As you may be aware, Microsoft's online office suite, Office Online (previously Office Web Apps), allows you to create and edit documents in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote using only your web browser across a number of operating systems, browsers, and devices - even the Xbox One.
And, if 15GB isn't enough for you, check out their extra storage pricing at
To use any of the applications, simply go to www.office.com and sign in with your Microsoft Account. If you don't already have an account, it'll walk you through the easy sign up process. You'll eventually be presented with a tile layout like this:
Clicking on Word, Excel, or PowerPoint will take you to a screen where you can open recent documents, create a new document, or even select from many of the same templates that are available in the paid desktop versions of these same applications.
The streamlined and simplified versions of the applications still pack in the most common features one would need like printing, PDF download, changing fonts, spacing, headers, footers, inserting pictures, inserting tables, and even spalechech - err, spellcheck. They also include a translator tool, Wikipedia integration, and other nifty features that I'll go into detail about in future blog posts.
Each of the applications has a “Share” button at the top right corner of the screen. Clicking on this brings up a window that allows you to invite someone to edit or view your document. You can even modify or revoke permissions from this window.
Every application also gives you the option to open the document in its respective desktop version if you own it, giving you access to advanced features should you need them. Saving the file within the desktop version automatically saves it back to your OneDrive storage.
If you shared the file using edit permissions for others, they can work on the document from their web browser or their desktop application as well. Depending on how you configured the share, they may not even need a Microsoft account to work on the file. If multiple people are working on the same document, you'll see a notification at the top right showing you who else is also there editing along with you. Each user will be identified by a color, and you'll be able to see where their cursor is within the document. Real-time co-authoring is one of those features that you may wonder if you'll ever need, but when you do you'll be pleasantly surprised by how well it works and how handy it can be for things like entering tabular data in Excel, or creating a business plan. In fact, you may find that sharing a file with someone makes more sense than emailing the same file back and forth and dealing with the task of merging changes between all versions.
The Office Online apps are also a component of all business, enterprise, education, and non-profit plans within Office 365. You'll experience the same features with the user interface, and you'll gain the ability of working with files from within your OneDrive for Business storage account or a document library in your company's SharePoint site. This will allow you to take advantage of any existing security/sharing permissions and policies that may already be in place in you organization, as well as leverage the power of SharePoint workflows.
If you need basic use of Microsoft's most popular office applications, want to save a few bucks, and even save the time (or even your hard drive space) of having to install the desktop version on your own computer, then Office Online should suit you just fine. In Microsoft's ever growing "mobile first, cloud first" world, we're rapidly making our way to not needing to install much of anything on our computers anymore.
If you need help getting started with Office 365 or have questions about how it could benefit your business, just give us a shout!
Lead Infrastructure Engineer
Here in part two, we'll be checking out some of the coolest, most useful, and most awesome features Microsoft has included in OWA.
This blog is part six of my series on SharePoint Governance, learn how to publish your governance plan in this blog.
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