Back
Office Online

The new Office Web Apps

 

Editor’s note: On Monday, we unveiled the new Office. On Tuesday, we shared more details on Office and the Cloud and how we give you the flexibility of the browser with the power and responsiveness of rich clients.  Today we dig deeper into the capabilities and technology behind the new Office Web Apps, which are available on SkyDrive and Office 365 Preview.  The Office Web Apps extend your Office experience to the web allowing you to access, edit, and share your Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote documents in a web browser. Mike Morton, Group Program Manager for Office Web Applications joins the blog to explain.

Mike MortonI’m excited to talk about updates to the Office Web Apps, which are now available live on SkyDrive and the Office 365 Preview. You can try out the new Office Web Apps on SkyDrive by signing in using this special link or you can participate in the Office 365 Preview. Either way, you will get the same new Office Web Apps when you create or click on a Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote document.

In this post I’ll talk about some of the new functionality in the Office Web Apps as well as discuss how they have evolved over time.

As we have developed the Office Web Apps we have done so with the following principles:

  • Anywhere Access – People should be able to access Office documents from any device with a Web browser. This means supporting standards (e.g. HTML) and ensuring compatibility across a wide range of devices.
    .
  • “Fidelity” with Office – Office documents should be displayed in the browser as the author intended. The Office Web Apps should preserve all edits and content, even when they don’t support all of the features of Office on the desktop.
    .
  • Collaboration and Sharing – It should be very easy to share and work with other people. People can collaborate with anyone without having to worry about what software or device they are using.

We were very excited when we had the first release of the Office Web Apps in June 2010. Since then we have continually added capabilities based on customer feedback. During that time we have grown our usage to approximately 50 million people a month. We are very pleased with its success! Over the past two years, we have also received feedback on how the Office Web Apps could be better. We’ve worked hard to incorporate this feedback while building upon our principles. This update is by far the most significant we have ever done and we hope others are as excited about the changes as we are!

For this release we’ve focused on these four scenarios:

  1. Improved Authoring – While many people enjoyed the convenience of using the Office Web Apps in a browser, they missed functionality that they were used to in desktop Office. With this release you can now create more professional looking documents and we implemented many top customer requests.
    .
  2. Touch support – Over the last couple of years we have seen an explosion of touch-capable devices, which we expect to increase with the release of Windows 8. While the Office Web Apps technically worked on touch devices, they were difficult to use without a mouse and keyboard. With the latest update we have worked to uphold our ‘Anywhere Access’ promise by providing a great experience on the devices you love.
    .
  3. Working Together – All of the Office Web Apps now support co-authoring. In fact, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote users can simultaneously co-author with the Office Web Apps and the Office desktop apps. We’ve also added a newly designed commenting feature to Word and PowerPoint that makes it quick and easy to provide feedback.
    .
  4. Performance – Faster applications result in more productive experiences. We hope everyone will appreciate the improved speed of editing with the Office Web Apps.

.

Improved Authoring

We made significant investments to improve the editing and formatting experiences. You can now create, edit, and finish more professional looking documents within the Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote Web App. Of course we’ve also maintained full compatibility with the Office file formats, so you can transition back and forth between Office on the desktop, the web browser, and mobile devices.

Professional looking documents

With the initial release of the Office Web Apps it was easy to create basic documents or make quick edits to more complex documents. However it wasn’t always easy or possible to achieve the final formatting, layout, or presentation that many users have to come to expect from Office documents. With this latest update of the Office Web Apps, it is now possible to create great looking Word documents, sophisticated spreadsheets, and dynamic presentations. Some of the highlights include:

  • Layout tools in Word – You can now change the page size, orientation, margins, paragraph spacing, indentation, and much more. We’ve also significantly updated the UI so these changes are now WYSIWIG while editing.
    .
  • Pictures and Drawing tools – You now have more control of pictures and shapes. You can apply ‘Picture styles’ to make your images standout in a document or presentation. PowerPoint has overhauled its support for drawing tools. You can now add, resize, format, rotate, duplicate, and style a wide variety of shapes.
    .
  • Animations and Transitions – Animations/Transitions can easily be authored right from the PowerPoint Web App. All of the supported animations and transitions look great when viewing a PowerPoint deck with a web browser.
    .
  • Data Analysis in Excel – The Excel Web App now supports PivotTable editing, QueryTables, richer charts, new types of slicers, and much more.

