Office Web Apps – dive in and try ’em

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The free browser version of Office is worth trying out.

Office Web Apps are the online, browser based versions of the Microsoft Office programs. There are versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that can run in a web browser wherever you are and are totally free.

The Web Apps are a useful extra tool for any Office user. They let you access and edit documents when you’re away from your computer, if the Office software isn’t working or on extra computers in your home or office that can’t justify the cost of full Office software.

Anywhere with a browser and net connection can become a free, basic set of familiar Office programs for you to use.

PowerPoint users can use PowerPoint Web App as a backup display option. If your computer fails and that vital presentation won’t play, try the Web App to display the same presentation. It will play full screen and you’re audience won’t even know you’re using a browser.

In this article we’ll give you a brief overview of Office Web Apps, we encourage you to give them a try and expand the opportunities for accessing your Office documents.

Office Web Apps gives the acronym OWA which, as we’ve mentioned before is already used as Microsoft shorthand.

Office Web Apps requires Internet Explorer 7 or above, Firefox or Safari. Google Chrome is partially but not completely supported.

Getting an account

You probably already have an Office Web Apps account because it’s part of Windows Live. Anyone who has a Windows Live / Hotmail account has access to Office Web Apps.

Go to, login then choose the ‘Office’ option on the top row. On the left is a list of folders such as ‘Photos’ and ‘My Documents’ – choose ‘My Documents’ for starters.

Office Web Apps - main menu.jpg image from Office Web Apps - dive in and try

Make a document

In the My Documents folder, under the ‘New’ label you can create a new document for Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote.

Choose to make a Word document, enter a file name when prompted then the Word Web App will open up.

You may get a security warning from your browser when open a Web App for the first time or after the app has been updated – allow the application to run.


The Word Web App looks like Word 2007/Word 2010 but with less features on the ribbon.

OWA - Word Web App.jpg image from Office Web Apps - dive in and try

All the main features are there; text formatting, paragraph alignment, indenting, basic styles.

You can Insert tables, pictures, clipart and hyperlinks

Transferring documents

You can transfer documents to and from your computer to the Office Web Apps.

To download a document from OWA, go to the My Documents list (or other folder you have online), find the document and under the ‘More’ label you’ll find ‘Download’.

OWA - download a document.jpg image from Office Web Apps - dive in and try

An OpenXML (.docx) file will be transferred to your computer. This file can be opened and edited in any compatible program including Word 2010, Word 2007 or earlier versions of Word with the compatibility pack installed.

To upload, choose ‘Add Files’ (next to the New button), choose an online folder for the files to be saved to then select the files on your computer to upload. There’s a ‘drag and drop’ option available depending on your browser.

Then choose the newly uploaded document from the list select ‘Edit in Browser’ to open it in Word Web App.

Office 2010 users have another way to do the same thing. On the File | Save and Send menu there’s an option ‘Save to Web’ to save the current document to Live/Skydrive. On each of the web app ribbons there’s a ‘Open with …’ that will open the document directly in Office 2010.

Display and Edit differences

The uploaded document might not look the same. That’s because Office Web Apps doesn’t support editing of many features available in Office software. However, as long as you don’t change the formatting, the software created features will remain.

For example, here’s a document with some text effects and fancy table formatting as created in Word 2010:

OWA - reading view.jpg image from Office Web Apps - dive in and try

and here’s the same document in Word Web App editing view:

OWA - Editing view of same document.jpg image from Office Web Apps - dive in and try

All the non-supported formatting doesn’t appear but it’s not lost either. Look again at the first example and you’ll see it’s not from Word software, its from the Word Web App reading view which is capable of displaying the Word document in full.

Play time

As you can see, Office Web Apps are scaled down versions of their software based cousins. Anyone used to Microsoft Office should not have a hard time getting used to Office Web Apps.

Give Office Web Apps a try, create a new document, upload a test document, edit it then send it back to your computer.

Once you’re familiar with Office Web Apps you’ll find uses for it, maybe not every day but in situations where you had no option in the past.

Try Office Web Apps out and let us know what you think – Questions? Likes? Dislikes? Use our online contact form.

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