Office suite applications are ubiquitous. There are so many options 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:
- The following steps seem to work only if you have ?mkt=en-us appended to the Skydrive URL. So click here.
- Create a Skydrive account (Windows Live Account) if you don’t have one, or log into your existing one. It gives you 25GB of online space you can use to store/backup your files. We wrote about it some time back.
- Make sure there is a Word/Excel file in your Skydrive. If there isn’t, you can upload one.
- You will see an option to join the tech preview to edit the file.
- 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.
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!