How to Use Microsoft Office Web Apps

October 8, 2010, By Christian Cawley

Over recent years, Google have taken the lead in flexible, browser-based office tools, most notably with Gmail and Google Calendar but also with Google Docs, a system by which users and groups can collaborate on documents, presentations, spreadsheets and more.

The success Google have had with Google Docs has seen other companies also getting involved – Zoho.com is a prime example – and this has seen online collaboration developing in a way that Microsoft had not previously predicted.

One result of this is that SharePoint has been redesigned to allow better integration with Microsoft Office applications. Another result is the creation of a new, free version of Microsoft Office.

Available via office.microsoft.com/en-us/web-apps anyone with a Windows Live/Hotmail account can get started with Office Web Apps straight away!

Getting Started with Microsoft Office Web Apps

After visiting the above link, use the Sign In link to login to Office Web Apps. Free for personal use (via your Windows Live account), business can adopt Office Web Apps from the Volume Licensing Service Center.

Once signed in, click on Get started free to continue – you will be taken to the Office section of your Windows Live account, and will be able to start work on a new Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote document using the Create a new online document link on the right-hand side.

The beauty of this system is that Microsoft Office Web Apps are virtually indistinguishable from the desktop versions of the applications, until you get to the point where you need advanced formatting, etc.

Create a Word Document in Your Browser!

If you click on the Word document icon, you will be taken to a new screen – here you can give the document a name and set a level of sharing. The document can be shared with Everyone (public) if necessary, a few friends, or no one at all, however whoever is given access must have a Widnows Live account.

Note also that Office Web Apps allow creation and saving of documents in the .docx/.xlsx/.pptx etc formats first introduced in Microsoft Office 2007 and still used in Office 2010.

Once you’re happy with the sharing options and title, click on Save – the blank document will then open in the next screen. A limited number of options from the Home, Insert and View tabs of Word 2010 are available, but there is certainly enough here to let you use Word to write a novel without buying a copy – you can even print your work! Saved documents are stored in SkyDrive, another component of your Windows Live account.

Creating Other Microsoft Office Web Apps Documents

Whether you intend to create an Excel spreadsheet, a PowerPoint presentation or a OneNote document, the procedure for creating a new document in each of these Office Web Apps is the same.

Each of the apps has a File, Home, Insert and View tab, each offering the lowest level of functionality that Microsoft can offer both as a browser based app and as a free alternative to the full price Microsoft Office.

As an alternative to Microsoft Works (which Office Web Apps effectively replaces) this is a robust solution that offers superior compatibility with the former, and these browser-based office apps can even allow you to edit documents that you have uploaded to your SkyDrive, including the older .doc/.xls/.ppt formats.

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