Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook — nearly every computer user knows these applications. Every few years, Microsoft releases a new, revamped version of its office suite. This week, Office 2010 has been published. The special thing: You can use the software for free — on the Web, as so-called Web App.
All you need to use the online applications with your browser is a computer with Web access, and an account on Microsoft’s website. Signing up at live.com is free. A small welcome present consists of 25 GB web storage for documents.
Afterwards, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote are really available online, directly in your browser. You can load existing Office documents, create new documents, edit them, store them online, print them and much more. Microsoft hopes to gain more attention with the Office Web Apps.
Advantages of working online
There are several advantages of using online apps. You don’t have to install any software, you can use the Office programs on any computer with Web access and edit your own documents there easily. You don’t need CDs nor USB sticks to transfer data to other computers. Instead, you can access your docs from wherever you are, anytime you want to.
Additionally, it is possible to create and edit documents in a team. Each document can either be private, so only you yourself can view and edit it. Or you can make a document public, so anybody can view it. Another possibility: Sharing a document with specific people only. In this case, you can edit a document with multiple users at the same time (!), for example in a workgroup. Advantage: You don’t have to send any documents back and forth via e-mail, but you can work online directly.
Web Apps are light versions of the full programs
The Web apps (online versions) are trimmed down versions of the full programs. By far not all features available in the programs you can buy, are also available in the online variants. Especially advanced features are missing in the Web Apps.
The feature basis of the free Web versions is impressive nevertheless. The new Web Apps are sufficient for many tasks, for example to write (and print) a letter, but not for printing a mass mailing, this can only be done with the full Word version.
Regarding the speed, the Web Apps are not as fast as the native programs: Loading big documents, moving photos, dropping down menu bars can consume some time. The exact placing of objects in a document is easier with the full versions than with Web App.
Accessing your documents anytime, anywhere, without having to buy or install Office 2010, is useful without a doubt. However, you will want to use the full version the longer you use the software intensely. Nevertheless, the Web Apps are more than just a teaser for the full programs. The native applications support the Web Apps and thus connect Offline and Online programs.
Step against Google
Microsoft bringing Office 2010 into the Web is also a step against Google’s monopoly. The search engine primus is offering Google Docs for a while, working somewhat similar. The difference to Office 2010 is that Google Docs is exclusively available online, there is no offline version.
There are more text and spreadsheet programs. Looking at the feature set, Microsoft and Google’s versions are the most comparable ones.