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Microsoft Office Web Apps review

Microsoft Office Web Apps lacks many of its offline counterpart's most useful features

Microsoft Office Web Apps
Microsoft Office Web Apps are a stripped down version of their offline counterparts


  • One Note works well
  • Good if you only need the most basic features


  • Word is difficult to recommend
  • Excel lacking many features
  • Word reading mode is annoying

For Microsoft, offering a free version of Office to anyone with a Live ID account is more than a bit of a gamble, so it's not too surprising that the Office Web Apps built into Skydrive aren't exactly direct competitors to their offline counterparts.

Excel WebApp, for instance, lets you put together basic spreadsheets and graphs just like the regular version, but a quick glance at the toolbar compared to the full applications' Ribbon makes it clear just how little you can do in comparison, and how few time-saving features are on offer to help you do it.

For simple spreadsheets though, it's fine, which is more than can be said for the online version of Word. This gives you a genuinely horrible editor to work with, forcing you to type into a full-width text box.

You can switch to a more traditional view for reading files and see how your document will look when printed out, but only via a read-only preview called 'Reading Mode'. This is truly dire.

Proper margins and maximum line lengths make writing far more comfortable, to say nothing of giving you a much better idea of how much you've written and how many pages you're using.

The online version of Word looks especially bad when you fire up OneNote WebApp – Office Web Apps' diamond in the rough. Here, the simplicity works in its favour, making it easy to create an online notebook and fill it with text, images and more, from a very comfortable editing window that Word should be using.

We like OneNote a lot, and this version – while cut down – is good enough to save most people the cost of the full product.

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