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Office suite applications are ubiquitous. There are so many options 6 Free Office Suites That Are NOT Microsoft 6 Free Office Suites That Are NOT Microsoft Read More available if you want to a create a document or a spreadsheet.

There are open source free desktop applications, then there are free cloud-based applications. Microsoft has been working on a free version of its popular Office franchise as well. The free version would be available online. Microsoft recently launched a tech preview. It is an invite-only preview, however you just need a Skydrive account and some URL tweaking to try out the Microsoft Office Web Apps Preview.

Here is how:

  • Click on the link, read and choose to accept the terms. Silverlight should be installed for you to use Office Online. Don’t worry, you will be given instructions to download and install in case it is not found on your computer.

With all that done and completed you are in and ready to test out the latest in cloud office apps.

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So how good is it?

Well to begin with – the Microsoft Office web apps have the same ribbon interface of Office 2007 and Office 2010. So if you were hoping to get back to the Office 2003 like menus and buttons, you will be disappointed. The similar look definitely makes it easier to find your way around. All the icons, menus and options (though few) resemble the ones you would find in the desktop version of the software.

As for the file format, Microsoft Office Web Apps uses Office Open XML formats (i.e. the .docx, .xlsx, .pptx formats). However, you can still use the older formats, only they will be converted to the newer OOXML formats before Office Web Apps allows you work on them.

Overall, it is limited and don’t expect to see all the functionality of the desktop version or something reasonably close to it. You would be better to make a comparison with some of the web-based office suites instead, in which case the functionality seems respectable, no amazing over-the-top stuff that would overthrow Google Docs.

Collaboration is the key feature, as is often the case with most cloud-based applications. You can share files with others, make your files public, choose whether they would be able to edit documents or not. People can leave comments as your file gets edited, re-edited and refined.

Go ahead check it out and let us know what you think. Do you think Office Online offers the features you need to do your day to day work? Or is it too stripped down to be used for any decent job? Give it a thorough spin and sound off in the comments!

  1. Alyssa Myers
    September 30, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Try it in Safari... you get the BSOD!

    (j/k) :P

  2. Li
    September 29, 2009 at 5:11 am

    "Invitees will also be able to edit Excel and PowerPoint files. Over time we’ll add OneNote Web App and the ability to edit Word files as well."

    Guess their still working on the Word editing

  3. andy
    September 28, 2009 at 5:02 am

    I tried both in Opera and IE. Surprise, surprise - it only works in IE. I even tried to mask Opera as IE with no success :)).

    Otherwise, it could be really useful to share some simple docs with the rest of my team. But only one member in that team uses IE....

    Does anyone know a workaround...?

  4. McGilljam
    September 28, 2009 at 2:17 am

    It says clearly that they working on an editing thingy for Word.

    I tried myself to work with wordfiles online, but after trying to create a wordfile, they tell you... not avaible yet.

  5. venkat
    September 28, 2009 at 1:13 am

    Not working for me either.

  6. Jack Cola
    September 27, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    I am having trouble too. I followed the steps, I could view the document, and only edit it offline. I signed up to get an invite too, but obviously haven't got it yet.

  7. tester
    September 27, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Very good, except that I could not create/edit a new Word document.

  8. Mandy
    September 27, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    1st post!! yay!. my new guilty pleasure is fatkidsfalling.com

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