image
(Pictured above — new layout view in the Word editor)

 

image
(Pictured above — adding a transition in the PowerPoint Web App)

 

Top Requested Features

We’ve also heard from customers what authoring features they would like added to the Web Apps. When considering which functionality to add next, we’ve considered a variety of factors:

  1. Customer feedback – We have a ‘Give Feedback’ command right in the ‘File’ menu in the Office Web Apps on SkyDrive. Since our initial release in 2010 we have received over 65,000 pieces of feedback from customers! While we try to read and process as many of these as possible verbatim, we’ve also created tools to tell us what feedback topics are trending.
    .
  2. Usage data – For years we have gathered information on what commands are most often used in the desktop versions of the Office applications (for customers who have opted into the program). We’ve studied which are most used and prioritized them for addition to the Web Apps.
    .
  3. Optimizing for the Web – We’ve focused on features that match the target Office Web Apps’ design points of anywhere access, working together, and sharing. A good example is that we chose to add ‘comments’, which is very useful for collaborating with other people.

Below are some examples of features we’ve added based on customer feedback.

  • Word count in the Word Web App – We were surprised at how many customers gave us feedback wanting this feature!
    .
  • Find in OneNote – There is a now a find textbox on top of the navigation pane that makes it easy to search for a word in a page or a section.
    .
  • Displaying videos in PowerPoint – Your slideshows now will show movies, including all of the standard playing controls.
    .
  • Context menus throughout the applications – Right click is now supported in more places.
    .
  • Better copy/paste, improved undo, and the ability to print in Excel.

Note that this in addition to many new features we have been adding over the last couple of years. If you haven’t checked out the Office Web Apps lately, you’ll notice they already have new capabilities such as printing, charts, multiple worksheet support, ink display, and much more.

 

Touch support

A major value proposition of the Office Web Apps is that they let you access your Office documents from nearly anywhere, on nearly any device.

Greater Device and browser support

The Office Web Apps have embraced HTML5. They run in virtually all modern browsers and do not require the user of plug-ins (e.g. ActiveX, Flash, Silverlight). This includes Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. We’ve also optimized the Web Apps to run on a variety of new form factors including tablets and smartphones.

Touch

The user interface of the Office Web Apps has been updated to work great on touch devices. Examples of changes include updating button spacing to be more finger-friendly, all-new touch selection capabilities, new UI controls for inserting tables or picking colors, dragging shapes with your fingers in PowerPoint, and support for gestures such as pinching and swiping. Look for a future post on the Office Web App’s blog that will provide much more depth in this area. Below is an example:

image
(Pictured above — User Experience with touch)

 

image
(Pictured above — User experience with a mouse)

 

Mobile interface

The initial version of the Office Web Apps allows users to view an Office document on nearly any phone with a browser. However the experience was very basic. With this latest release, we now provide a high-quality reading experience that take advantage of today’s modern smartphones, including Android and iOS.

image
(Pictured above — An excel spreadsheet on a mobile device)

Working Together

In this section, we’ll discuss a few examples of new collaboration capabilities in the Office Web Apps. Each of these features is designed to help you share and collect information with others.

Co-authoring in all the Web Apps

One of the greatest benefits of putting documents on the Web is that it makes it easier to share and collaborate. With the initial release of the Office Web Apps, we supported co-authoring with Excel and OneNote. We subsequently added co-authoring support to Word. With this update, we’ve added co-authoring support in PowerPoint as well. We are excited for the first time that all the Office Web Apps support simultaneous, multi-user, collaborative authoring!

Commenting

While co-authoring is great, we’ve found many people want to give feedback to others on a document without directly ‘editing’ the document. It is now possible to do this via comments in documents and presentations. The comments allow for replies, are designed to be viewable in the document with less distraction, and have the ability to be ‘marked done’ once incorporated in the document.

image
(Pictured above — A document with inline comments)

 

Excel Surveys

Ever wanted to collect data from a group of people directly into a spreadsheet? Now you can, easily, without them having to worry about where to enter the data because they are presented with a clean, simple, survey.

image
(Pictured above — A survey created with Excel)

 

Performance

We’re always looking for ways to squeeze more performance out of the browser and bring people the most efficient experience possible. Improvements have been made in all of the apps and in many places. Here are few examples:
.

