Microsoft Office Web Apps – Free

Microsoft Office Web Apps, a free, web-based suite of Office applications is now available. Not coincidentally, Microsoft Office 2010 was also released this week (June 15, 2010). In this article, we’ll look at what all you get, how to get it and why you might want to use it.

What are Web Apps? Microsoft has made available, for free, an on-line version of Word, Excel PowerPoint and OneNote. All you need to get this is a Windows Live ID. If you have a Hotmail or Live email account, or if you are already using some of Microsoft’s Live Essentials (photo gallery, messenger, movie maker), then you have a Live ID. Follow this link and get started.image

The Microsoft Web Apps aren’t the full-fledged Microsoft desktop applications, but you can do your basic editing in a familiar web interface. If you open up a document in your SkyDrive, you can decide to do more detailed editing on your desktop with one click. This article will tell you what you can edit/change/do with web apps vs. the desktop application. For example, in the Excel web app, you can not highlight a cell and move it, you have to do a cut and paste function.

Benefit of Using Web Apps – SkyDrive (free cloud storage)

But let’s back up a bit and talk about SkyDrive — what’s this? Think of the Microsoft SkyDrive as your storage in the clouds, a kind of external hard drive. Below is a snapshot of my Office SkyDrive. This section contains only my Office documents. There is another section of the SkyDrive that contains my photo albums and other things. Microsoft gives an extremely generous 25GB of storage per account.

A great imagereason to sign up for Web Apps is the ability you’ll get to share your documents or folders with groups, just a few people, everyone, or just you. You can see in my folder list that I have a folder I share. The sharing feature is wonderful for using for work, clubs, groups or for family. You can share documents, photos or videos with people. You can put controls on sharing and let people only view your stuff, or you can let them have editing privileges. There is a history of who viewed/changed anything and also a place for people to leave comments on documents, i.e. changes, questions, instructions. Instead of emailing documents to yourself or someone else, put it in SkyDrive and only have one document instead of wondering if what you have is the last revision of your document! If you want to work on something at home from the office, put it in your SkyDrive folder and access it from home.

How Does It All Work?

So you have a Windows Live ID and you have documents on your computer you want to put in your SkyDrive. How do you get them from one place to the other?

I have an example below of one of my documents I’m saving to my SkyDrive. In this example, I’m using Office 2010, but I want to point out that Web Apps works with Office 2003 and 2007 as well. If you have Office 2003, your screen may look different from this one. When you’re ready, click the File>Save and then look for something referring to SkyDrive or Web. With 2010, you would click ‘Save to Web’, and then select the folder you want to put it in and the software does the rest.

office live sky drive

To access your documents put in SkyDrive, simply go to and log in with your Windows ID. Then you’ll see the below–click on ‘Office’ to be taken to your SkyDrive.

view of office live menu items

So now you see the document you put in SkyDrive and then you decide you want to add more documents. Using SkyDrive for a backup is a great idea. It’s smart to have 3 copies of each document/photo/presentation. One on your hard drive, one in the clouds (SkyDrive), and one on an external drive.

Microsoft first prompts you to select a folder to put the docs in, or to create a new folder. Then you’ll see the screen below. You can either open a windows explorer window and select multiple documents and drag them over, or you can click the ‘select documents from your computer’ hyperlink and add them that way. If you want to back up an entire folder, open the folder, select all the documents and click to start the upload or drag them over. Depending on the number and your connection speed, it might take a few minutes. At this time there isn’t a way to add a folder to SkyDrive.

how to add documents to microsoft skydrive

After you’ve put some documents in your SkyDrive, take a look around at your options. You’ll be able to share them, download them back to your computer, open for editing either on the web or on your computer, rename or delete.

If you’re thinking of getting Microsoft Office 2010, you can download a free trial. Here’s where you can read about what’s new in Office 2010 and compare features with Office 2007 & 2003.

Many believe Microsoft released the free Web Apps to compete with Google Apps and it’s most likely true. If you’re an experienced Office user, you probably found Google Apps interface and features lacking. If you’ve ever opened a  Microsoft Office document with a table or header/footer or other specific formatting in Google Apps, you quickly realized your formatting either disappeared or looked different than it did previously. Two different platforms and Google trumped your formatting with its own. Although Microsoft Web Apps is not meant for intense editing, it will display and retain your document’s formatting.

microsoft office web app ribbon

Features & Comparisons With Google Docs

  • Web Apps allow docs up to 50MG to be uploaded — Google has a smaller size limit
  • With Web Apps, your document formatting is preserved when viewing and editing in Web Apps. In Google, the nice formatting, pictures, etc. don’t show up
  • If you upload a PowerPoint presentation with animation and transition effects into Google Docs, then realize the effects are not showing up and you decide to download the presentation back to your computer to edit, the transition and animation effects are lost forever
  • Google doesn’t support the .pptx format which Office 2007 & 2010 uses
  • Documents can be downloaded as a zip file with Office Web Apps
  • Printing is not available from Office Web Apps. I saw that there is a print feature in Google Docs, but it never did go to my printer

Give Microsoft Web Apps a spin and see what you think. Even if you find yourself not using the editing features, using the SkyDrive as a backup source will give you peace of mind.

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