'No, we are not rewriting Office in JavaScript' and other Microsoft tales

The week's good, bad and weird from Redmond

Javascript photo via Shutterstock

E3 aside, the team at Redmond were busy last week with a smattering of the good, the bad and the frankly odd.

Windows ups and downs

Dishwasher comparison pros Which? weighed in on user grief over Windows 10 while Microsoft killed off a bunch of support forums for old versions of the OS.

Microsoft also insisted that everything was fine and dandy in the Windows update world, which might come as a surprise to many users. Mark Kermode, film critic and contributor to the BBC's award-winning Wittertainment* radio show and podcast, was heard admonishing his laptop with: "No, I don't want you to update Windows. STOP IT! NO!" as the show tried to get under way. We feel your pain, Mark. We feel your pain.

Office rules

Microsoft announced plans to tinker with the Office UI, with the infamous ribbon being snipped to size and AI elbowing its way into the party to save users hunting for functions. Almost lost in the noise around the UI changes was the announcement of a commercial preview of Office 2019 for Mac, due to ship alongside the Windows incarnation and including the dreaded focused inbox for Outlook users. Hidden away in the release notes were updates to command line tools, allowing admins to control deployment and management of Office 2019 in a Mac environment, showing Redmond is taking seriously the creeping advance of Apple's shiny toys into the corporate world.

The iOS incarnation of Office also received a version uptick last week. Hyperlinks can now be any colour a user desires and PowerPoint presentations need no longer suffer from poor alignment when put together on an iPad thanks to the inclusion of a digital ruler.

Office ported to JavaScript? No, not really

A spat on social media shed light on how Microsoft is coding its wares. It also made some suspect that the software giant might be making a giant leap from its C++ roots for its Office suite.

In response to some snark on the uses of scripting languages from J Daniel Garcia, an associate professor in computer architecture in Madrid, Microsoft's Sean Larkin snapped back with the following tweet:

The resultant furore arising from the possibility of Office 365 being ported to JavaScript led to a very public "clarification" from Larkin less than 12 hours later, explaining that while the likes of Teams and Visual Studio Code are written with TypeScript, which is compiled to JavaScript powered by Electron, C++ and C# would not be going away anytime soon (or ever). While bits of the Office UI may see some love from React Native, the development team will continue using the likes of C++ where appropriate.

So nothing to see here. Move along.

The Register asked Microsoft if there were any plans to perhaps shift Office 365 to a platform such as Progressive Web Apps and received a very clear message from a spokesperson: "No, we are not rewriting Office in JavaScript."

Secret Surfaces and Swiftkey hints

A public "leak" of codenames led to a considerable amount of speculation on the shape of Windows devices over the coming year. As well what may well be the expected budget Surface device, the leak also hinted at a major update to the Surface Pro line and also the near-mythical Andromeda device.

A cynic might suggest that at this point Microsoft is simply trolling Windows Phone holdouts, who still dream of a Windows 10-powered Surface Phone.

However, with Intel showing off its foldable dual-screen e-ink PC at Computex and Microsoft bringing its SwiftKey keyboard to Windows 10 in the latest preview build of the next release, something is clearly afoot.

The inclusion of SwiftKey, an intelligent mobile device keyboard that purports to learn from a user's writing style, is interesting and points to Windows 10 appearing on mobile devices again in the future. Microsoft acquired SwiftKey in 2016, just as it was becoming clear that Windows Phone was nearing the end of the road. ®

* Wittertainment: a weekly film review radio show and podcast from the BBC presented by Simon Mayo with bequiffed contributor, film critic Mark Kermode. Reports that Microsoft plan to create a specific version of its operating system for Kermode, featuring Windows Hello (to Jason Isaacs) are purely in the imagination of the writer.

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