Collaboration with Office Web Apps, Office 2010

Since our review of Google Cloud Connect, several articles have come to similar findings. The loss of data and the inconsistency of the plug-in have led some to conclude Google Cloud Connect is not-even-version-1 product. Today, let’s take a look at Microsoft’s approach to collaboration in the cloud.  For both consumers and businesses, Office Web Apps and Office 2010 provide the tools you need for shareing and editing in the cloud. The following videos provide more detail:

Share and Edit Your Document Virtually Anywhere with Office Web Apps
Office Web Apps first came out in 2009, and are available with SharePoint and Windows Live SkyDrive. 

Anyone with a Windows LiveID account (which is free to sign up if you don’t already have one) can save to Windows Live SkyDrive.  SkyDrive is 100% free to use.  Once you have uploaded your files, you can share files on SkyDrive by sending a link to others.  You can also edit your Office, Word, Excel, OneNote files using Office Web Apps virtually anywhere, including many popular smartphones with Internet access.

Collaborate in Real Time with Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010 allows multiple people can work on the same document at the same time in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote applications.

Mac users can also leverage this great collaboration feature in Office for Mac 2011.  Coauthoring is available in the cloud through Office Web Apps for Excel (you may noticed this scenarion in the first video) and OneNote; coauthoring in Word and PowerPoint files requires Office 2010 client.  You will also be able to take advantage of real time collaboration in Office 365, which will be available later this year.

See District Computers and Mediterranean Shipping Company put Office Web Apps in Action!
Many customers are realizing the benefits of online collaboration with Office Web Apps. Be sure to check out some of these customer stories to see how you can benefit from their journeys.



District Computers

Using Microsoft Office Web Apps** has given DC employees nearly instant access to critical files and correspondence—no matter where they are. Adding to that flexibility is Microsoft Office Mobile 2010, which gives users access to information from Windows phones.

  Mediterranean Shipping Company

Office Web Apps provide Mediterranean Shipping with a cheaper, easier storage and replication alternative. “Our replication solution is very expensive. With Office Web Apps, I will be able to get rid of that solution and stop copying huge files among our branch offices,” says Catassi. “In effect, Office Web Apps is a great remote access solution.” Catassi believes the company will save at least U.S.$100,000 in hardware and licensing costs annually by no longer using its third-party replication solution. “We’ll also be able to cut back on the amount of bandwidth we consume transferring files over the wire,” he adds.

Comments (38)

  1. Anonymous says:

    @Ian: thanks for your comments and loyal readership of this blog. Office Web Apps usage in WL SkyDrive is FREE, you just need to get a Windows Live ID to access your own SkyDrive.  For users that don't have Office 2010 and still using older version of Office, you can still share and edit document through Office Web Apps.  

    As I had pointed out, if you want to have multiple people editing the same document at the same time (coauthoring scenario), you can coauthor Excel and OneNote files without purchasing a Office 2010 license; coauthoring in Word and PowerPoint files would require an upgrade to Office 2010.

    To work around your Silverlight issue, I have located another video that will give you a good intro to Office Web Apps in Windows Live.

    Regarding the editing errors you are encountering, I am not able to reproduce the errors you stated. I opened a Word file in my SkyDrive using Safari and Chrome (no problem in either, see supported browsers  I then added an image and tried to close out the window without saving per your steps, I was prompted "You have made changes to your document that have not yet been saved. Would you like to save those changes or abandon them?" – so no issue with accidentally leaving without Save either.  Moving on to coauthoring, I have seen the same error message "Word Web App cannot open this document for editing because it is currently being edited by another user." – this is likely attributed to opening two copies of the same doc (possibly one on desktop, one on web apps).  You might be testing coauthoring by yourself.  Give it another try with a colleague or use different Windows Live ID accounts. Next, mobile issues on iphone4, I tried access my test files on both iphone 3 and iphone 4, both came up just fine. Microsoft Office Web Apps supports a wide range of cell phones,

    There are millions of people have been using Office Web Apps and Office 2010 since last year, and the usage is only increasing.  At Microsoft, we personally use our own products on daily basis to stand behind the quality.  If you need 3rd party opinions of Google Apps' poor track records, just comb through user comments from past threads or take a look at product reviews out there like these: for Cloud Connect, for Google Apps Outlook Sync.  We will continue to provide customer stories describing their initial experiences of “gone Google”, and decided to come back to Microsoft after the Google honeymoon is over.

  2. Anonymous says:

    @Ian: let me point you to a great resource to help answer your questions –…/office.  There are many experts in this forum that would be glad to assist.

    Office 365 is truly a leading edge product.  I hope you will give it a fair shot when it becomes available.

  3. Ian Ray says:

    I suppose this is nice although I can't watch these demonstrations. All I see on my phone, laptop, and desktop is "Install Microsoft Silverlight. You all do realize there is HTML5 <video> element for things like this, yes?

    I watched some videos on youtube regarding the co-authoring. It seems convoluted to me. I mean, I have trouble getting some users to remember their passwords for more than a week and this mess is Microsoft's suggestion for collaboration? Plus, I figure everyone is going to need Office 2010 Professional Plus upgrades to satisfy legal licensing for this which is a greater cost than the total desktop hardware budget for the next year.

