Office Online (Office for the Web) is the online version that Microsoft offers for free to users who only need the basic functions of an office suite. This version includes the most recognizable and used applications, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, with the ability to view, create and edit files on the go. It’s enough? Yes, for a large majority of users.
Microsoft Office is the most widely used productivity and collaboration suite on the planet. Converted into the de facto standard in companies and administrations, the company markets it in versions for local installation and single payment, and also as a subscription model (Microsoft 365) which is the great bet of the present and future once this way is consolidated. of distribution that has overtaken software after succeeding with music or video streaming services.
In addition to the paid commercial versions, Microsoft offers the suite for free and on other platforms, such as Android, where downloads number in the millions. But it also has a free desktop version that includes simplified versions with the essentials for a good part of users. We will leave you some reasons to use it and we will also comment on its limitations in case you need more.
Office Online is free
The cheapest version of Office 2021 costs 149 euros, while Microsoft 365 for consumption is priced at 69 euros per year. Compared to the commercial versions, it is obvious that the biggest benefit of Office Online is that it’s totally free.
Formerly known as Office Web Apps, it includes the three main applications of any office suite: the Word word processor, the Excel spreadsheet tool and the PowerPoint presentation tool. Microsoft adds other free ones like OneNote, Teams and Outlook, in addition to Microsoft Teams, Forms and Sway.
Using it is as simple as accessing its web page, signing in with a Microsoft ID account (or creating one if you don’t have one), and getting started in any web browser.
Access to documents anywhere
Along with the listed applications, Microsoft offers 5 Gbytes of free storage space on your OneDrive cloud service. Enough to store documents, spreadsheets and presentations. When you work in Office Online, all your changes will be saved to OneDrive in real time. This means you won’t lose hours of progress if something goes wrong and you haven’t manually saved your files.
Another important thing to note is that Office Online works independently of the device and the platform, and can be used from any supported browser (all the important ones) on Windows, Linux or Mac machines. It is also connected with apps for mobile platforms, iOS or Android, which work really well and are also free.
Ease of collaboration
Many users continue to share Microsoft Office documents through email or messaging services. With Office Online it is easier and more flexible, since you can use the Share function to send a link whose online opening facilitates its use by any other user.
The menu allows you to choose any contact or add several of them at once. They can also be selected to have read-only or edit permissions. This version also allows several people to work on the same document simultaneously and only requires that both have the file open with the corresponding permissions.
Unsurprisingly, Office Online doesn’t offer as many features as its commercial desktop or subscription Microsoft 365 counterparts. They don’t include the most powerful tools in the suite, like the advanced formatting of Word and the detailed charts or macros of Excel. That may push this version away for professional purposes, but it’s still very capable for personal use.
Also, there are users who may feel overwhelmed by the number of tools and interface of the full versions. Office Online offers the essentials with everything at hand to work. And it doesn’t load system resources as muchwhich can be an advantage when working on computers with a lower level of hardware.
Office Online also provides organizational benefits. Because it keeps all your files on OneDrive, they won’t take up storage space on your local machine, though it also allows you to do so if you choose to do so. Finally, note that Office Online works with standard Office file formatssuch as DOCX and XLSX, important to ensure compatibility.
This Office for the web receives continuous updates from Microsoft, interface, features, security and known bugs. Not as much as Microsoft 365 on which it bases its operation, but much more than the local Office 2021 suite that will not have a feature update until the next version. If it is that Microsoft gets to produce it because it already warned that the current one would be the last.
This way Office Online will be perfectly up-to-date, shortly after the new features have been rolled out to the commercial cloud suite.
Office Online isn’t perfect
At this point we must also comment on the less strong points of this suite. Or limitations rather. If you need the most advanced features of the commercial suite you will not find them. There are also no free versions of apps like Access, Visio, and Project. Also, it is an online suite with what that means, you need to be connected and you may not always be able to access a reliable Internet connection.
On the other hand, the industry offers alternatives to Office high quality and some free. Example Google Docs / G Suite that has nothing to envy to the Microsoft solution and if you are looking for software for local installation, there you have the fantastic LibreOffice, open source, totally free and with plenty of features for the vast majority of consumers.
And Office Online? We like. Light, with a simplified interface, easy to use, regardless of devices and platforms, and that offers the essentials of the great applications of the Microsoft suite for free.