Microsoft Office (plus Word, Excel and PowerPoint) can be installed as a standalone web apps or PWA. We’ll explain how and the current limitations.
This looks like the Office.com web page but it’s not, it’s Office as a standalone Progressive Web App (PWA). It’s available now in Windows 10 with the Edge (Chromium) browser.
To be honest, it’s not much. The main advantage is that Office appears separately on your computer, not among the browser tabs. It also appears on the taskbar as an app.
What is the Office web app?
You’ve probably used Word, Excel or PowerPoint Online or in a web browser. They are scaled-down versions of the main Office programs that run in a web page.
Microsoft is one of many companies taking that a step further with Progressive Web Apps. These look and act like stand-alone programs but are really web apps.
These PWA’s can, in theory, run on any platform (Windows, Mac or Linux) as long as a supported browser is installed. For Microsoft that means their Edge browser.
PWA’s are a ‘work in progress’ both with the core technologies and deploying them to the public. Microsoft Office is big on PWA’s because they would drastically reduce development costs while expanding coverage across many platforms.
Project Monarch is the very early version of ‘One Outlook’ PWA.
What’s the big deal?
At present, not a lot. Office as an app doesn’t do anything that Office in a web browser can’t. It’s a stepping-stone to much bigger things for Microsoft.
The only obvious benefit, for the moment, is that the app appears in the taskbar as a separate program, rather than buried among browser tabs.
What’s the catch?
The current Office web app isn’t much. It’s really just a gateway to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Microsoft online services.
NO offline support. The Office web app may show a few recently viewed items but there’s no proper caching of data for offline use.
NO link to other PWA’s – Choose a Recent document or make a new doc, it will open in a browser window, not the Office app and not even the matching PWA.
No Mac support. That will change once the Edge browser is properly available on the Mac.
Edge browser required. The ‘new’ Edge browser (Chromium based) is required.
Install Office as a web app
Login to Office.com with Microsoft Edge (Chromium) browser (look for the ‘beta’ label on the Edge taskbar icon).
Then go to the Edge, Apps menu and look for Install this site as an app ….
The web app will now appear on the screen, looking like a stand-alone program. Including its own icon on the taskbar.
Just like any other taskbar icon, right-click to Unpin or Close Window.
Word, Excel or PowerPoint as web apps
It’s possible to run Word, Excel or PowerPoint Online as a web app but in a very limited way.
Open a document with Edge then go to the Apps menu, you’ll see ‘Install this site as an app’. Sounds great but the label is misleading.
The label should read ‘Install this document as an app’.
You can edit the Word, Excel or PowerPoint document in the web app – no problem.
But switch to another document (File | Open or New) and a new browser tab opens, not in the web app.
That’s OK as far is it goes. If you have a regularly opened document, install it as a web app then pin the app to the taskbar. Click on the web app icon to open that document whenever you need it.