Office Mobile won't work on your tablet PC without this trick

If you try to use a corporate or education Office 365 subscription on a personal tablet, Microsoft will lead you astray

Office Mobile won't work on your tablet PC without this trick

Microsoft released the final version of its touch-savvy Office Mobile suite yesterday for Windows 10 tablet PCs. But good luck trying to get it to work with a corporate Office 365 account if you're using it on a tablet associated to a personal Microsoft account.

The Office Mobile apps for Windows 10 -- Excel, PowerPoint, and Word -- require an Office 365 subscription to do any editing. (By contrast, the iOS and Android versions provide limited editing if you don't have a subscription.) When you launch any of these apps on your tablet PC, they check to see if you have such a license.

That's fine, except Microsoft screwed up what happens when it does that check and offers to solve a lack of detected license. As a result, you won't be able to use your corporate Office 365 subscription on that personal tablet PC -- or so it appears. In fact you can, as I'll explain shortly.

Here's what happens: When you launch an Office Mobile app on a Windows 10 tablet PC, the app uses the Microsoft account ID with which you signed into your tablet PC and checks if you have an Office 365 account with that ID. If not, it displays an alert that includes the Activate button to presumably let you use an existing Office 365 subscription.

That's where Microsoft fails. Clicking the Activate button brings you to a Microsoft Office 365 website where you can sign into to Office 365. But it doesn't activate Office Mobile on your PC tablet; it lets you purchase an Office 365 subscription, or if you already have one, it lets you sign in to get access in your browser to Office Online.

(Interestingly, if I did so in the new Microsoft Edge browser on a Surface tablet PC, I got an error message saying Office Online is not compatible with Edge and I should use Internet Explorer instead. But my colleague Woody Leonhard didn't get that error when he did the same thing on his Surface Pro 3.)

Even though you think you've activated Office Mobile on your tablet PC, you haven't, and thus, you can't use any of its editing controls.

Here's what you have to do: When you launch an Office Mobile app, dismiss the alert saying you need to activate and look for your name in the upper-right corner of the app. Although there's no indication that your name is a button, it is. Click it to get a window where you can enter your corporate (or other) Office 365 subscription information. Once you do that, Office Mobile works as it should.

Microsoft didn't think about corporate or education users who are likely to have a personal device accessing their corporate or education Office 365 subscriptions. That's strange, since Microsoft has the separate OneDrive for Business for those accounts to keep work data separate from personal -- Office 365 is designed to work in both personal and work contexts at the same time. It's clear that one hand doesn't know what the other has done.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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