Microsoft Office Web Apps go to testers: Ten things to know

Microsoft Office Web Apps go to testers: Ten things to know

Summary: Microsoft is making available to thousands of pre-selected testers on September 17 the first Community Technology Preview (CTP) test build of its Web-ified version of Office. Here are ten things about the CTP of Office Web Apps that I found interesting.


Microsoft is making available to thousands of pre-selected testers on September 17 the first Community Technology Preview (CTP) test build of its Web-ified version of Office.

Office Web Apps

(Check out some new screen shots of the Office Web Apps.)

Microsoft officials first announced plans for Office Web Apps -- an offering that many industry watchers consider the Redmondians' response to Google Docs -- in November 2008. The Office Web Apps CTP originally was due to tester in August. Throughout the past few months, Microsoft officials have continued to stress that Office Web Apps aren't meant to replace Office, but to complement it. (We'll see whether that actually comes to pass, given tight IT budgets and the multiple-hundred-dollar price tag for client-based Office -- two factors that seem to be doing Google Docs no harm among small- and mid-size business users, according to a new IDC study.)

Microsoft plans to make the CTP of the free, consumer version available to testers via Windows Live SkyDrive, around 1 pm ET. Testers will get access to Word Web App, Excel Web App and PowerPoint Web App. One Note Web App access will be added this fall. Contrary to some Web reports, Microsoft has no plans to add a Visio Web App to the line-up.

Microsoft's game plan remains to deliver a public beta of Office Web Apps later this fall and the final version in the first half of calendar 2010 (I've heard May/June). Microsoft officials also confirmed today that the final name for Office Web Apps will be... drum roll.... Office Web Apps. (So much for all that research on other possible names.)

Here are ten things about the CTP of Office Web Apps that I found interesting:

1. Who's getting access to today's CTP? Just because you were part of Microsoft's Office 2010 and/or SharePoint 2010 July CTPs doesn't guarantee you also will be part of the Office Web Apps CTP. Microsoft officials told me thousands of testers will be granted access to the Web Apps, including many Office Live Workspace users, partners and other testers. Testing at this stage is being limited to U.S. English and Japanese users, Microsoft officials said.

2. How can I get the CTP? The way testers and, ultimately, consumers, will get Office Web Apps is by accessing documents stored in Windows Live SkyDrive, Microsoft's free online storage service. Microsoft officials had said previously that the Web Apps would be made available via Windows Live/Office Live (which are now one thing known as Windows Live) but didn't explain further. This means if you want Office Web Apps, you'll need a Windows Live account (which is free). Under the "More" tab, users can find their pre-designated SkyDrives. SkyDrive has a limit of 25 GB and that applies to Office Web Apps, as well. 3. Why is feature "X" not working? This CTP is not feature-complete. It includes only the Web-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. (OneNote is coming with the beta later this fall.) And even those apps are pretty far from done. The Word Web App in the CTP doesn't allow users to create or edit documents; those capabilities won't go live until the beta release. And in the CTP, neither the Excel Web App nor the PowerPoint Web App will let you publish, or embed, a PowerPoint slide show or Excel Spreadsheet directly into into a blog or website. 4. What happens to Office Live Workspace? If you're among the 10.5 million people Microsoft officials say are currently using Office Live Workspace, Microsoft's collaboration service that was a pre-cursor to Office Web Apps, here's what to expect: Office Live Workspace will be superseded by Office Web Apps. Workspace customers will be upgraded automatically to Office Web Apps and Microsoft is committing to provide migration information and assistance in migrating data once Web Apps are available.

5. This is a Windows-only thing, right? Actually, Office Web Apps can be accessed from Windows, Macs and Linux systems. The requirement is those machines be running Internet Explorer 7.0 or higher; Firefox 3.5 or higher or Safari 4 for the Mac. No Chrome, no Opera, no Safari for Windows. (At least not for now.)

6. So if Office Web Apps really are cross-browser, can I try them out on my iPhone? Here's where Microsoft officials' answers are a bit squishy: They are saying mobile access for Office Web Apps will be coming in the beta and beyond. But they won't say how this is happening or for which devices/browsers. Microsoft also is continuing to develop a version of Office 2010 that will run on mobile devices (the Office for Mobile product). But officials are continuing to decline to offer any update on when that mobile release will go to testers, which devices it will support, or when the final version will ship.

7. Are these Web App versions of Office simply mini-, Web-based versions of the full-fledged Microsoft Office apps? Not exactly. While the Web Apps have a Ribbon UI, it won't have all of the functionality and options of the Ribbons that are part of Office 2007 and Office 2010. Ditto with the rest of the functionality in the Web Apps. While they will look familiar to Office users, they won't include every Office bell and whistle. (If they did, why would anyone pay for the client version of Office?)

