OneNote for Windows 10 makes a case for other modern Office apps

With Windows 10, Microsoft debuted both OneNote for Windows 10 and Office Mobile. The former was meant to replace the more full-featured OneNote app currently being offered as part of the Office 365 Suite, and the latter designed to supplement use of these apps on mobile devices and touch first tablets and hybrids.
I earlier critiqued Microsoft’s UWP as examples of apps which are not as good as they should be, especially with regards to productivity. This was because then, it was unclear whether these apps could be used with multi Window support, essential when working with multiple documents on an operating system named Windows.
With OneNote now being one of the exceptions, to this rule, I believe what Microsoft should follow this template for all its other UWPs.

OneNote for Windows 10 is what Microsoft wants users to use on their Windows PCs. The reasoning behind this makes sense, OneNote is meant to be a different app from the old OneNote app. It is cleaner, it is faster, and more importantly, it is modern. As a universal Windows app, it is one of Microsoft’s flagships UWPs and ships with Windows 10.
This means that it starts up faster, it preserves battery life as it uses UWP APIs and it will consistently make use of the newest Microsoft APIs.

There is, of course, a feature gap between OneNote for Windows 10 and OneNote 2016. But those features aren’t really relevant to the way I use OneNote, that is, make a note, format it, organized into sections and notebooks etc. When it comes to OneNote for Windows 10 and OneNote 2016, I choose the former every time. And that should be seen as a victory for Microsoft’s UWP.

With that in mind, Microsoft’s other Office apps have not been given the same attention. Even now, they have been hidden in the store, despite receiving updates to grant them Fluent Design, Microsoft has not added any substantial features to these apps since their debut. Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel and Word still cannot, at this point, open multiple files at once like one would expect from a productivity app. Support for more extensive formatting and newer Office 365 features like “Read Aloud” (which exists in OneNote and for Office Mobile on the iPad) likewise, remains limited.
The other Office Mobile apps need to be given the same treatment, at least from my perspective and point of view. That is not to say that they are especially poor apps, they are decent apps. Like I noted, Microsoft has been updating them at a steady clip, but the firm appears to be about to give them the axe.

Google’s Chromebooks merit a comparison here, while the devices have access to Google Docs on the web, the Android version of Google Docs remains available to laptop users, offering powerful document creation options that almost rival Microsoft’s. While the Android app is, of course, inferior to the desktop version, it remains a viable option.

When one compares Android apps on the desktops to UWP, it quickly becomes clear that Microsoft is in a better position when considering how well the app works on the desktop. Universal Windows apps are by and large, now built for large screen devices, and Android apps for smaller screens. Microsoft, therefore, has a better chance of pushing an app which was built as a mobile-first app initially, to be a suitable tool for desktop users.

Of course, there are arguments to be made against this position. This would require Microsoft to maintain multiple versions of the same app, which could lead to a bad user experience in terms of users having to choose between which app to use for what scenario. There is a chance that some users would just default to the most powerful and full-featured apps.
For non-power users of word apps who simply do the basics, they are perfect. It can be argued that they simply don’t do enough to merit user attention as opposed to similar free tools like Google Docs, LibreOffice and other free office suites. In that case, why not allow them to be free? Microsoft wouldn’t be losing customers that way, as they wouldn’t be paying for Office anyway, and having customers already using the easy, free to use versions of Office offers an opportunity for an upsell. Microsoft already does this on the web, offering Office Online for free to users who are the main mode of computing is the browser. Even on desktops, Microsoft offers a stripped down version of Outlook for users, while a full version can be unlocked as part of an Office 365 subscription.
Windows Central’s Zac Bowden makes a similar argument, saying:”If making them free is too much of a loss for Microsoft, it could still take a slightly different approach. Rebrand these apps as Office Lite or Office Online, but bundle them with every install of Windows 10. This way, they’re front and centre on all devices, and if the user wants the full version of Office, they can upgrade through any of the UWP Office apps. This would also give Windows 10 inbox support for office file formats.”

With OneNote for Windows 10, Microsoft has proven that it has the capability to make amazing universal Windows 10 apps for productivity without compromising on fluidity. Now, it should do so for the rest of the Office Suite.

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