Microsoft Improves Office Web Apps UI, Adds New Features

Microsoft Improves Office Web Apps UI, Adds New Features

More improvements to the best web-based office productivity suite

Microsoft this week announced some nice new additions to its free, web-based Office Web Apps, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote Web App. They've been updated visually, and with new navigation, and Word Web App received a few nice new functional updates too.

While the Microsoft post announcing these changes is focused on Word Web App, it's pretty clear that the first is for all Office Web Apps and that some of the latter ones may be as well. Here's what Microsoft announced, though I'm not yet seeing these changes in my own OWA versions.

Visual/navigational changes

The first big visual change is the addition of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote Web App tiles to the navigational header that's provided by SkyDrive and Here's the current header:

And the new one:

Microsoft has also improved the look—and usability—of each web app, using a new color-coded bar that provides access to that new nav header and includes an obvious Share button for real time collaboration.

Word Web App + Tell Me

Word Web App is picking up Tell Me integration, which Microsoft describes as a feature that "understands what you're trying to accomplish and helps you do it faster." I assume this means that you can ask Word Web App a question—audibly? By typing?—and it will show you the answer. Or something.

Word Web App: Footnotes and endnotes

You can now add, browse and format footnotes and endnotes in Word Web App using a new canvas.

Word Web App: Better Shapes, Textboxes and WordArt

Microsoft notes that Word Web App is also picking up enhanced rendering support for Shapes, Textboxes and WordArt, but offers no details.

Wait and see

We'll have to see how these changes look and work in the real world. Indeed, when I tried to check them out earlier today, Word Web App came up with a blank header area, suggesting that this stuff is literally being updated now.

So I'm looking forward to actually seeing this in action. 

UPDATE: I'm now seeing the color-coded web app headers, but not the new nav bar. Here's the one from PowerPoint Web App:

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