August 30, 2011, 10:35 AM — Microsoft Office 365 is the company's answer to online productivity suites. A replacement for Microsoft's Business Online Professional Services, Office 365 includes online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, as well as Lync and SharePoint. Together, these comprehensive and powerful online office tools represent the best overall value you can find today.
If you are familiar with Office 2007 or Office 2010, you'll feel comfortable working in Office 365. The Web incarnations of the Office apps have stripped-down versions of their respective Ribbons, but the overall feel is the same, and the core features are present.
Office 365 offers a more diverse selection of fonts and formatting styles than either Google Apps or Zoho Docs does. More important, those fonts and styles will align with the ones available in the desktop Office programs. You can open the Web apps within the appropriate desktop program with the click of a button, and the desktop Office suite can save files to the online storage so that you can access them on the go through the Web apps.
The spreadsheet app is the weakest link here. Although the Web-based tools are sufficient for basic needs, they lack many advanced features. Even so, Office 365's spreadsheet beats rivals in look and feel (especially for users familiar with the Excel 2010 desktop software), as well as in macros and formulas.
When it comes to document fidelity--maintaining formatting consistency from a Microsoft Office program to a cloud-based equivalent and back again (or vice versa)--no online productivity platform is perfect.
As you might expect, though, Office 365 beats out both Google Apps and Zoho Docs in this department. You won't necessarily be able to add or edit many of the more advanced formatting elements from the desktop Office tools (such as footnotes, headers, or a table of contents), but you can view them, and at least they won't screw up.
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