Microsoft Office Web Apps: Limited, mediocre, dismal

Web-based editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote are underwhelming at best

By Neil McAllister, InfoWorld |  Software, Microsoft Office

On the other hand, the Word Web App editor handled less-complex documents fairly well. Text looked close to how it looked in the original files, and there were even tools for working with tables and some limited image editing capabilities. Disappointingly, however, styles and formatting that were visible in the online viewer disappeared in the editor, although making basic text changes didn't seem to corrupt any formatting when I re-opened the same file in Word later.

Editing was also a little cumbersome. Page margins always extended to the width of the browser window, for example, and text rewrapped whenever I resized the window. Text selection seemed rather slow and clumsy, even by normal browser standards. My overall impression was that this was a clever, Web-based text editor -- which of course it is. Still, the Word branding had me expecting something closer to a real word processor.

Excel has arguably received the most attention from the Office Web Apps team, having been the first one made available to reviewers. The final version worked much like that earlier preview -- and that's not entirely a good thing. Similar to the Word Web App, it worked well for simple spreadsheets, but by the same token, its shortcomings were glaring. It was able to display files that contained shapes, objects, or VBA macros to a limited degree, but it couldn't edit them. Likewise, while embedded graphs would update when I changed data, there was no way to create new graphs from within the browser. And forget about pivot tables or other advanced features. In a nutshell, while Excel Web App will keep a basic ledger just fine, if you've grown even a little bit creative with your Excel workbooks, don't expect much.

Changing data in Excel spreadsheets updates the corresponding graphs automatically in Excel Web App. They look great, but don't bother looking for a button to create them: You can't.

PowerPoint Web App and OneNote Web App: Epic fail Disappointment became a theme as I used the two flagship Web apps, and that theme was only underscored as I moved on to the others. Perhaps seeing the Office 2010 UI in my browser distorted my expectations, but if the Word and Excel Web Apps seemed limited, the PowerPoint Web App was thoroughly mediocre.


Originally published on InfoWorld |  Click here to read the original story.
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