Earlier days you could buy Office apps like Word or Excel as a single app and use them independently. Though you can still purchase Office 2021 apps independently, Microsoft is pushing their products as a bundled apps suit. They recently renamed Office apps to Microsoft 365 apps, changed the icon and included beautiful features. Good part is that you can access all Office apps online without installing them on your computer or mobile as part of Microsoft 365 apps.
Online Microsoft 365 Apps – Free Vs Subscription
Here are the points to understand before trying to use the Office online editor.
- Accessing online apps is completely free, though you will get limited features when using the apps. For example, you will not get premium features like Editor in Word or Design recommendations in Word/PowerPoint. Free users will get 5 GB of OneDrive cloud storage which may not be sufficient if you want to use this as your documents hub.
- You need a valid Microsoft 365 subscription to use premium features online and install desktop apps.
- The app bundle includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, OneDrive, Teams, Skype, Lists, Sway, To Do and other Microsoft apps.
- You can use any browser with internet connection to access the online apps.
- You can create, edit and sync documents in OneDrive and access the synced documents from desktop or mobile.
For premium subscribed users, though most of the online app features are available in desktop apps also, the online interface is quicker, clutter free and offers some unique features. For example, you can use “Designer” to choose templates in online Word app which is only available in desktop PowerPoint app at this point. In this article, i will use premium subscription account and hence do not confuse if you are not seeing the features in your free account.
How to Open Online Microsoft 365 Apps?
There are multiple options to use online Microsoft 365 apps.
- Use microsoft365.com or office.com website
- Access online apps within Edge browser from Edge sidebar tool
- Install Microsoft 365 app from Microsoft Store
All three methods will show the same dashboard and features based on your account status. However, i find the website works fine while the app crashes frequently and you need Edge for using sidebar tool.
1. Using Microsoft 365 Online Editor from Website
Microsoft has a new website microsoft365.com for accessing all the online apps in one place. As of now, the old office.com is also still available and we expect that will be redirected to the new site soon.
- Login to microsoft365.com with your account which has valid Microsoft 365 subscription. Otherwise, click “Sign up for the free version of Microsoft 365” link and register for a free account.
- You will see a dashboard showing all the apps and your recently created items. You can open the popular apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook from the sidebar. Otherwise, click on the “Apps” from the sidebar to view all the available apps.
- Let us open Word app from the sidebar and it will show a backstage view to create a new document, select from recently created documents or select a template like the desktop app.
Creating and Editing Online Files
The online editor has a simplified and easy to use interface compared to the desktop app. Below is how the online Word editor will look like with Designer option showing the templates to select within the editor. You can simply select the template and start editing online. As you can see, the templates look beautiful and creating such document from scratch using desktop apps will take hell lot of time. You can also drag the space between paragraphs and other elements in the document visually using mouse and click to edit the header/footer easily.
To add a visual call out, right-click on any text and select “Add visual emphasis to text” option from the context menu. This will show you different call out actions, select the format you like and click the tick mark to insert it in your document. The online editor also has the iconic Editor option to do spelling, grammar and similarity check. Using Editor, you can also add a quick AI generated summary at the beginning of your document if your content is more than 500 words.
Saving and Sharing Online Documents
There are multiple options to save or share the online file with Microsoft 365 apps.
- By default, the file will be automatically saved in your OneDrive cloud storage and you can edit it instantly from any other device.
- If you want to open the file in desktop app, then click on the “Editing” button showing on top right corner and select “Open in Desktop App” option.
- Click the “Share” button showing on top right corner to send the file as an email link or only copy the link and share with others in Teams or Skype. Select “Editing > Reviewing” to view the content modified by others lively in your document. In this way, you can collaborate with multiple users online without hassle.
- If you want to download the docx/pdf file to your computer, go to “File > Save As” and select “Download a Copy” or “Download as PDF” option. Alternatively, you can convert Word to PowerPoint or HTML webpage by navigating to “File > Export” menu.
2. Using Microsoft 365 App
Microsoft 365 app is a real confusion as it opens the documents from the desktop app if you also have them on the computer. In that case, the only purpose of the app is to see the dashboard where you can view all documents, spreadsheets and presentations at one place from OneDrive. If you do not have desktop apps then the app will work similar to the online website. Other confusion is that the app with the same name is also available in Mac App Store. However, it is a bundle of Office apps needs valid subscription and do not have separate dashboard.
If you want to give the Windows app a try, go to Microsoft Store and install the app.
After installation, open the app and you will find the dashboard as below. You can create and share the documents online exactly as explained above.
3. Using Online Editor from Edge Sidebar
Edge sidebar is another option to integrate Office documents within Edge browser. This is better than Microsoft 365 app as it works with online editor and you can use on any platform like Mac. You can add the Microsoft 365 app to sidebar from Edge settings page. As shown in the below picture, you can see the dashboard, all Office apps and your recent documents. You can create, edit and share documents using the online editor. This works within Edge regardless of whether you have desktop apps installed on the system or not.
Undoubtedly, creating and editing documents, presentations and spreadsheets using Microsoft 365 apps online is a pleasant experience. Though the free account miss some features, it works well with the premium subscription. The online editor interface is also simple and quicker to sync the documents across your devices. This helps to collaborate with others and review the documents online without installing heavy desktop apps.