Microsoft Office Web Apps

Category: Software

Office Web Apps is Microsoft's answer to Google Docs and other online office apps. Even if you don't have MS Office installed on your computer, you will be able to create, edit, save, and share Office documents with other people - all in your web browser...

Office Web Apps

What Is Microsoft Office Web Apps and When Will It Be Ready?

Microsoft is famous for vaporware -- the practice of hyping software that doesn't yet exist. Software vendors do this to compete with products that DO exist, by letting you know that "soon" they will be releasing something new that's going to be so awesome, you might as well not bother using any competing products in the mean time. I'm not saying Office Web Apps won't be a great product, just that you can't use it now.

Office Web Apps will be based "in the cloud", hosted on Microsoft servers. Users will access their documents and edit them via Web browsers. (Any bets only Internet Explorer will work with Office Apps?) Multiple users will be able to view and edit a single document simultaneously, creating all sorts of opportunities for collaboration and havoc. You know the old saying about what too many cooks do to the broth...

Office Web Apps will solve one major problem that online document-sharing services such as Google Docs and Zoho Office can't. It will display Office docs exactly as they would appear in the desktop versions of Office components.

Office Web Apps is far from ready at this time. But you can apply for preview access, don a hard hat, and wander the Office Web Apps construction site while the girders are going up. Then, when Office Apps goes live in the first half of 2010, you will have a good idea how Microsoft will compete with other cloud-based document-sharing services before the rest of the world figures it out.

Preview Office Web Apps With SkyDrive

One consumer-oriented, advertising-supported version of Office Web Apps is online now. It does not support all of the features planned for the corporate, subscription-based service. You can try it by logging on to SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud-based file storage system. When you get into SkyDrive you will find various folders to which you can upload existing documents or save ones that you create online. Then you can open a file, but not easily.

In the current implementation, when you click on a document it doesn't simply open. Instead, you are taken to a Web page of file information and a comments form. Click again and the file finally opens. One can only hope this "feature" goes away in the final release of Office Web Apps.

Web Apps are available for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents at this time. Microsoft Word, arguably the most used part of Office, is the least developed Web App right now. Essentially, it is just a file viewer. You can upload and download files, and print them. That's it.

However, the Word documents look great, or as great as they do in Office on the desktop. One caveat is that if you use non-standard fonts, you must embed them in the Word document or they won't be displayed in Office Web Apps. Instead, approximations using generic fonts will be substituted.

Excel Web App seems to be the most mature of the Web Apps right now. But it includes only two of the seven ribbons found in the desktop version: Home and Insert. The Home ribbon has only a subset of the desktop version's options. The Insert ribbon only lets you insert a table or a hyperlink. PowerPoint Web App is pretty much at the same level as Excel Web App.

So, Office Web Apps is presently in "alpha" stage, not fit for human consumption. But it is already significantly different from other online document-sharing services, and it bears watching.

Do you have comments or questions about Office Web Apps? Post your thoughts below...

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Most recent comments on "Microsoft Office Web Apps"

Posted by:

Todd Quinton
17 Oct 2009

Why has Microsoft taken so long to come up with something to compete with the likes of Google Docs? Surely they've seen how popular Google Docs have been, and a juggernaut like Microsoft could've put a team on this and knocked out something in no time! To be honest, I am rather puzzled on that.

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