Microsoft launches Office Online, gives a new look

Last month, it emerged that Microsoft was planning to relaunch its Office Web Apps with a new name and more prominence for the web versions of its productivity suite. Today, that change finally went live, with the launch of Office Online, and a collection of small but welcome improvements.

In a blog post, Microsoft said that the changes are designed to improve the experience of using these online programs, making it "easier to find, share and collaborate with others." Telling, the company also says it knows "that many of the one billion Office users haven't tried" its web apps yet, perhaps implying that the real reason behind the changes is that these apps are being used far less than Microsoft would like. 

Microsoft's Amanda Lefebvre explained that the main motivation for ditching the Office Web Apps name came from customer feedback: "We heard from customers that the inclusion of Apps in our name was confusing. Are they something I install? Do I go to an app store to get them?" Office Online was seen as a far less confusing does-what-it-says-on-the-tin name for users to understand. 

The second major component of today's changes is a new look for, with clearer signposting to the various apps available. When you visit that site, you'll see tiles directing you not only to Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint, but also to, OneDrive, Calendar and People.

Those of you paying attention will recognise that the latter four tiles also feature in Microsoft's drop-down navigation bar (or 'app switcher', as Microsoft calls it) that features at the top of each of the sites for those services. While on, these tiles are available on the app switcher, but it is unclear if they will also be added to the same navigation bar on other Microsoft sites, such as and the newly launched OneDrive

You can open an existing document, or create a new one using any of the four Office Online programs. Launch one, and things won't look much different from the pre-existing Office Web Apps, including OneNote Online, which saw its own updates a few weeks ago. 

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"Office Online was seen as a far less confusing does-what-it-says-on-the-tin name for users to understand."

Putting "Free" in the title probably wouldn't hurt either. I have heard more than one person ask me how much "web office" costs. I think a lot of people get this confused with Office 365 which is also "office online."

The apps do look good but I wish they would bring back and exit or close option.... never liked the idea of just closing a tab assuming everything was saved.

Wow they apps looks so sexy now!

Love the new app switcher, but they need to consolidate them since it's obvious it's updated in some places and not others yet.

Hope they update the other pages on as well, they look a bit dated compared to the new sexy home page.

Ya know......Office Online is gonna hurt PC sales and prompt more users to buy Chromebooks.

People don't get it,... 99% of the world don't need the stuff (full blown) Office offers. To offer Office Online free to everyone on the web gives users more reason to buy Chromebooks than ever. This also hurts their Surface PC/tablet commercials. Anyway...LOL....I find it so wholly unrealistic that a mother will take her "heavy" laptop to Karate dojo.

I've tried Office Online on a Chromebook. Do you know how easy it is to integrate Office docs with Google Drive? The user will just end up using Google Drive anyway because when you save/download a document it saves directly to Google Drive.

Just ask yourself this question: Does Apple make iWork/iLife available for Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone?

Its quite funny. First all we heard was how Google Docs was going to kill Office. Now that Office 365 and Office Online have effectively rendered Google Docs irrelevant the rhetoric has apparently shifted to some unintelligible rant about Chromebooks... or something.

I guess it depends by your needs; for example my top priority is Outlook; any combination without it is a no go. And yes I have Office 365 Professional.

Previously when I'd click on a (what was) SkyDrive file I'd be asked if I wanted to open it online or download it. Today, OneDrive went right to a download, without giving me a choice of opening online. Maybe this is the new default. Or, maybe it's not fine tuned yet.

Looking good. All part of the long term move to have as much as possible online so it doesn't matter if you're on your home PC, work PC, phone, tablet or games console.

It is an incremental step, but a good one. I hope to see MS offer some of the other Office products like Visio and Publisher but I can understand why that wouldn't be as big of a priority.

I love seeing MS act as a SaaS provider. I think this is going to make a lot of money for them.

Publisher? I had to check to see that it still exists ;-)
Hasn't Indesign become the standard for DTP?
Visio I can understand though...

Yea, I admit I had to check my install before writing that. I think it'll eventually go the way of FrontPage, but you never know. But in reality, beyond Visio, MS just needs to keep upping the feature set and templates. I would also like to see a Private Cloud version of this. You can edit docs from a Sharepoint webpage but I'm still just not a sharepoint fan. I would rather see a private cloud based OneDrive with as much Office functionality as possible. That would be useful to large enterprises. Especially those that must meet various compliance regs like HIPPA, ITAR, PCI, and others..

Would be great of MS would create direct links to this in metro start in 8.1.1. Would make it a complete product.

I've been using the Web Apps since they were first introduced, and haven't had the need for anything else since, really.

I don't do many heavy stuff in Office that would require me to buy the actual suite, so to me these web aps, considering they're free, are probably the best thing Microsoft has done in a long while.

Considering this is a full-blown Office suite on the web accessible for free, this can't be beat for those of us who haven't payed for the desktop applications. Well done M$, great to see you doing stuff like this.

-adrian- said,
it is not the full blown office suite - it is office online

no, it isn't, but for an online service- this is probably the most feature-packed office suite you're ever going to find. And they're probably just going to keep adding more features frequently.

-adrian- said,
just like google docs.. did take them long enough to collaborate on documents
I hate that you have to save to get the changes instead of live collaboration like with google docs.

The bar with word et al shows only when you are in one of the Office online applications such as word. When you are in a normal onedrive page it shows Outlook, People, Calendar, etc without them listed.

whoreman said,
The bar with word et al shows only when you are in one of the Office online applications such as word. When you are in a normal onedrive page it shows Outlook, People, Calendar, etc without them listed.

This should be fixed asap to get a consistent user experience. If you click on outlook in office you cannot get back to office, which can be frustrating. But I gues the are working on it.

Edited by Borix, Feb 20 2014, 10:14am :