Microsoft relaunches Office Web Apps as Office Online

The rebranded online suite now offers its own startup Web page, a lineup of new templates, and easier ways to jump from one app to another.

Microsoft

The online version of Microsoft Office has a new name, along with some new features intended to streamline certain activities.

Why the name change? In a blog post on Wednesday, Office Online product marketing manager Amanda Lefebvre acknowledged that the name Office Web Apps confused users. Some apparently thought they had venture to an app store to find the software and then manually install it.

"No, to use them all you need is a web browser," Lefebvre said. "Ah! You say. So it's like Office, online. Yes, exactly. Office Online."

Beyond a new name, the online suite sports new features that make it more accessible.

Previously, you had to hop over to your SkyDrive, now OneDrive, page to create or open a document via Office Web Apps. Now you can head directly to a dedicated Office Online startup page where you can open the online editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. You can also access your Outlook.com e-mail, calendar, and contact list as well as jump straight to OneDrive.

You still need a Microsoft account to use Office Online. But after you log in, you're given a choice of creating a blank new document, designing one based on a template, or opening an existing file from OneDrive. The online suite now comes with hundreds of templates for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, according to Lefebvre, helping you create budgets, resumes, calendars, and other custom-made files.

Microsoft also beefed up the collaboration features so you can more easily work with other people on the same files in real-time.

Finally, Office Online users can more quickly bounce from one app to another. Clicking on a dropdown arrow at the top displays the familiar app switcher toolbar. But now the toolbar includes icons for all of the individual apps in the suite. Simply click on the appropriate icon, and you can effortlessly bounce among Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

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