Review: Microsoft Office Web Apps

We weigh the online versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to see how they stack up as standalone productivity apps -- and against Google Apps.
Previously, sharing documents called for one of two general approaches. The first approach was to e-mail or post somewhere online a Microsoft Office document to be opened by someone else with a licensed copy of Microsoft Office.

Image Gallery:  Microsoft’s Office Web Apps
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Image Gallery: Microsoft’s Office Web Apps

The second approach was to transform the Office document into a PDF that could be e-mailed to anyone with the free Acrobat reader application installed. In both cases, the data within the document becomes potentially stale as soon as it is sent, and the user has to make a determination in advance whether the recipient is Office-enabled.

Now, through the "Backstage view of Office 2010, it has become just as easy to save a file to a Windows Live "SkyDrive" folder or to a SharePoint server as it is to save a file to a local disk.

Sharing a file from one of these Internet-accessible locations is much more than distributing a static copy of a file; instead, it's sharing a live link to the most recent version of a file, accessible to anyone using a modern browser or Windows-enabled smartphones.

Even if the editing capabilities of Office Web Apps remain weak, the underlying technology enables document sharing that not only retains the exact formatting of the original file, but also maintains workgroup or public access to the latest available data.

Unlike past upgrades to Office that required people to figure out how to deal with new file formats, this time it isn't the file format that's changing, but rather the way files are shared through business and social networks.

As individuals, workgroups, teams, and organizations move to Office 2010, their suppliers and business partners may feel the pressure to view those documents online instead of as attachments.

Soon, instead of receiving PDFs in your e-mail inbox, you may start receiving invitations to view Office 2010 documents located on shared folders within Windows Live and on enterprise SharePoint servers. Even if you haven't bought Office 2010, you'll still be able to view those files exactly as they were created, and in certain cases make small edits and annotations.

And in the process of viewing and editing those files, you'll likely end up with an active account on Windows Live with SkyDrive, which will exert a gravitational pull on your own workflow in proportion to the number of Office 2010 users in your supply chain. At some point soon, you may feel a nagging desire to make the overall collaboration process easier through a simple, quick, streaming download of one of the new Office 2010 applications.

And from there, perhaps you'll ditch your BlackBerry for a Windows Phone 7, start using Windows Live as your primary social network instead of Facebook, and spend your spare time playing Xbox games.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen: Microsoft has its mojo back.

See Also:

Microsoft Roundup: Office, Sharepoint 2010 Launch

Microsoft, Google On Office Computing Collision Course

VIDEO: 5 Reasons To Upgrade to Office 2010

VIDEO: Demo: PowerPoint Broadcast Microsoft Office 2010

VIDEO: Customizing Your Ribbon in Office 2010

VIDEO: Image & Video Editing in Office 2010

VIDEO: ReviewCam: Google Docs Gets Rewrite