Yesterday Microsoft announced the technical preview of Office Web Apps. A suite of Microsoft’s popular desktop programs Word, Excel and PowerPoint that are now built into the web browser allowing users rich fidelity of documents anywhere, anytime, any device. Microsoft Office Web Apps will be delivered as part of the next generation of Office products and services (Office 2010). With this announcement, its also official that Office Web Apps are now a part of the Windows Live which I am excited about. Yesterday evening, I had a chance to check out these applications and so far I am very impressed with what I have experienced. Let me get this out of the way right now, Office Word Web kicks Google Docs to the curb. From performance to the richness of viewing documents. Microsoft has a hit on their hands here and I can’t wait to see more functionality added to the service over the next few months. Microsoft Office Web Apps support the following web browsers: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Apples Safari.
Setup & Access
End User License Agreement
To use Office Web Apps, you will need to have a Windows Live ID (Hotmail, Live, MSN) account with access to Windows Live Skydrive. Once you have your account setup, simply go to a folder containing Office documents such as Word, Excel or PowerPoint or upload some files to your Skydrive (http://skydrive.live.com). When you open a folder with Office files in it, you will see a banner for the first time announcing a request to "Join our preview program to create, edit, view, and share Office documents online!" Once you click this link, you will be asked to accept a EULA which is currently a Technical Preview (Beta).
Selecting your Office document to view or edit
After setting up the service, select a document from your library, which will display a gallery of options, such as View, Edit, Download, Delete, Move etc. Right now, you are limited to viewing Documents, no editing which will be coming soon. My interest is primarily to see if the formatting is preserved in the web browser. After clicking View, your document will be loaded and that’s it!
How does it look?
A table rendered beautifully in Microsoft Word Web App
Well, its just like viewing in Microsoft Word on the desktop. Boring I know and that’s a good thing. You will notice that you are limited with you can do for now, but documents are rendered just like you would have them in Microsoft Word 2007, the same fonts, paragraphs and even tables are displayed correctly.
Functionality available in Office Web Word app now are limited to viewing, searching the document, printing and scan through documents quickly. The interface maintains some similarity with the desktop versions in particular Office 2010. If you are limited on screen real estate, you can click the pop out button (located in the upper left hand corner of the screen), which will display your document in a separate window minus the web browsers file menu and toolbars. Alternatively, you can gain more real estate in either Firefox or Internet Explorer by hitting the F11 key on your keyboard. Performance is quite good, I was able to load 1.7 MB Word Document in under a minute, considering its 29 pages of text and, complex table and numerous images.
Office Web Apps are limited for the time being, but more functionality is expected soon!
Suggestions and Conclusion
Right now, as much as I love the Windows Live wave branding, I think it takes away a lot of real estate, this is not a problem on high resolution monitors. But for me, I would like to see more of my document, so possibly making the banner that reveals the path to your document in the Skydrive much thinner in height would be nice. Just like the desktop version of Microsoft Office apps, I would prefer if the file name is displayed in the title bar "Microsoft Office Web App (Technical Preview) – File Name" to maintain some consistency in look and feel. These are minor suggestions anyway, but I like what I see and it should open up a new world of productivity for users. For instance, I am working on the "ActiveWin: Windows 7 Ultimate Review" which is 67 pages of content, the most frustrating part is being told I have to make a few changes here and there. This means, I need to load up Microsoft Word, make the change then upload it back to my Skydrive Collaboration folder. With Office Word App, I don’t need to do this anymore, I can make changes or the person with whom I am sharing/collaborating with on the document can do this if necessary from within web browser with no need to download or re-upload. If you need to make more complex changes, you can always download the file back into Office Word on the desktop and apply changes. Its clear benefits like that I see Office Web Apps making a huge impact.