  • Larger documents – Before this release, basic editing operations (e.g. typing, selection, formatting) would slow down as documents got larger. In this release we’ve enhanced performance to deliver a snappier experience regardless of the document size. I’m appreciating this right now as I am authoring this blog post in the Word Web App!
    .
  • Faster Spreadsheets – A big part of the value proposition of Excel is the ability to quickly enter and analyze data. Many parts of the Excel experience are notably snappier than before.
    .
  • Drawing tools in PowerPoint –  It is now much faster to work with shapes and drawing tools in PowerPoint. We were even able to leverage hardware acceleration provide by today’s modern browsers to provide a smoother experience. Now great looking slides can be built quicker than ever!
    .

Summary

I hope this blog encourages you to go to skydrive.com and try this new release. If you do, we want to hear from you! Many of the new features we’ve added have been in direct response to the feedback you’ve given us. As you use the Office Web Apps Preview, please click on the smiley face on the upper right to tell us what you like, what you don’t like, and what you would like to see next.

Be sure to stay tuned to the Office Web Apps blog for more on this release in the coming weeks.

Mike Morton
Group Program Manager of the Office Web Applications

Join the conversation

34 comments
  1. Am I the only one who has problem with editing word documents in the browser? (Originally the doc was created in Office 2010 in docx format)

  2. Yes.

    Seriously, if you are having trouble one of the things you can do is to click the "smiley face" icon to send a smile/frown. That will also give you a chance to include a screen shot to show us what is going on with the document. We’re very interested to get the feedback.

  3. Of course I’ve already did it. BTW I’m falling in love with Office 2013. So really great job. ;)

  4. I tried the new online Word app today. It’s very swanky and I’m going to be using it more often.

    Feature request: Make comments available from edit mode.

    Currently I have to back out of my document then go back in to see comments after editing.

    • Thanks for the feature request! Making comments available in edit mode is something we are considering for the future.

      When authoring this post we I found havinig one browser tab open to the ‘view’ mode with comments while having another browser tab open with the ‘edit’ mode worked reasonably well. However I certainly agree having the comments show up in edit mode would be best.

  5. Gray, hi!
    Is there an option to create surveys in Excel 2013 Preview? I can’t find it.

  6. I too cannot figure out how to create a survey in Excel 2013 preview. Anyone know how to do it?

  7. Still no data validation support for Excel, I see. :-(

  8. Check out the new and improved Office Web Apps! This is the product my team at Microsoft has been working on

  9. @VeganRyan – We’re getting closer with the data validation support. In previous versions Excel Web App wouldn’t even load files that contained data validation and now we do. We’re still working on adding the ability to interact with the data validation though – stay tuned, we know it’s an important feature.

    @Dmitry, @John – The best way to try out Survey’s right now is to head on over to the Office365 preview and try the Office Web Apps there ( http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview ). Forms are coming to the Office Web Apps on SkyDrive, but due to some last mile integration points, they won’t light up there until next month.

    • @Dan Hey, great to hear you’re working on it. Thank you!

    • @Dan, thanks. So it’ll be only possible to create surveys in web app. That’s what got me confused.

  10. Thank goodness for finally bringing page layout editing.

  11. Is the commenting feature coming to Excel? I can’t find it from the web interface and comments created in the desktop app are still not displayed on the web app.

  12. Feature request: When I select a range of numerical cells in Excel could you display the total of those cells in the status bar like you do in Excel proper. Thanks!
    I know there’s a feedback link in the SkyDrive web apps themselves but no harm in putting it here too :)

  13. Hello!

    I have a question about CO-authoring:

    I perceived it as it provided an opportunity to edit a document together with live updates on what others type. this is true? Because it did not work for me when I tried it, it was not until after you had saved the document and reloaded the website that you could see what the other had written.
    If that is the case that the office web apps do not support this feature, it would be great if you add it.

