Office 2013 Web Apps

As a regular SkyDrive user I have been invited to take part in a preview of the upcoming new release of the Web Apps. Regardless of the reasons behind the offer, I LOVE getting to know new versions, it’s one of the aspects of my profession that I most enjoy. So I approached trying out the web apps with excitement and wasn’t disappointed.

I had believed that Microsoft would go further in its move into the cloud with this version of Office, but it appears that Office 2013 will still be mainly desktop based, though with a lot of integration into the cloud. This means that the Web Apps haven’t seen as big a change as I was expecting. However reading the Office Next blog, leads me to believe it will be much further away.

Overview
The impressive thing about the Web Apps in 2013 (and 2010) is their simplicity. If you can use the desktop versions you can use the web versions. Which isn’t as expected as it sounds. Web pages don’t work like applications, so to program a page which does, is actually quite impressive. This includes keyboard shortcuts and right mouse click menus you’d expect in a simplified version of Word/Excel, etc..

But on to the previews …

Word

So maybe I can’t insert a table of contents or build a bibliography in the web app, so you won’t be writing the final draft of your thesis on it. However it’s perfectly adequate for around 80% of all documents produced in Word. The main advantage is that you can edit your documents from anywhere you have an internet connection on any device that is internet enabled.

Here are the main ribbon tabs to give you a flavour of what you can do
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Generally the interface is using the new Metro style which will be introduced in Windows 8 this October. In the Web Apps as well as Windows 8 this simplified interface is to make the apps “multi-platform”.

Another theme carried over from Window 8 branding is the look of the File tab. In Office 2010, the Backstage view was introduced. Combining Print Preview and the Print settings into one screen, meant that the backstage view took up the whole window – here in the web apps this looks as if it has reverted to the large menu we saw in Office 2007, instead.

One thing that did impress me, is that not only can I open documents into Word (2010 and 2013 Preview) on my Windows PC but also into Word 2011 on my MacBook. True integration like this is hard to achieve and very welcome to those of us who are truly multi-platform users. I can even save the document in Word on the PC or MacBook and it automatically updates the version on my SkyDrive. This is true cloud integration.

The multi-device integration goes further in that I can also read my documents on my iPhone/iPad and edit from Windows 7 (and 8) mobile devices. However I am a bit disappointed that I need to use a Microsoft mobile device to be able to do more than read the documents. Though this was also the case with Office 2010 web apps.

Excel

As with Word, the Metro style interface makes an appearance and again I have all the essentials here to create the majority of spreadsheets.

PowerPoint

Here again the same style of interface prevails. However consistent appearance is something we have come to expect as standard from Office these days. When starting a new presentation in PowerPoint web app you first choose the theme. As a trainer this is a first step I recommend when working with PowerPoint so, in my book, that’s a good thing.

The creation of the presentation then follows along very similar lines and all but the most advanced features are available in the web app. Whilst, with Word & Excel, I would not want to give up the desktop app, I think I could quite happily live with just PowerPoint web app.

OneNote

The style carries on through into OneNote. This is the one web app I have used extensively in 2010 and have had my desktop notes synchronized through my personal SkyDrive account, so that I can use OneNote in my iPhone and iPad. The experience with OneNote installed on the PC is better, given that you can use it as a printer too not to mention the integration with Outlook and the rest of Office. However here again, it is possible to work purely with the web app in terms of available functionality

Miscellaneous Observations

On opening this file in Word on my work PC, I was offered the option of streaming my Office 2013 Home Premium subscription, also linked to my SkyDrive. Unfortunately (due to firewall restrictions) I was unable to do this. Something else to try out.

Additionally I note that, each Office 2013 license includes 5 permanent copies on top of these temporary downloads. To quote the Office Next blog

“When you purchase Office, you’re no longer buying software dedicated to a particular piece of hardware. We’ve made a bunch of investments in this version that really change the way that you get Office. For example, when you purchase the product you will land in the Management Place of Office.com. This is the place for you to go to install Office on your PC or Mac, update your account information, learn about additional entitlements you may receive with your subscription (e.g. extra SkyDrive storage) and manage your account. You’ll see here that Kaitlin is a subscriber to Office, and with that, she can install Office up to 5 times on a PC or Mac – it’s her call.”


Conclusion

As an Office 2007/2010 user, I can easily use these Office 2013 web apps, without any new knowledge. Given that SkyDrive is free, I can see a lot of home users signing up for this service rather than purchasing a Home license. Students may be the exception to that, given they need some of the more advanced features. The cloud connectivity aspect of the Office 2013 suite in conjunction with SkyDrive is a real bonus to people who use multiple devices, like students or geographically mobile worker.

The web apps themselves simply do what they are supposed to. Even with a poor internet connection, I’ve found them stable and responsive – perfect for use on the move or to access documents from a different machine.

They are fewer functions than in the desktop versions, but that’s by design and the functions that are available are sufficient for the majority of document authoring. I could have created this whole document on web apps, but in order to trial connection to different platforms and devices, I’ve authored it across different PCs, a MAC and a variety of mobile devices.

In short – they do the job and are free, what more could you ask for?

(BTW, I think this pale, simple interface is going to take me a while to get used to)

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