Microsoft preps Office Reader for Windows 8.1 and Lens for phones

New information from Redmond reveals that the firm is creating a Metro-style Office extension codenamed “Office Reader”. The software aims to be a consuming content app capable of supporting a variety of document formats. The Verge reports that Microsoft showcased the app during a big employee meeting, among other things the company also showed “Office Lens” and a number of updates coming to the Office suite in the “Gemini” wave.

Believe it or not, this is kind of big deal, because it is the first official sign from the software giant demonstrating a Windows 8-style version Office, even though it’s not the full version. Office Reader has support for pretty much all your everyday file formats, including Office documents, of course, PDFs, eBooks, textbooks, and it also renders web pages.

At launch the Windows 8-style app will feature three sections: library, recommendations, and sources. Also this won’t be just to view content in your Windows device, you’ll be able to interact with content. For example, you’ll be able to use a stylus pen (like the one for Surface Pro), Microsoft demo showed that users will be able to use handwriting (e.g., highlight, circle, and note) on any supported document. According to The Verge the report notes you make on a document are “stored and listed in a side panel”.

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The software giant is also adding Bing to the mix to make content richer by bringing data from the web. For example, you’ll be able to select a portion of text and then research that information on a sidebar on the right — pretty much what you can do now in Office 2013 and Google Docs –, and all just blend together with Windows 8.1.

Microsoft is also planning a new extension called OneNote Capture Service, which basically is a cloud service that let you save content for later viewing — like Reading List for Windows 8, but not the same. I presume it will be like Google Keep –. Finally, the company is building “Office Lens” for Windows Phone, an app that you can use to take pictures of content, which then is scan with Microsoft’s own OCR ( Optical Character Recognition) engine to translate the picture into a searchable items. We’ll see more as Microsoft gets closer to the “Gemini” releases in 2014.

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