Microsoft announces first major update to Office Online

The free service, not to be confused with the subscription Office 365, gets a major functionality boost.

microsoft office logo feb 2015

Microsoft has rolled out its first major update to Office Online, the free web version of its office productivity apps that are designed for basic functionality compared with its big brother, Office 365.

Office Online was previously branded as Office Web Apps and is available for free at or as part of an Office 365 subscription. It has the same standard productivity apps – Word, Excel, PowerPoint – with just basic features for working on those file formats.

Office Online is meant for creating simple documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, as well as doing some light editing in those formats while maintaining file compatibility with Office 365 and Office 2013. That doesn't necessarily mean it's not very powerful. It comes with Skype and OneDrive integration along with the Office apps themselves.

Microsoft detailed the many improvements on the Office blog. Here is a rundown of the more notable fixes.

  • Tweaked the Reading View toolbar to make regular commands like Edit, Print, and Share more easily available and make tools like Download and Translate easier to locate.
  • Overall, the toolbars are now more in line with the desktop and mobile versions of Office. It's now faster and easier to navigate through documents from your device or from your OneDrive.
  • You can now make copies of documents you couldn't open for editing that will be saved to your OneDrive. Save-As allows you to download copies of files that are stored on OneDrive and you can download documents as PDFs.
  • Proofreading tools are improved and now have a highlighted word count in addition to a total document word count.
  • A Tell Me search box has been added to the ribbon.

The Android Office apps can now open files from Office Online.

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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