It’s a rebuttal.

With a full version of Office on it (albeit one that lacks some functionality), Windows 8 RT is a serious tool for creating content. Maybe the Windows 8 mail is all you need? For a consumer who uses Hotmail, Outlook.com, Gmail, etc… it will be more than enough.

4. I’m a developer, what can I build with Office 2013 RT?

Ahhhhh… herein lies the rub, my fellow Office developers. We don’t have a definitive answer because Microsoft isn’t talking. Before I wager a guess as to what is possible, let’s look at what’s definitely NOT supported.

  • VBA Macros
  • COM add-ins
  • VSTO add-ins
  • UDFs
  • Excel Automation add-ins, XLLs, and Real-time Data Servers


  • any and all features that rely on ActiveX controls or …
  • 3rd party code (e.g. the PowerPoint Slide Library ActiveX control and Flash Video Playback control)

Basically, everything we know and love (and maybe sometimes hate) about Office solution development is not supported in Office 2013 RT. Windows RT owns the playground here and the traditional desktop development models can’t play in any of its sandboxes.

I speculate this is because the sandboxes are reserved for the developers that can play with the Apps for Office "sand". I have scoured the Internet for any official word from MSFT and there isn’t one. So the following is pure speculation on my part. But, I believe it is sound reasoning… and maybe even solid science…

The only way to extend Office 2013 RT is by building Apps for Office.

5. Do you think Office 2013 RT will be successful?

It depends upon who defines success and keeps the official tally. I think I’ll judge success by financial results and the stock performance of Microsoft. I think this is an objective measure. Here is the stock price at the beginning of today.


Let’s check back in a year and see where it sits.

Personally, I think Office 2013 RT will experience success. When people see the devices like these from Lenovo, they will respond favorably. The results won’t equal those of devices based on iOS. At least not this year. But MSFT is turning their ship towards a new horizon.

They have plenty of cash and plenty of loyal customers in the business sector to sustain them. They now have their sights set on the consumer. Consumers are an untapped market for Office-based solutions.

Get ready my friends.

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