Microsoft has unveiled updates to its Office applications on multiple platforms, including digital inking support for Apple iPad users, new collaboration capabilities and Office Insider preview builds available for Mac users.
The company has offered versions of Office apps for Apple's iPad tablets since 2014, available to download for free with basic functionality, while signing in with an Office 365 account unlocks more features such as document creating and editing capabilities.
Microsoft has now updated the Office apps with digital inking tools that allow input on the screen using a finger, or the Apple Pencil accessory for the iPad Pro, when working on documents, presentations, spreadsheets and notes.
The update adds a new Draw tab on the Office ribbon, from where users can select a pen, highlighter or eraser, customise the selected tool with a colour wheel and adjust the thickness of the lines. A Convert to Shapes feature automatically transforms hand-sketched shapes such as circles into perfect versions.
However, Microsoft has made the inking capability one of the features that require an Office 365 subscription to unlock.
On the collaboration side, Microsoft has added real-time co-authoring support to PowerPoint Mobile for Windows tablets, while PowerPoint 2016 on Windows gains a real-time presence notification that lets the user see who else is working on the same document and where.
Microsoft disclosed that basic co-authoring and AutoSave capabilities will be available to Office Insider participants in the next Preview builds of Word and PowerPoint for Android. Word and PowerPoint on the iPhone and iPad already support these.
"We'll continue to expand these and other new collaboration features across the Office suite to help you work easily with others across many different devices," said Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Office team, on the Office 365 blog.
Microsoft is also extending the PowerPoint Designer and Morph features to additional platforms. Morph is now available in PowerPoint on the iPhone, iPad and iPad Pro, while Office Insiders on Android devices will be able to try PowerPoint Designer and Morph in the next Preview build, the firm said.
Finally, Mac users can now sign up for Microsoft's Office Insider programme, which provides early access to forthcoming Office updates. The programme was announced last November, and follows the same pattern as the Windows Insider facility that allows testers to access new versions of Windows before their general release.
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