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Microsoft Excel on the new MacBook Pro with support for the new Touch Bar. (Microsoft Photo)

Microsoft’s Office team knows a few things about toolbars that show different buttons depending on what the user is doing at any given moment. That’s the core idea behind the Office ribbon, the feature that replaced the familiar old menus in Word and Excel, etc., starting nearly a decade ago.

Word for Mac with support for the MacBook Touch Bar. (Microsoft Photo)

So it was interesting, and maybe not surprising, to see Microsoft among the launch partners for the new “Touch Bar,” the ever-changing, interactive multitouch strip that Apple announced as the flagship feature of its new MacBook Pro at its special event this morning.

But how will the Touch Bar work with Office apps? Microsoft this afternoon provided a series of examples to illustrate.

  • In Word, the feature will work with “Focus Mode,” placing commonly used editing and formatting tools on the Touch Bar so users can keep the document full-screen.
  • PowerPoint users will be able to use the Touch Bar to find, move and rotate graphical elements in a slide deck.
  • In Excel, the Touch Bar will show recently used functions when users type an equals sign into a cell, and provide access to formatting and chart options.
  • Outlook will show common commands in the Tool Bar and provides quick access to recent documents when people are composing a new email. It will also let users join a Skype for Business meeting from the Tool Bar.
Skype for Business on the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar support. (Microsoft Photo)
Skype for Business on the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar support. (Microsoft Photo)

The new MacBook Pros with the Touch Bar will ship in two to three weeks. The 13″ MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar will start at $1799. The 15″ will start at $2399. Apple will also sell an entry level 13″ MacBook Pro without a Touch Bar, starting at $1499.

Apple and Microsoft have a long and complex history, competing and working together in a variety of different areas. The Microsoft Office team’s support for Mac has long been a mainstay of the relationship.

As noted by Microsoft VP Kirk Koenigsbauer, it has been a big week for the Office team, which also announced support for ink, drawing and 3D features of Microsoft’s Windows 10 Creators Update, in addition to integrating Office features with Microsoft’s Surface Studio and Surface Dial accessory.

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