    Regards Emil
    ps. I am sorry if my English is bad, it is not my native language ;)

  14. Excel co-authoring needs one very important feature: ability to see which cell your co-author currently has selected — this is the only way you can speak on Skype about what you’re doing: "You see this here? I’ll put an additional zero here".

  15. @Jamie, @Ricardo – We’ve heard requests for these before, and they are on our list of future improvements.

  16. When you print from the cloud dose the computer that the printer is connected to have to be listed out there also?

  17. Seamlessly integrates into my web browser. Keep it coming MS!!

  18. This is a great post, and I’ve been digging the preview.

    I’m wondering – is there a record of the version changes for the Office 365 Web Apps? For instance, when we talk about the current Office 365 Web App, I consider it the Office 365 Web Apps that go with Office 2010. I’m wondering if there is a more technical name, and if the changes are made public somewhere.

    Thanks!

  19. Editing is not working on Safari on the iPad 3, which is very much a HTML5 compatible browser. Can this be fixed, please

  20. It would be really helpful if Excel Web could support multiple editors better, by maintaining a separate view/filter state for each user. Edits could still be propagated to each editing user, but trying to edit a 100+row sheet with three people all wanting a different sort/filter order is frustrating in the extreme.

  21. Can we please have an alphabet table to help select folders in the librarys? I have thousands of folders and it is very frustrating when you are looking for a folder that has just been loaded onto the sharepoint and it can yet be located with the search engine because of the slow indexing process. The tabs will help jump to the page where the folder is located instead of having to click on the page skip arrows at the bottom.

  22. This still doesn’t work with Safari Browser. I even have iOS6 on this old phone and I still can’t edit a docx file. Didn’t even try a xlcs file.

  23. I am extremely impressed with the Office Web Apps and I have been testing the functionality on an iPad. I found it works really well with Word and Powerpoint. The one issue I have is the Excel functionality – I use a bluetooth keyboard with my iPad. When using the Excel web app – it does not let me move from cell to cell (using arrow keys) or even edit cells. The funny thing is that this works perfectly on the other apps (i.e. Word and Powerpoint).
    Any suggestions?

  24. Hi Gray,

    Thank you for your very useful article!

    My firm is an Office 365 subscriber (E3 Plan) I have the following three questions.

    My firm conducts strategic planning and performance management consulting, along with a range of other services. Our Clients (companies external to my consulting firm that hire us for our consulting services and have domains and tech infrastructure that is separate from us) are large and smaller and across a range of industries. Our clients use Powerpoint 2003, 2007 and 2010, while my firm’s consultants use PowerPoint 2010. Client’s browsers also vary in how up to date they are, but most likely use Microsoft Internet Explorer post-7 while some may use Chrome.

    A. Needs/Use Case:
    1.PowerPoint collaboration in the form of my firm’s consultant managing the creation of ppt presentations by several of my firm’s consultants and members of the Client team, typically numbering 5-15.
    2.The most useful collaboration tool is simultaneous co-authoring, mainly of different slides, although it may also occur on the same slides
    3. Nature of documents produced is sensitive and requires a high level of security
    4.Client access needs to be easy and have a polished professional look, feel and navigation (e.g. Need for Client email to have them go through a multistep linking of their corporate email to a Hotmail login as was the case up to three weeks ago for providing external SharePoint editor access wont do.)
    5. Minimum client visibility of the collaboration tools, and minimum client learning

    Ability to edit and deliver/present presentations on a Windows Tablet or iPad is a nice to have, as is change tracking.

    B. Three Questions:

    1. In light of the variability of PowerPoint versions on the client side, and that collaboration requires the 2010 version, could clients who have local copies of Office 2003-2007 use only the PowerPoint Web App to address all of the above needs?
    2. Is this best done via my firm providing Clients links to documents on SharePoint, SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro? Does meeting any of these needs require that my firm or its Clients sign up for preview or newer versions of Office 365, SharePoint or Office?
    3. If the above needs cannot currently be met via Microsoft products, currently, then is there an expected date by which they may be?

    I would be glad to provide any clarification of my needs to allow for the clearest and most complete possible answer.

    Thank you very much Gray!

