Microsoft updates Office Web Apps with refreshed UI

When it comes to the Office suite, the spotlight usually shines on the various desktop applications that many of us have come to know so well. Many forget – or simply don’t know about – the range of Office Web Apps that can be used through a browser, but that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from continuing to develop and improve these apps alongside their desktop counterparts.

Today, Microsoft quietly updated its Office Web Apps with a range of small but welcome enhancements, including some user interface changes. Although there has been no official announcement about the updates, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that some changes have been made.

Most of the improvements focus on the UI, with design alterations to the title bar and Ribbon interface, which now includes a prominent ‘Share’ button that allows users to easily provide access to documents for others via SkyDrive.

Compare, for example, the old interface for the PowerPoint Web App…

…to the new one launched today:

In OneNote, finding notebooks has become a little easier with the introduction of a two-column navigation structure on the left (similar to the OneNote app for Windows 8/RT). A new 'help' feature has also been added to the Word and Excel apps, in the form of a ‘Tell me what you want to do’ search bar that will soon make it to the PowerPoint app also. This feature allows users to search for features or tools across each app, and apply changes more easily from the search results. 

It's also worth noting an observation from Wes Miller of Directions On Microsoft, who tweeted: 

Those who use Office Web Apps on touch-enabled devices will no doubt appreciate these improvements, especially given that 'touch-first' version of the full Office apps are still several months away. 

Source: TechCrunch | top image via TechCrunch

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16 Comments

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Got "Server Error in '/x/16.0.2430.3006' Application, Runtime Error" a few times yesterday, but seems fine today.

I wonder why persons would use Google Apps over this? Office Web Apps are free, just requires a Microsoft Account which is free and you get the compatibility and access to your documents anytime anywhere. Albeit, its not full Office, but what else would you expect? What matters is that document fidelity counts the most and confidence you make a quick edit without having launch full Office especially on a machine that might not have it installed (which is rare in itself).

Yep, a Microsoft account is free and doesn't even require a Microsoft (live,hotmail,outlook) email address. I also have to wonder if this is a pre-cursor to office on iPad. An app has the potential to have more features that the browser based version, but how much more will be interesting to see.

There are too many people attached to Google (through search and Gmail), and now Google Drive. They either a) aren't aware Office Web Apps exists or b) they may know if, but don't want to stray away from Google or c) they hate/dislike MS and refuse to make an MS account.

Unfortunately for MS, too many people fit in either A, B, or C.

Quikboy said,
There are too many people attached to Google

Greetings from China. Who is this Google you guys over there in the small countries all talk about? We used to have a company called Google or Good Dog or whatever here but they bombed big time.

They need a basic UI layout for slow connections, and rebuild it completely in HTML 5 and WebGL. The Office Web Apps are like Google Docs, and Skydrive they are somewhat sluggish when using touch (on my Surface) and without a good internet connection. Don't even get me started on iCloud docs that lags alot.

Edited by ians18, Jan 23 2014, 6:52am :

IIRC Microsoft "rebuilt" for Office 2010 & 2013. It's definitely not the same beast it was in 2007. I'm not sure what WebGL would bring, but SVG is used pervasively. (E.g. in PowerPoint when you're laying out a slide.) IE7 is not supported, and IE8 appears to be on its way out too. They're well set up to deliver a good modern web experience without having to rebuild anything.

Perception of lag through touch is an interesting subject. The human brain is very good at noticing lag under the finger; 100 milliseconds is painfully obvious, where with a mouse it wouldn't be too bad at all. I don't think you'll see any significantly complicated web app perform much better under the finger, but I guarantee a ton of folks at Microsoft are working on this problem, as Windows' app infrastructure is in large part HTML-based now, nevermind the Office Web Apps. Just avoid Safari and you'll be fine. ;-)

Internet connection should only be a factor in "first run" of the Office Web Apps. Once the document's open and you're editing it, things should be pretty smooth. If this is your first time using it in a while, give it a bit.

Maybe these updates signal for free mini office apps for touch on iPad, android, and windows before the full versions for touch come out. Perhaps to be integrated with the SkyDrive app? Like google does with their Google drive app?

TheCyberKnight said,
Signs of things to come on the desktop or Windows Store version?

Yes. More information soon at //Build/ or earlier.