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Three questions to ask when you work on Office documents in the web

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Technology is the great enabler of creativity and productivity. So when you encounter technology that inhibits your ability to collaborate, you have to wonder what went wrong. To choose the right technology for collaborating on Office documents on the web, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Do you use browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari?

You don’t want to be constrained by your internet browser. After all, the browser is only a means to the end of being productive on the web. Office Online works consistently across all major browsers, including Internet Explorer (IE), Chrome, Firefox and Safari. You do not need additional software such as extensions to make this work. You can view Office documents with consistent file fidelity in these browsers. You can edit Office documents using Office Online across these major browsers without worrying about losing the Office file format or the formatting of the document itself.

The experience of Google Docs is skewed toward Chrome browser. Even in Chrome, however, you need to install the “Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides” extension to be able to edit Office documents in the browser. In other popular browsers like IE, Firefox or Safari, Office documents are opened in view-only mode. If you still want to edit the Office document in these browsers, you will have to convert the standard Office document to Google’s proprietary format and risk losing complete file fidelity and formatting of the document.

2. Do you share and collaborate on Office documents?

Do you remember when you last worked on an Office documents all by yourself? If you are like me, it’s been a very long time. Most work today happens in collaboration with others.

Sometimes, I leave my comments within the Office document, so others can incorporate my feedback into their work. The flexibility of working on documents without worrying about whether the team is able to meet at a particular time or in a specific place is liberating. Being able to access, review and comment on the documents while on the go gives me the freedom to choose where and how I work. Many of you seek real-time coauthoring of Office documents, so you can see in real-time who else is working on the document. Office Online offers that capability as well.

Office Online enables you to access and collaborate on Office documents whenever and wherever you need. It is the easiest way to share and the most collaborative way to work on Office documents. You can even share Office documents with people who have not created a Microsoft account. So, if you are wondering how you could share and collaborate with your friends with a Gmail account, Office Online works for you as well. Just share the document using Office Online, enter the email address of the person, and voila!

While Office Online encourages collaboration on Office documents, Google inhibits sharing and collaborating on Office documents in Google Docs, Sheets or Slides. The only way to collaborate on Office documents in Google is to email them in the old-school way. If you really want to write comments, and share and collaborate with others within the document, Google offers you only one choice. You have to convert the document from standard Office format to Google’s proprietary format. And this results in risking the complete file fidelity and formatting of the document.

3. Do I need to spend time fixing formatting of Office documents?

With the ever-increasing number of devices available today, Office documents are created, shared, reviewed and worked on across different form factors. As you work with these documents, you expect them to look similar no matter how you access them. That’s the promise of Office file fidelity. Even when features are not supported across various platforms, modern Office experiences such as Office Online and Office for iPad enable you to keep the fidelity of the document intact. This promise helps you avoid spending time trying to fix document formatting and instead allows you to be productive and to save time and effort on the project.

Those of you who use Google Drive to store your documents often complain how you lose formatting of your documents when you are working on Office documents using Google. Whether you use Google Docs after installing the “Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides” extension in the Chrome browser or use the latest Docs, Sheets & Slides apps on iOS and Android, you continue to lose document formatting on these devices. For schoolwork, students have to assign someone to fix, format and finalize all formatting changes before submitting term papers. At work, end users have to spend invaluable time and effort to fix the formatting of documents before finalizing their analyses and presentations.

With over one billion users worldwide, Office is the de facto productivity standard. Technology should not limit your ability to share and collaborate on Office documents. Instead, it should simplify the experience and enable creativity. Check out these videos for Word Online, Excel Online and PowerPoint Online to see how Office Online helps you collaborate on Office documents on the web.

Start using Office Online to create, share, collaborate, and coauthor Office documents today!

  1. I like office online and appreciate that they work in tandem with the desktop versions. I keep trying to push the use of office online as well. However, there are 3 things that it lacks and have forced me to revert back to google docs, specifically related to Excel Online documents.

    1. Edit Button – You have to press an edit button to make changes to an Excel Online spreadsheet. I’ve literally had to revert back to Google docs because I kept having people, who’ve i’ve shared teh spreadsheet with, tell me, “I can’t make changes”. I got sick of explaining this to everyone so I went to a google doc where no edit button is required. Why is the edit button there in the first place? Yes, it should be there for opening it up in the desktop version, but there is no need to press a button to edit to doc in the browser, nor is it intuitive. Plus, google docs has become the standard for online docs and everyone is already used to the experience they offer. If you want to make it easier to transition away from Google docs, this is one feature that needs to change.

    2. Live Updating – We have a spreadsheet that multiple people view and some update. When viewing the spreadsheet, changes made by others are not shown instantly. They must manually refresh the page. However, even if they manually refresh the page, the updated information isn’t shown until the person who is editing the document has closed it. To add insult to injury, if the person editing the page, does not close the document “properly”, and instead just closes their browser, the changes don’t get reflected for several minutes for those who are viewing the document, even if they manually refresh their webpage. Having a different experience for reading the document and editing the document complicates things and makes it confusing for the users. The co-authoring experience is great and updates are made live. The co-authoring experience should be made the default experience for those who have editing capabilities on the spreadsheet. For those who don’t have editing capabilities, they should be able to see this information updated live as others make changes.

    3. Browser Support for Conditional Formatting – Conditional formatting is not currently supported in online spreadsheets. This is a basic feature that is frequently used and needs to be supported in the browser. Again, Google docs has this functionality, Office Online should as well.

    These are 3 examples of where Excel Online falls behind google docs. I want to use Excel Online for my spreadsheets, but the lack of this functionality has forced me to use Google docs. Fix these items and Excel Online will be a winner!

    • @Caleb – Thank you for the feedback. We are continuously updating the Office Online capabilities to make it the best collaboration experience for Office documents on the web. Please check back for feature improvements for Office Online.

      • I appreciate your response, however, it’s a bit generic. Can you please tell me if there are any plans to improve the items I have listed above?

  2. Is there any plan to improve the functionality deficiency mentioned above?

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