The Microsoft Office Web applications went live, on Live, today. I’ve only had a brief look but first impressions are pretty good.
Live goes Office or Office goes Live?
From Office.live.com (* see footnote if not in the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland) you get access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. The files are hosted on Microsoft Skydrive which currently offers 25GB of free storage. They feel like basic Office 2010 applications with all you need to create, view, edit and share documents in the current Office xml based formats (old documents are migrated to .docx .xlsx ,pptx etc).
Word, for words
Word, as with all the app’s, adopts the Office 2010 Ribbon UI feel. Even more complex elements like Style/Content Galleries and contextual Ribbons are supported. I felt these work better on a Windows 7 machine but an old laptop running XP SP3 supported everything I tried. It appears all the document features from Office Word are supported but the web application only provides a limited creation toolset. Perfectly adequate for simple documents or editing more complex documents created elsewhere.
Does XP or the Quadro lag behind?
It appears the more modern your O/S the better the experience as I found a Win 7 machine handled the graphic aspects better than XP. Maybe it was the hardware as the XP machine had a Quadro card whereas the Win 7 was running a consumer Geforce card. The app’s loaded and worked fine but on XP Word exhibited a “cursor lag” where it appeared to fall behind where you were actually typing.
Excel offers the basics, supports more.
I found the Web Excel more suitable for viewing than editing as struggled to enter Formulas (other than typing them). Perhaps I need to spend more time with it?
What did impress was being able to open the file in (real) Office Excel, add more complex content like Pivot Tables and save back to SkyDrive. This was as easy as working on a local drive and, even using Excel 2003 with the xml update, worked fine. The resulting document is seen below with simple Table and Name/Data list created in the Web app, the Pivot Table in Excel 2003.
Will it be, Death by PowerPoint Web?
You won’t be able to blame PowerPoint Web for boring presentations. It offers a reasonable selection of templates and clipart/elements for your slides. I uploaded an old format .ppt to Skydrive. On initial access it was copied to the new .pptx format for Office Web to edit and the original was left untouched. That is reassuring if you are concerned about migration problems or compatibility. I found the new file faithfully rendered the (admittedly simple) content. PowerPoint Web was fine for editing and presenting the file with the usual edit, read and slideshow modes on offer.
You can embed the files with code provided on the Share options or just email a URL. Below is a cut down edition of the Tips & Tricks I presented to Revit User Group Auckland. Have a look!
OneNote, finally where it should be?
OneNote is a journal, content aggregator and notebook that doesn’t really get the respect it deserves in the Office line-up. OneNote on a Tablet PC is the ultimate digital pad, eclipsing that one with an i as a note taking device. I hope having OneNote on the web will encourage more people to try it, maybe regard it as your cloudy desk pad?
Here, there, everywhere, It’s all about Sharing
From the SkyDrive “folder” you can Edit in browser, Share or download the document.
From within the application the File button menu offers a variety of open, save, download and share options. Sharing ranges from nobody to public and is set with a simple slider (below) or by adding specific people.
So, why would you Google Doc?
To be honest, I don’t know. I already have Office and now it can do all the sharing and “webbyness” I’m likely to need.
Why bother with an imitation when you, anyone, can use the real thing?
Over the last few months, we've gotten incredible feedback from the hundreds of thousands of users in our Office Web Apps Technical Preview. We’ve been busy incorporating much of that feedback, and today, Office Web Apps on SkyDrive are now available to everyone in the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland…”
* Don’t despair outside if not in the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland
“If you don’t live in one of those regions, you can still get access – just click here. You might not get the Web Apps in your favourite language yet, as we are still rolling out updates to different regions. Note that people you share documents with may also need to visit the link above before they can access the documents you share with them.”