Microsoft Office Web Apps review

The Office Web Apps also cope admirably with huge documents. We’ve uploaded a 174-page Word document – replete with tables, graphics and and dozens of images – and hugely complex Excel spreadsheets, and the performance is very impressive, if not quite fully up to desktop speed. The brilliant new document search facility introduced with Word 2010 has also been added to the Web App, making it easy to find words or phrases in lengthy texts.

PowerPoint Web App new

But the Web Apps are a long way short of full desktop power and full of bizarre inconsistencies. In PowerPoint, for example, you can give an embedded picture a lovely 3D photo frame with reflection effect, but you can’t resize it. Similarly, there’s no way to change a chart style in Excel, while the spell checker in Word is so rudimentary you’ll wonder if you’ve been transported back to 1991.

Also missing is one of Google Docs’ chief attractions: the ability to collaborate simultaneously on Word documents. In the PC Pro office, Google Docs has become the default brainstorming application, where members of the team bash ideas for features into the same page. For reasons best known to itself Microsoft has decided to restrict simultaneous editing to Excel and OneNote, denying people the chance to edit different parts of a report together, for example.

In short, it feels like a work in progress, and hopefully features like these will be added in the coming months.

OneNote new

What is impressive is how Microsoft has weaved the Web Apps into the desktop software. Among the Save options in Office 2010 is an option to Save to Web, where you simply plug in your Windows Live login and save the file directly to the chosen folder on your SkyDrive. The SkyDrive service offers both private and public folders, making it easy to use the Web Apps as both a personal backup folder and a document share.

In conclusion, while Google Docs and alternatives such as the excellent feel like fully-fledged applications, Microsoft’s Office Web Apps feel more like glorified document viewers. That doesn’t mean they won’t be useful. Being able to access and make tweaks to full-fidelity Office documents from any PC with a web browser will most certainly have its uses, and in some cases might even save companies from paying for extra licences for home workers.

Microsoft has, however, erred on the side of caution, perhaps fearful that making its Web Apps too powerful could result in the Office cash cow being prematurely sent to the abattoir. The onus is now back on Google to up its game and force Microsoft to offer more features for free.


Software subcategoryOffice software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported?yes
Operating system Windows XP supported?yes
Operating system Linux supported?no

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