8. If they can do so much of what Ofice does, why does Microsoft describe Office Web Apps as extensions to Office -- beyond the obvious reluctance to cannibalize its own Office sales? If you are writing a book, creating a massive spreadsheet or designing a PowerPoint slide deck, you probably will want to do it on a local machine, Microsoft officials say. (And I agree.) Microsoft is directly integrating Office Web Apps with Office 2010 (with a "Save to SkyDrive" feature inside the new version of Office). Microsoft is saying users will be able to upload and edit/view/access/share files created using Office 2000 and later versions (i.e. XP, 2003, 2007, 2010 as well as Mac Office 2008 and next version of Mac Office) with Office Web Apps. I asked whether Open-Office-created content also could be accessed via Office Web Apps and didn't get an answer, which leads me to assume the answer is no.

9. Are there still other versions of Office Web Apps coming beyond the free, consumer-focused ones? Yes. Software Assurance customers will have the added option of running the Office Web Apps on premise, accessing their on-premise SharePoint Servers. And Office Web Apps also will be accessible as part of some kind of Microsoft-hosted service/services (under the Microsoft Online brand). These variants are slated to go to testers this fall when Microsoft opens up the Office Web Apps beta to the public.

10. So what about print? I've seen a lot of chatter regarding whether Office Web Apps will allow users to do some really basic tasks, such as print. In the CTP, printing will be available for Word. By the time the final version of the Web Apps suite ships, printing directly from the Web-based variants still will be available for Word only, Microsoft officials said. Microsoft officials didn't offer a timetable as to when printing might be available for the Web-based versions of Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote. I'm wondering whether there are some other similar tasks that won't be enabled, either....

If you're among the chosen testers for Office Web Apps, I'm interested in your impressions of what you see once you get access today. And if you're not, what more do you want to know about the Web-ified versions of Microsoft's Office apps?

See also: Microsoft delivers a partial preview of its Office Web Apps by Ed Bott

Topics: Collaboration, Cloud, Microsoft, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • A TECH PREVIEW with broken bits...

    Is not a tech preview, its a marketing ploy. Sorry but I ahve to take MS to task on this entire roll out of Office. Its becoming quite clear to testers (myself included) that MS has a lot of features/functions that are up for grabs right now for two reasons.

    1. They don't want on line apps (Google apps) to know what they are doing and beating them to the punch.

    2. They will offer no more than is absolutely required to compete agaisnt on line apps the day its released. My take is the day before it goes RTM will be the day they set in stone what functions and features will be available.

    I can tell you this, for developers that build on the Office platform it has turned into a nightmare.
    • re

      some time ago I was called "provocative" by Mr. Ed Bott for expressing negative opinion.
      I see you do that, too. However, I cannot agree with you. A little more free apps, are not bad thing, regardless of the marketing strategy.
      Everything is aimed at market, one or another way. Where is the bad thing here ?
      • The issue for devs. is that

        Th issue is that for devs. the target keeps moving or disappearing. A tech preview IMHO should at least show what features or functions will be in the product even if they are not finished yet.
        • Huh?

          Why do you think that? A Tech Preview is often pre-beta, which means that features are still in flight. It really is meant to be a "preview" of "technology". Not something to actively develop against.
  • which parts of Office 2010

    Hi. Curious which things in Office 2010 aren't nailed down that developers building around Office need to know about? The client version of Office 2010 seems pretty close to feature-complete. The Office Web Apps version is definitely less complete but are there certain things you think devs don't know now about the next version of Office that they need to? Any speciics? MJ
    Mary Jo Foley
  • RE: Microsoft Office Web Apps go to testers: Ten things to know

    Should "in November 2009" be changed to 2008?
    • Fixed

      Thanks for the heads up. mj
      Mary Jo Foley
  • RE: Microsoft Office Web Apps go to testers: Ten things to know

    Awesome post! For more information on Web Apps check out the Office Live page on Facebook at

    MSFT Offive Live Outreach Team
  • Looks like everything is free now

    I think everything should be free. Put an ad on the side of my beer and make it free. Put a billboard up on my car and make it free. Tattoo an ad on the prostitute and make her free. I think I'm liking this idea.

    Wait, would that last one just be considered a short term girlfriend at that point? Oh well, still free!
    A Gray
    • Now you've done it!

      Up until this point, the Linux contingent hadn't checked in, but I bet your post brings them in by droves... I can hear them now:

      "Yes, all software should be free. Who cares if you have to wade through 270 fanboi posts telling you that you're stupid when you need support? It's free... it must be better!"
      • I dunno but...

