Microsoft snazzes up Office web apps with new Office Online portal

Web-based version of Office apps have been around for a long time—we wrote about the first Office Web Apps tech preview way back in September 2009. As of today, the app suite has a new name, Office Online, and a new home, the web portal. The portal offers easy access to web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and it also points to some of Microsoft's other web services, like and the newly rebranded OneDrive cloud storage service.

To help new users settle in, Microsoft says it's also added "hundreds of Word, PowerPoint and Excel templates." Opening an Office Online app brings up a modal "Let's get started" prompt with options to create a blank document, look through templates, or open files located on your OneDrive cloud storage. There are templates for "[b]udgets, resumes, calendars and more," and Microsoft says all templates are available free of charge.

Naturally, Office Online apps also have dynamic sharing and collaboration features built in. Microsoft says it's even possible for users running web and desktop versions of a given Office app to collaborate on the same document in real time. You can find out more in this blog post, which was posted in November when the new collaboration features debuted.

I've been a loyal Google Documents Drive user for the past few years, mainly because I haven't found the alternatives to be nearly as convenient or as readily accessible. Office Online looks good, though. I haven't had time to kick in the tires yet, but I'm already liking the ease of access, the slick user interfaces, the OneDrive integration, and the compatibility with desktop Office apps, which I use daily. I'm definitely tempted to lay off Google Drive, at least for a while.

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