Microsoft today announced “Office Online” which can be reached by a new address, Office.com.
Despite the new name and website, this is the same free, online version of Microsoft Office that the company has been offering for years, but with a few improvements.
There are a few things to know about this not-really-new product from Microsoft.
1. The apps work well and have a lot of functionality like realtime collaboration, where multiple people can type in the same document at once. It’s similar to Google Docs in Google Drive.
2. The free versions only work in a browser when you are connected to the Internet.
3. To get a version that lets you work offline on your PC as well as in the cloud, you’ll need to pay. There’s a version that’s good for up to five devices (Macs or PCs), aimed at family. It costs $US10 a month. There’s also a version for students that costs $US80, is good for four years but is limited to two devices. Those products are called Office 365 Home Premium and Office 365 University, respectively.
If you buy the subscriptions, you also get more online storage and an app that lets you edit documents on your smartphone (iPhone, Android, Windows app).
This is Microsoft’s alternative to Google Apps, which are also free cloud apps that work well.
So, what’s the difference between Microsoft Office Online and the apps tucked into Microsoft SkyDrive? SkyDrive is Microsoft’s free online storage. It includes Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote), as well as email (Outlook.com), a calendar, and an address book.
Answer: there is no difference. Office Online, Office.com, and SkyDrive are the same thing.
If you go to Office.com and sign in with your Microsoft ID, all the old files and documents you created or uploaded to SkyDrive will be there.
And Microsoft also changed the name of SkyDrive to OneDrive.
With the new name, Microsoft added a couple of minor new things to the apps like more templates and a new menu that lets you switch between apps.
But Microsoft tells us that this change is really about making Office Online easier to find compared to leaving them tucked away as a feature of its online storage.