        This content free post might bring in a few. On that note, I think this could be your mantra:

        "MS Office, It costs a sh!t ton, it must be better!"
        • Only half a ***-ton

          Some applications make Office look like a bargain. Most CAD software, Adobe products, Video / Audio editing software, engineering apps... $20k of software on a $3k PC.

          Now _that's_ a ****-ton of money!
    • Re:Looks like everything is free now

      If everything is free whos going to buy an Ad?

      Inquiring minds want to know???
      • Re:Looks like everything is free now

        If everything is free (ie no money changes hands), then advertising costs no money to produce, so no-one needs to buy an Ad. The value of the Ad is then entirely determined by the usefulness of the information provided in the content. An interesting outcome. It creates an interesting challenge for resource allocation.

        Nothing is really "free" even if no money changes hands. The sum of resources applied to its production is the "cost" of a product. Money is just a convenient mechanism for measuring that.
        • free is the new demo

          I'm sure a lot of the people that use Web Apps will buck up for the paid version. Or a more incremental approach for user needed feature. $.50 per fuction for our discussion. Functionality packages could be created for Finance or Statistics for say, $29.99 that could be purchased in bulk for Promotional and Corporate users.

          I would be curious to know what the adoption figures are for "free" products like Ad-Aware or Team Viewer. Neither of those are ad supported.
  • Office on a thanks...

    I hate it when Microsoft tries to compete by duplicating what others do/have. Google docs is nice but so weak in comparison to Microsoft Office that I never use it. The Cloud? I don't want it, I don't trust it and as a member of the 17% unemploment class I can't afford it (my access to the internet is limited to mooching off of those who can afford it).

    [b]Come on Microsoft[/b]-lower your price of Microsoft Office and and make every version of Office full featured with every app included. JUST IMAGINE HOW MANY PEOPLE WOULD BE PORTING ACCESS DATABASES TO SQL SERVER IF ACCESS HAD ALWAYS BEEN INCLUDED WITH OFFICE SINCE THE BEGINNING! As an occasional consultant and Access maven I suspect I would have a lot more opportunities to consult if everyone who had Office also had Access.

    Access should be seeding the market for future SQL Server purchases. Instead the high cost of Office is seeding the market for inferior open source alternatives (which, admittedly are becoming less and less inferior everyday).

    It doesn't have to be free but it should be more affordable that it is. And while you are at it reduce the number of versions of Windows7 to no more than 2 or 3...Do you (Microsoft) really think that this pricing strategy and multiple versions is giving you an advantage? Confusing the marketplace should not be a strategy. I'll keep buying your products but I would like to be happier about it.
    • While your at it could you

      also get Intuit to lower the price on Quicken and offer a basic version. Please don't think one size Office fits all, why would I want to pay for the full blown version when all I need is Word and Excel?

      As for Windows 7 I think by now with the constant "I don't know what version I will get or need has been explained to death". If you are still confused there is plenty written about it on the web for reference. Most versions you won't even see as they will be for netbooks and enterprise etc., they are mentioned to get the full scope of all that is involved in an OS roll out by Microsoft.
      • Intuit has some free also

        If you want a basic accounting program and you don't have more than 20 customers with charge accounts then you can use the free version of Simple Start. If you need the same product without the restrictions on the numbers of accounts, come up with $100.
  • RE: Microsoft Office Web Apps go to testers: Ten things to know

    This is a surprisingly weak start! No integration with Mesh to store documents locally and have them sync to the cloud. No drive letter access through Explorer to cloud documents, and no integration with Office for opening and saving cloud documents. I'm sure some of that is in the plans but frankly I thought Microsoft was further along in bringing the various services together and integrating them into our local desktops. "Save to Skydrive" as an Office 2010-only feature isn't quite enough.

    Looks like I should dial back my hopes and settle down for a long development cycle.

    Bruce Berls
    • Look before you leap...

      1. "Live Mesh" is only a technology preview of a concept ONLY. They could pull the plug tomorrow.

      2. Drive letter access through Explorer would NEVER be supplied as part of an Office web program. Its a core OS function... thus whenever they sort out what they're doing with Skydrive (and possibly merge Mesh into that) THEN you'll get drive letter access. Remember though, "drive letters" are a very old concept that Microsoft (and others) have been trying to get away from for years.

      3. Saving documents to the skydrive is supported by, and fully integrated into Office 2007 as well.

      4. Office Web Apps are NOT designed to replace a full copy of Office. Just like you said about Google Docs. They're "weak" on purpose. They're only there to provide "anywhere anytime" editing of Office documents.