Microsoft Office Web Apps are free versions of productivity programs for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac OS X.
Also check out Choosing Your Best Version of Microsoft Office.
All About Office Apps
You are likely to hear about Microsoft Office apps in two different ways:
1. As a new type of add-in, that enhances the full-function versions of Microsoft Office. For more on this kind of app please check out Add-ins and Apps in Microsoft Office.
2. As a trimmed-down, free, stand-alone productivity program known as an Office Web App, which you can find out more about below.
Microsoft Office Web Apps Defined
Think of Microsoft’s latest Web Apps as mini-programs that are portable because they function online or offline.
The idea is, you can do fundamental tasks on the go and then sync up with the full-function program later for projects needing rigorous editing.
Office Web Apps are a more simplified, streamlined form of the full-function version of Microsoft Office.
Available Web App Programs and How to Try Them Out
Experience the Office Web Apps a couple different ways:
1. As part of the Office 2013 Preview, you can create a sign-in and try out the new Microsoft Office On Demand, which takes you to a main Documents screen. Office On Demand is like taking the whole idea of Office Web Apps to one more level, because you can access more functions than the web apps.
2. Currently, Microsoft’s entire suite is not available in Web App form, but the most popular programs are. These links are for templates showing each program—view them now for free, and edit them for free by signing in with your Microsoft Account ID, which allows you to access SkyDrive. You may already have this if you have used a Windows Live ID or other Microsoft product ID in the past.
- Microsoft’s Word Web App
- Microsoft’s Excel Web App
- Microsoft’s PowerPoint Web App
- Microsoft’s OneNote Web App
Note that Outlook.com, while not an app, is Microsoft’s new browser-based email service (replacing hotmail and msn mail). In this way, it functions alongside the official Microsoft Web Apps.
The Office Web Apps User Experience
Web Apps are high-fidelity, meaning documents created in them look the same as documents created in the full-function Office programs. Users can do more than just read documents, but the authoring experience is by nature limited.
Visually, the interface in an Office Web App approximates that of the full-function Office programs, including familiar ribbon, menu, and tool screen elements.
That said, other aspects are more streamlined. For example, users do not have to open each program separately. Many of my projects utilize a spreadsheet and presentation, for example. Instead, one just goes to the Web Apps Documents screen to create any type of document while simultaneously assigning it a name to save to. It sounds simple, but for anyone creating documents all day, this is fantastic.
Collaboration in Office Web Apps
Multi-user editing allows collaboration in real-time. If some collaborators are offline, their edits will be merged in as well as soon as they re-connect.
Web Apps truly facilitate sharing, because all that is needed is an internet connection. If you save your work to the online Microsoft SkyDrive account, you can give someone who doesn’t own Office permission to view that folder online.
The Cost of Microsoft Web Apps and Office 365 Subscriptions
Microsoft’s Web App programs are currently free. This could change as the apps increase in functionality and popularity.
What aren’t free, are the upgraded cloud options most business users will want, such as storage. This is where Understanding Office Suite Subscriptions (Office 365) comes in.
Office Versions Compatible with the Office Web Apps
Users can open, read, and edit files authored in Office 2007, Office 2010, Office 2013 Preview, Office 2008 for Mac, and Office 2011 for Mac.
Browsers Supporting Microsoft Office Web Apps
Microsoft Office Web Apps can run on each of the major internet browsers: Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.
Platforms Supporting Microsoft Web Apps
Microsoft Office Web Apps are compatible, with varying touch capabilities and functionality, on many platforms, as follows:
- Mac OS X
- iOS - Also check out Microsoft Office Mobile for iPad, iPhone, Ipod with Office 365 Account
While most Office Web App users are drawn to the portability on a mobile device such as a phone or tablet, Office apps can be used on a Windows or Mac laptop or desktop as well.
Alternatives to Office Web Apps
Questions? Please let me know, and best of luck as you try out this productivity option.