Thursday, November 7, 2013

Office Web Apps (free online Office) now Support Collaboration

This post discusses the latest feature of Microsoft's free Office Web Apps and how they convinced me to defect from Google Docs after being a loyal Google Docs user for nearly four years.

As a Microsoft Gold Partner, I've had access to Office's online versions since their inception in 2011. I have never cared to use this online Office suite for one specific reason, there was no built in collaboration. As of today, Microsoft has added real-time co-authoring to its Office Web App versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint (to see the full write up, see the Office 365 blog, "Collaboration just got easier: Real-time co-authoring now available in Office Web Apps"). These new features allow users to modify documents simultaneously.

Signing up for Microsoft's free Office Web App versions is simple. Navigate to (which will redirect you to The following screen will be displayed:

There are lots of "for pay" options on the previous screen but the key to free Office Web Apps is to click on MY OFFICE which displays the following screen:

Sign in with your Microsoft Live ID and you have access to free online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint:

Up until today, I have been a huge proponent of Google Docs because Google Docs allows sharing and collaboration. Case in point, I was the trustee of a trust and had to provide yearly accounting. I simply shared a Google spreadsheet with the other beneficiaries of the trust. I was able to provide real-time access to the trust accounting without getting near an envelope or stamp.

What I disliked about Google Docs was how it changed document formatting. Case in point, I uploaded my resume in Word format to Google Docs. When I exported it again the formatting was changed. This is not he only limitation in Google Docs. There was a learning curve with Google Docs -- I had spent years working with Office's desktop versions. The Google Docs interface was fairly easy to use but I was still faster at using Microsoft Office for desktop.

What makes Microsoft Office Web Apps so elegant is how the user interface of each Office Web application mirrors the user interface of their desktop counterpart. An example of this is as follows where Microsoft Office Web Word contains the same layout and familiar ribbon as desktop Word:

The interface to access the word-processor associated with Google Docs is not nearly so familiar:

The final perk of using Office Web Apps is that the documents retain the same formatting as the desktop version of Office, hence I've become a Office Web Apps convert.


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