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Microsoft Bolsters Office Online Apps with More Features

Microsoft rolled out a raft of new features for its Web-based Office Online apps this week.

The Office Online apps have the look and feel of the desktop-installed Microsoft Office productivity suite apps, but are less feature-rich. Still, Microsoft has slowly bulked up their capabilities over recent years. The most recent additions, announced Wednesday, include:

  • An updated toolbar to surface the Edit, Print, Share and Comments commands
  • Direct printing of PDF files from Word Online (no need to download PDFs)
  • Expanded Save As command options, including the ability to rename files, download files outside OneDrive storage and convert files to the PDF format
  • Ability to save "view only" files to OneDrive to enable editing
  • Improved navigation to "most recently used files" lists
  • A new "blank template" for creating documents
  • The addition of the Tell Me help feature, which delivers info through Bing
  • Improved word count feature, including the ability to count words in text selections
  • Access to native Office apps for Android tablets through an Office Online app

Office Online apps, formerly called "Office Web Apps," include Excel Online, OneNote Online, PowerPoint Online and Word Online, and can be accessed using a Web browser via the Office.com portal or via Microsoft's OneDrive cloud-based storage service. The ability to "create, store and share documents" using Office Online apps is described as being "free" by Microsoft, without elaboration.

Access to Office Online apps is also listed as a benefit of paid Office 365 Home and Personal subscriptions, as well Office 365 business subscription. It seems that commercial use of Office Online apps may have a cost. If so, such information doesn't appear to be readily available from Microsoft's published materials.

Microsoft has also built Office universal apps for Windows 10, which are designed to run "natively" on that operating system across devices of various sizes. These touch-enabled universal apps are described by Microsoft as being free to use on "phones and small tablets" when Windows 10 gets released, although the free part may just apply to consumer use. Exact pricing details aren't clear at this point.

Microsoft also recently announced that it is building its traditional Office 2016 productivity suite for keyboard and mouse users, which is expected to arrive in the second half of this year, along with Windows 10 and Office universal apps for Windows 10.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.