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Can you get by with Office Web Apps alone?

We’re constantly looking for ways to increase productivity. The normal 9-5 no longer exists and you find yourself constantly managing content on the move outside of your ‘regular’ working hours. Of course the ability to save documents on a flash drive or locally on your laptop hard drive has been an effective, and mobile, way to edit your content on the move. However its now commercially evident that cloud-based services are growing stronger and becoming more trusted by the day, as seen by Nasuni’s 2013 infographic.

In this article I am going to look at Microsoft’s Office Web Apps and whether or not they are a suitable alternative to editing locally.

State of Cloud Storage in 2013


When on the move the last thing you want is a frustrating interface that makes you want to hurl your expensive tablet down the aisle of the train. So let’s take a look at the interface of Microsoft’s Web Apps.

For those who are sharing a document that needs to be regularly updated, the web app feature that SkyDrive offers is a fantastic solution for those invested in Microsoft’s ecosystem. For example, if you are composing a report at home on your desktop machine using Word 2013 you can easily upload the file directly to SkyDrive. However on the way to work the next day you realise it needs to be updated to take into account an email you received in the morning. By simply logging into your SkyDrive account you are able to open your file and amend it immediately in any browser. 

A screen shot of Word's ability to share.

If you have uploaded an Office produced file you can also input data on the move, which automatically saves for any shared parties to view immediately. The only slight downside however is it’s navigation layout compared to its desktop counterpart. Functionality seems to be completely ignored from SkyDrive’s iOS and Android applications. Although you are able to view and upload content through the application it doesn’t allow users to edit the content directly. You can use the browser in your mobile device, however trying to add data into a tiny field on a small screen is extremely frustrating.

You have the ability to upload and view content but not to edit.
You have the ability to upload and view content but not to edit.

So let’s consider the other side of the coin, using Office desktop software. With netbooks and compact laptops users are taking their home machines with them to work. This allows much more functionality when it comes to using software such as Office 2013. Not only do the desktop versions allow easier navigation but they also allow the user to access more formatting features. There has always been an argument in the digital community as to whether producing content on the move is practical, an example of which can be seen in an interview with the late Steve Jobs on All Things Digital. So I am not entirely convinced many people actually prefer to generate content on the move, as opposed to creating content in their office or at home on the desktop version Office 2013.



How easy is it for a group of people, your colleagues or friends, to edit one single document on a variety of devices? And more importantly do you have to already posses a advanced level of technical knowhow to operate its software or web app interface?

To answer the first question, very. It’s clear that Microsoft have taken the user interface and need for interconnected services very seriously. If you’ve read my previous article on cloud based storage you would have picked up on the Apple’s rival service iCloud’s ability to automatically sync documents to the cloud. When users are operating Office 2013 they clearly have the ability to not only upload their files to SkyDrive but to SharePoint also. This seamless connectivity between desktop and cloud based software blurs the line between any preference most people have between using either or.

Microsoft's SkyDrive Desktop Interface

To answer the second, no. Immediately SkyDrive’s interface is bold, clear and customisable to the user’s preference. Its simple click and edit system doesn’t cause its users to sit around and wait for his/hers PC to boot up the software. Even with a mediocre ADSL connection the web apps load almost instantaneously, it is worth noting however this is variable depending on your file size you are trying to load.

How much of a priority is it though for those working in a commercial environment to work from web apps alone?

This is quite a difficult question to answer as most people will have a varying experience using cloud based software such as Office Web Apps. However let’s go back to the point I made previously about the ‘regular’ working hours of a 9-5, does that even exist anymore? Being continuously connected to online services can be both a blessing and a curse, it will allow you to be able to complete you job in less time but also bring with it the stress of expectation. And by that I mean your boss may, I’m not saying will, expect you to be able to respond to emails and work on documents remotely at any given time. So you can argue that actually yes, being able to utilize the Office Web Apps is extremely important in our professional lives but may come at a cost…

Not only do we have to consider the need to be connected at all times but also the need to work collaboratively on the cloud. From my experience I have often used SkyDrive to upload an Excel file, where others are able to input data for me to check on a daily basis. From copy writing it also provides sub-editors the ability to look directly at a document and adjust any grammatical or syntax errors much quicker than it would be to contact the author directly. These are just a few examples of the requirement to have a collaborative platform, however how this works on a much larger commercial scale is something we would love to hear from you about.

Do you solely rely on using web apps and the cloud to share and edit your content? Or do you think that you can achieve the same results by working directly on the desktop version? 

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