Microsoft's updated Office Web Apps: What's new

Microsoft's updated Office Web Apps: What's new

Summary: Microsoft has made available to the public test versions of its Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote as part of the coming new version of its Office suite.

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Yet another of the pieces of the coming wave of new Office client, server and services updates that went to public beta this week is Office Web Apps. Microsoft execs blogged on July 20 about some of the new features in the Customer Preview version of these apps.

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Microsoft's Office Web Apps are Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote which Microsoft first introduced with Office 2010. Office Web Apps are usable in a variety of browsers -- including Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari -- on different operating systems and form factors (PCs, tablets, smartphones). Office Web Apps include a subset of the functionality in the full Office versions of each of the apps. Microsoft claims to have 50 million active users accessing these apps every month. (It's not clear exactly what counts as "usage" here; is it simply opening a Word document without editing or collaborating?)

With the Office 2013 wave, Microsoft is adding more features to each of the Office Web Apps. The dev team focused on four areas across the Office Web Apps suite, according to Mike Morton, Group Program Manager for Office Web Apps (who authored today's blog post). The four focus areas: improved document authoring; better touch support; co-authoring across all four apps (with simultaneous co-authoring enabled except in Excel Web App); and better performance.

Among some of the new features in the Customer Preview:

Word Web App: Better layout tools, allowing users to change the page size, orientation, margins, paragraph spacing, indentation, etc. Also more granular control over pictures and shapes. Word count calculation added

PowerPoint Web App: Ability to author animations and transitions inside the app. More responsive drawing tool support and more granular control over pictures and shapes. Ability to display videos in PowerPoint Web App. Slideshows also now will show movies

Excel Web App: Support for PivotTable editing, Query Tables and richer charts, among other data-analysis enhancements

OneNote Web App: New "find" textbox added to navigation pane

Across the suite of Web Apps: Improvement in speed in typing, selecting, formatting in larger documents. Right click/context-sensitive menus now supported in more places. Better copy/paste, improved undo, and the ability to print in Excel

There's also a new Office Web Apps Server that is part of SharePoint 2013, as some of my sources indicated earlier this year. Today's blog post on the new Office Web Apps didn't drill down into this new component.

To test the latest version of Office Web Apps, users can either use this link to gain access to the Customer Preview via  SkyDrive or install the new Office 365 Home Premium Preview, which is the new consumer-focused cloud-connected version of Office 2013.

Microsoft officials have declined to say when Office 2013, the new Office servers and updated Office 365 services that are part of "Wave 15" will be released to manufacturing and made generally available. I'm hearing RTM is looking like November 2012, with general availability in February 2013.

Topics: Cloud, Collaboration, Microsoft, Software

About

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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9 comments
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  • OWA Usable in All Browsers

    I just went to my skydrive account on my iPhone (running the latest iOS and mobile Safari) to verify the statement made at the top of this article. Turns out I could read but, not edit in browser. :-\
    Please verify your press release before you publish; you'll save some embarrassment.
    Crashin Chris
  • OWA Usable in All Browsers

    I just went to my skydrive account on my iPhone (running the latest iOS and mobile Safari) to verify the statement made at the top of this article. Turns out I could read but, not edit in browser. :-\
    Please verify your press release before you publish; you'll save some embarrassment.
    Crashin Chris
    • Too late for that.

      ZDnet seems to have cashed the cheque.

      One only has to look at the ridiculous articles about the Nexus 7.

      It's two biggest flaws according to this shower of garbage that is now ZDNet (basically a mouthpiece for whomever pays the most it seems), is that it doesn't have an Apple logo on the back, and that one idiot couldn't find the auto-rotate toggle.

      And that's it.

      Compared their frothing at the mouth for vapourware and some crap office suite.

      No further evidence required.
      Bozzer
    • Not sure what the problem is...

      Unless this article was changed before I read it, it seems to be correct.

      "Office Web Apps are usable in a variety of browsers -- including Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari -- on different operating systems and form factors (PCs, tablets, smartphones)."

      And the Office Next blog says, "With this latest release, we now provide a high-quality reading experience that take advantage of today's modern smartphones, including Android and iOS"

      So yeah, on mobile devices, you can open those documents in read-only mode as you noticed. So it's certainly "usable" on almost any device (i.e. "editable" on pcs/macs, and "readable" on mobiles).

      May be you should have re-read the article before embarrassing yourself.
      rajadhi
      • Misleading is teh Problem

        Both the article and MS strongly imply that documents can be shared and edited within the web app across multiple browsers and devices. That is clearly not the case.

        Perhaps YOU should re-read the article and MS claims before embarrassing yourself!
        sheinemann
  • Man, things just keep getting better

    I have been a skydrive user for quite some time and I happened upon the updated web apps yesterday. They are awesome. Also have Office 2013 Preview installed and all I can say is...

    All those Google Apps for Business users jump ship a little too early...
    thekman58
  • In what way are things "getting better"?

    So now I can read MS Office docs on an iPad with a MS WebApp.

    I've been able to do that for several years with Pages and Numbers; And I've been able to create docs too.
    StandardPerson
    • iPad?

      Who said anything about an iPad?
      Thats your problem.
      thekman58
  • THIS IS A NONSTARTER

    Just test drove Office Web Apps with a basic Excel workbook. This is a workbook that I use to keep track of my calorie and carb consumption as well as my blood glucose readings. It would be great to be able to do this via my phone when not at home. The lack of supporrt for even the most basic of built-in macros makes M$ Office web Apps a nonstarter for me.
    sheinemann