Microsoft Word Web App – Good But Not Great for Students

I’m happy to see that Microsoft is finally getting into the on line office market. There is nothing better for inovation than competition between two companies with a lot of money, and a lot of smart employees. I’ve been a heavy user of the Google Docs wordprocessor and spreadsheet apps since 2006.  The Google Docs apps are not as powerful as the desktop Microsoft Office programs, but now have enough features that I have almost stopped using Microsoft Office desktop products.  The thing that drew me to Google Docs in the first place was it’s excellent collaboration features, like real time multi-user document editing and a strong version control system – all essential features for college students.

Here are my thoughts on Microsoft Word Web App (live.office.com). Before you test drive it yourself, you’ll need an active hotmail.com or live.com account.

Word Web App Pros:

  • The look and feel of the Word Web App is very similar to Word 2007.  Similar, but not as many features, which is to be expected at this point in it’s product development. If you use Word 2007 you have a very small learning curve.
  • Sharing a document with others is easy to do.  Having the document on the internet makes collaboration simple… no more worrying about whether or not you have the most recent version in your email inbox or not.
  • The built in version control looks solid.  It is now a trivial task to revert the document back to an earlier version if necessary, or see what was deleted by accident.
  • 25GB of file storage is excellent. I’m not sure what the limit is in Google Docs to be honest.
  • You can edit documents in any web browser, not just Internet Explorer.  I’ve been working in Google Chrome on a Mac, and the experience has been good.

Word Web App Cons:

  • No footnotes, endnotes or Tables of Contents. For students this is a problem.  You can add footnotes, endnotes and Tables of Contents in the desktop version of Word, but you can’t edit them or even see them in the online version.  Hopefully this will change soon, as this is a big problem for students who need to cite their references.  Google Docs started out without footnotes, but added them in October of 2008.
  • While you can edit documents just fine in any web browser, if you want to edit the file in your desktop version of Word you need to be on a Windows computer in Internet Explorer.  Not a huge deal, unless you need to add footnotes, or are on a Mac.

Whether you end up using Microsoft Office Web Apps, or Google Docs, we’re all going to benefit from Microsoft getting into this market.  Overall this is a good first effort from Microsoft.  Hopefully they’ll quickly add footnotes to their otherwise excellent product.

Here’s a short Google Apps video that shows how useful real time collaboration on a document can be… no more emailing a document back and forth between collaborators:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7y7NafWXeM]

7 comments

  1. I cannot add end notes or foot notes to my gmail attachments.I have to send abstracts and papers for submission on line . But my end-notes get left out. How do I send these with the attachment on gmail?
    I should be grateful for the help.

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