    • Hi efn123,

      I really chuckled when I read your handle. Sounded something like HAL9000 or Anonymous. But I digress!

      You have a very serious question regarding sensitive Office and SharePoint Artifacts which must be protected with access authorization and encryption. These features exist with Office 2010 Artifacts and therefore may be carried over to SharePoint. As for Adobe Acrobat Artifacts (PDF) you may have to secure PDF documents using SkyDrive accessibility options.

      Office documents may be password protected and encrypted. However, the problem that quickly perpetuates is the spiraling growth of protected documents and loss of password and encryption protection keys (in the form of the password itself). I do not find this to be a very effective form of encryption as passwords tend to be exploited and get beyond adequate means of control quite easily. How does one control geometric growth of Office Artifact passwords. And once one has the password they have also cracked the encryption key.

      Accepted practice is to ensure that passwords and encryption keys be maintained separately. This does not mean that one cannot gain access to the encryption key once gaining access to the password. How does one manage passwords and encryption keys while providing authorized access to them for hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions or hundreds of millions of documents.

      First of all SharePoint should offer access control points for grouping Office and file (audio, video, graphic, etc. artifacts) with varying groupings or levels of authorization for types of access whether viewing, collaborative updating, or highly restricted sensitive (secret or top secret only).

      How does one manage all possible combinations of groups, levels, SharePoint servers, artifacts, and authorized personnel without a centralized single control point of access which creates an bottleneck nightmare?

      You may want to get a copy of FreeFileViewer (FreeWare) which allows you to open and peruse well over a hundred different file formats in character and hexadecimal formats.

      There are many solutions available but one of the most viable and flexible solutions I have bumped into in the dark is a Web Based Browser solution named PassPack @ passpack.com. There are five different versions or levels of the software.

      The Free (gratis forever) version for everyday people provides 100 passwords, one shared user, 0 groups, and disposable log-ins.

      The Pro version for Web Workers provides 1000 passwords, three shared users, 5 groups, and thirty disposable log-ins.

      The Group version for Work Groups provides 1500 passwords, 15 shared users, 25 groups, and eighty disposable log-ins.

      The Team version for Small Businesses provides 2000 passwords, 80 shared users, 100 groups, and two hundred disposable log-ins.

      The Biz version for Large Businesses provides 10,000 passwords, 1000 shared users, 300 groups, and three hundred disposable log-ins.

      The Pro through Biz versions are on an annual subscription from $1.50/mo.; $4.00/mo.; $12.00/mo., and $40.00/mo. respectively. Each Group has a packing key for encrypting the entire database of passwords for each group in the database for each plan. Each packing key may have forty-two alpha-numeric and special characters. Each entry detail may have a Descriptive Name or authorized user of the entry; an authorization User-id for the accounts’ password, an authorization password (hidden), an authorization URL; an associated e-mail address; list of HTML tags; Notes – (Hidden) (with sizes of 1024, 2048, 4096, 4096, and 4096 depending on plan); (Security) Options; (authorized levels of) Sharing; and principle Owner(s) of the entry.

      This Web Browser based PassPack application may provide an extremely flexible security management solution accessible from a Web Browser based platform including IBM Mainframe, UNIX, Linux, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, Chrome OS, FireFox OS, and Microsoft Windows for Surface, PC, and mobile smart devices including tablets and smart phones.

  25. Wow! This is all great!

    However, i am one of the thousands waiting for OneNote on iOS to work with Office365. Right now, I have to using it ONLY with the Skydrive.

    All my friends who use Evernote are laughing at me! :-)

    Any word on when OneNote on iOS will join the Office365 family?

    Thanks for all the great changes and improvements!

    - Jonathan

  26. I am a big user of OneNote on my Samsung Android. Having LYNC is also very handy.

    I am really looking forward to using the Android Browser version of Office (Next) 2013 with "Super" SkyDrive. The Collaborative features are, of course, very welcomed. I am very interested in Excel and its ability to retrieve and aggregate data from other sources.

    What I have not yet heard any real info or news about is file syncing capabilities when working offline and then reconnecting. What’s going to happen with concurrent updates when one contributor is working offline and another is working with the active Web cloud copy and then they want to sync up all the changes all contributors made?

Comments are closed.