    When people were calling for Microsoft showing us a competing solution, I think they meant something along the lines of similar in price and would work with older versions of Office.

    Anyway, I tried to give this stuff a go. First I tried to log in with my phone (iPhone 4) and first received "sorry there was a server problem" (red X), refreshed, and received this page can't be viewed mobile and "sorry about that." Quite frankly, that sucks Microsoft. How is your phone platform going to get anywhere if I can't even view the cloud gizmos on a phone?

    So I continued on and started editing a Word doc on the browser version but oh "Word Web App encountered an unexpected error" [Restart] [Exit]. Seriously, Microsoft, come on.

    I didn't even try to install the Office 2010 demo as I can see where this is going. If I'm going to get a bunch of errors anytime I try to use this software, I'm not going to bother with the desktop client. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels like this.

    If you can give me some kind of explanation as to why this is all messed up, I'd be happy to try again.

  4. Ian Ray says:

    I tried this again and luckily got past the "Word Web App encountered an unexpected error" by using Chrome instead of firefox. I see that documents will display faster if I install silverlight. Still can't install silverlight on this computer, but anyway…

    Big missing feature looks like autosave. I did a bunch of stuff, uploaded some images, and closed the window. No changes saved.

    I tried again, "Open in Word" but "To open this document, your computer must be running a supported version of Microsoft Word and a browser that supports opening files directly from the Office Web Apps."

    Tried "file – save" (which stops everything to save, you all should know that every other cloud app I've used does not stop the show while the browser sessions saves). More – download… now I can open in Word.

    So I can open it in Office 2010 demo, sort of. I thought this was going to be great, finally editing in web and thick client at same time but I get "Word Web App cannot open this document for editing because it is currently being edited by another user." In use by another user?? Are you kidding?

    I have to say, Microsoft talks a lot of trash about how Google Apps lacks functionality… but guys, the Office web apps are total garbage from what I've seen today. Crashing with errors, recommending I install plugins, not autosaving, stopping everything to save, no actual live collaboration… I never have these problems in Google Apps. Microsoft talks about fidelity but just from messing with a couple of docs, I lost fidelity right away. "We’re converting your document so it can be edited online." Looks terrible. Same doc converted in Google Docs looks clean. Tried to edit the doc and got yet another error about trouble saving doc, exited, had to go back in and edit again. I would never be able to work with this.

    I feel fooled even taking the time to try this stuff out. I've been following these blogs and reading the hype and decided I might as well give this a chance. I thought perhaps you all had really come along as far as you boast. In my opinion, nothing has changed. Everything looks and feels all 1995 style.

    I thought I would be up and running with Office 2010 coauthoring in no time. But… What is the point of online collaboration if I can't easily view files on phones and laptops anyway? I would just assume use on-premise sharepoint and replicate files then, right? This is all so frustrating.

  5. Ian Ray says:

    @Tony, I tried to log in with the iPhone 4 and discovered that I need to touch "Skydrive" after logging in as the main list that comes up from does not let me open files. The main docs menu does not function as it uses onfocus to change the text to "Edit in browser Open in Word More ▼" In contrast, the mobile docs list for Google Apps uses links as well as meta name="viewport" to appear properly on the different iPhone versions.

    For me, being able to quickly access files is not an edge case. I did a comparison for downloading the full version of an excel file with safari cleared and home screen bookmarks for office live and google docs. In Google Docs, it took me 14 seconds to load the page, find and select the document, press "download" at the preview screen and have the document appear. In contrast, the best time I could get for Office Live was 86 seconds. I tried a Word file and it was closer, 66 seconds for office live and 28 seconds for Google Docs. Most of this slowness I can attribute to their not being a true mobile version.

    I was going to try the same test on previewing an word file in Opera Mini (web browser of choice with barely 1 bar cell connection), but Office Live took me straight to photo sharing.

    As for closing the browser window, I tried opening a word doc and changing several headings. I closed the window… no message about saving at all (is this browser dependent or do I need to edit more or what?). I reopened the document and Office Live prompted me "You have changes that may not have been saved. Would you like to attempt to recover them?" to which I clicked yes and it did not recover my changes. I tried several times lose changes and recover and it never recovers. This is not an edge case for me as I accidentally close browser windows all the time (close all to the right, close all but this window, etc) and have had trouble in frequently used apps that do not auto save. I even tried editing a bunch of text, leaving the window open, doing something else, coming back, editing more, and closing. No message, no recovery.

    I would give Microsoft a pass on the major issues with this product if it was not boasted about and hyped up so much. I was almost considering the possibility of using these apps until I tried them. I was hoping things had gotten better than OWA timing out and losing my drafts, but it looks like the same level of user testing was put into these apps.

    Frankly, I was seriously considering this office live stuff before trying it. Hopefully Office 365 is a bit more functional.

  6. jim says:

    Comparing this and what you posted before, I can't see how anyone would use the Google junk.  I was thinking of trying the Google cloud connection but now I'm not going to bother.

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