Most of you know Google Docs (GD) - the web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and form application offered by Google. Probably in the attempt to remove GD's supremacy and to promote their new Office 2010, Microsoft is preparing a free online version of Office called Office Web Apps.

OfficeWebApps_01For the Technical Preview four application are available: Excel, PowerPoint, Word and OneNote. Each of them tries to reproduce the aspect and the functionally of their offline big brother. For Office 2007 users, the interface is well known. In the top side we have a Ribbon bar, the middle part is dominated by the working area and to bottom is reserved for an optional status bar.

In order to use Office Live Apps you need to have a Live ID and a Skydrive account. All these applications integrate with Skydrive and this is a curious fact because I would expect to be part of Office Live [very strange decision!].

The interaction with the live apps is not really fluid because it has a delay, especially in Excel, when you work with formulas - it takes 3-4 seconds to see the result. I understand Microsoft's wish for adoption and interoperability with any browser without any addon, of the new product, but I think that a Silverlight interface would improve the usability or at least some drag/drop support and a right click menu.

Excel Live

OfficeWebApps_Excel01Spreadsheets - this is Excel all about. The little brother of the offline version is, for the moment, limited to some basic spreadsheet operations. The are no more and no less then 3 sheets [does anyone know how to add/remove them?] on which you can put your data.OfficeWebApps_Excel04

The simple tools available are: text format (color, font, size) and cell format (color, text alignment, data type). There is support for part of the formulas in Excel and one can use cell references to add dynamic data. There is some support for external data sources but it seems that data can only be refreshed if already exists - one cannot add/modify a data source.

OfficeWebApps_Excel03Unfortunately there is no support for locked sheets, hidden sheets and data validation. If you try to open an uploaded document containing some of the previous you will get and error message for edit.

Excel Web Apps gets another minus because there is no support for diagrams/charts. It would be nice to have at least support for charts in a new sheet. Maybe in the next version?

OfficeWebApps_Excel02

I am thinking to migrate my expenses Excel document in Skydrive (Office Live Apps) even though it is quite limited.

PowerPoint Live

OfficeWebApps_PPT01If you have to give a speech and you need to edit your presentation 5 minutes before start on a computer with no PPT installed then you will appreciate this.

OfficeWebApps_PPT02"Tech Preview" is the word that describes PPT Live best. It is just a preview with the basic of basic most functionally of the offline version. You can add some text in predefined areas, some predefined graphics and images. That's all. There is no theme support, not even background color and worthless to say, advanced features like animations.

However, there is support for slideshow - you can run your presentation in browser and you can see/edit the slide notes. If you want to make a simple presentation like Steve Jobs (one word/slide, white background), this is the tool for you :)

OfficeWebApps_PPT04

You can create as many slides as you want - don't think it is a limit - and you can also copy/cut/paste/duplicate/delete any of them.

OfficeWebApps_PPT03 OfficeWebApps_PPT05

Word Live

Well... Not yet. Coming soon.

OfficeWebApps_Word01

OneNote Live

I was so happy to see OneNote in the applications list but the happyness was ruined when I clicked the link. Just like Word, "Coming soon". [Yeah.. Just reveal one corner... Make me wish it! :( ]

OfficeWebApps_OneNote01

Conclusion

Not even far as powerful as Google Docs but with a bright future, Office Live Apps will attract a lot of Microsoft (Office) fans that want a consistent experience when switching from offline to online.

I see a lot of possibilities in education for this kind of online apps. You can do last minute changes to your presentations and/or papers (thesis?) or you can even write them on computers with no Office installed (however I don't recommend writing your thesis in Word - try LaTeX).

Pros Cons
Beautiful interface Limited functionalty
Price: free No OneNote
Excel: Support for data sources PowerPoint: no theme support
Integration with Skydrive Integration with Skydrive - why not Office Live?
Works in both Firefox and Internet Explorer Excel: no data validation