Office Online Improves with Tons of New Features

Office Online Improves with Tons of New Features

It even supports Chrome OS explicitly now

Microsoft this week announced various improvements to Office Online, its free web-based office productivity experience. The firm has added new features to Excel Online, Word Online, PowerPoint Online, and OneNote Online. And it has added Office Online—gasp!—to the Chrome Web Store.

Here's what's new.

Excel Online

Excel picks up a wide range of new functionality:

Authoring comments. Previously, you could see any comments that were attached to a cell, but you can now add comments to a cell, and edit and delete existing comments. This works via a new Comments pane that is consistent with this capability in other Office Online apps.

Edit a workbook that contains VBA. No, Excel Online doesn't suddenly support the deprecated Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). But it does now let you open Excel workbooks that contain VBA code without corrupting or removing that code.

Hide and unhide rows and columns. In previous released, Excel Online would simply not display hidden rows and columns. Now, you can hide and unhide them right from the web app using a right-click context menu.

Tell Me support. Tell Me is a neat Office feature that lets you ask the application how to accomplish a task and have the answer delivered in a simple drop-down list. Previously, it was available only in Word Online, but now you can access this feature from Excel Online too (and, as you'll see below, from PowerPoint Online too).

New and customizable status bar aggregates. Microsoft added status bar aggregates to Excel Online late last year, letting users select a group of cells and then see the SUM, AVERAGE, and COUNT in the status bar. Now, there a few new aggregates--MIN, MAX, and NUMERICAL COUNT—and you can customize which aggregates are visible in the status bar, as you can in desktop Excel.

GoTo. This "pro" feature lets you quickly jump to any point in a spreadsheet.

Word Online

Word Online also picks up a long list of new features.

Comments. Courtesy of a new Comments pane, you can now write and respond to comments, and mark them are done, in Word documents using Word Online. This was one of the top requested features in Word Online, Microsoft says.

List improvements. Word lists are improved with smarter auto-numbering behaviors and non-default list options like "Set Numbering Value" and "Continue Numbering."

Footnotes and endnotes. Microsoft had added the ability to create and edit footnotes and endnotes previously, but only in some markets. These capabilities are available everywhere now.

Simpler document export. You can now download or print Word documents to PDF.

Improved tables. Word Online now provides better rendering of tables, though it's worth noting that previous versions of course didn't screw up the formatting even when the tables looked wrong on the web.

PowerPoint Online

PowerPoint Online picks up a number of changes.

Text editing improvements. Microsoft says it has re-engineered the PowerPoint Online text editor so that when you're editing slides the layout looks more like your final result.

Tell Me support. As with Excel Online, PowerPoint picks up the useful Tell Me functionality.

Other improvements. PowerPoint Online is now faster thanks to some performance and video playback optimizations, a speeding up of slides advancement, and the ability to play back embedded YouTube videos.

OneNote Online

OneNote Online gets exactly two updates in this release, but they're both big.

Printing. First, you can now print. Yeah, really.

Multi-column section and page navigation. And second, OneNote Online picks up the multi-column section and page navigation that debuted first in the Modern Windows app version of OneNote. I actually like this style quite a bit.

Office Online in the Chrome Web Store

No, Hell hasn't frozen over. This is more like Purgatory experiencing a stiff wind: Office Online is now available in the Chrome. What this means is that you Chromebook-wielding freaks can add Word Online, PowerPoint Online and OneNote Online to your Chrome App launcher. (Excel Online will be added shortly; not sure what the holdup is there.) What this doesn't mean is that you can use Office Online while your Chromebook is offline. But if I'm being honest with myself, I have to tell you I believe that's coming soon too.

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