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Before February 2014, “Office Online” was the name of the website Microsoft used as a repository for templates, clip art, and other helpful adjuncts to Microsoft Office. Now “Office Online” refers to a collection of apps that run in a browser. These include Word Online, Excel Online, PowerPoint Online, and a few others — Outlook.com, Calendar, OneNote Online, and a social-networking hub called People — that I won’t be examining here. In this review, I’ll focus exclusively on the three main productivity apps — Word Online, Excel Online, and PowerPoint Online — and how well they play with their counterparts on the Windows desktop.
Creating simple documents in Word Online or Excel Online works very well indeed. Simple documents, so long as they remain simple, can be opened and edited in both the desktop and online versions of Office. No problems at all. You should expect problems, though, when you bring an even moderately complex document from Office on the desktop into Office Online. Presentations are a lost cause.
PowerPoint Online is undoubtedly the weakest of all the Office Online programs. You can edit only in Editing View. There’s no equivalent to desktop PowerPoint’s Outline Master or Slide Sorter views. Your presenter notes won’t help much — PowerPoint Online has no Presenter View either.
Video and audio can’t be inserted into a slide using PowerPoint Online, although shapes, text boxes, and SmartArt are supported. If you have a presentation created with the desktop version of PowerPoint, and it has video or sound on a slide, playing a previously embedded clip requires Silverlight. Playing a clip linked from a website requires Flash. (This means they won’t work on mobile browsers.) Trying to play a previously embedded video file larger than 50MB or a WAV file larger than 100KB in PowerPoint Online can cause headaches.
You can’t paste pictures into slides that have been copied from other presentations or applications. There’s no Find/Replace, very few animation effects, and only fade and wipe transitions. You can embed hyperlinks in text, but you can’t hyperlink on pictures or shapes. You can insert tables, but you can’t edit them. You can’t insert charts or equations. And I crashed the bloody thing, over and over again.
PowerPoint Online might be useful for creating a very simple presentation or sketching one to be fleshed out when you get to a real version of PowerPoint. I wouldn’t trust PowerPoint Online for editing an existing presentation — too many bugs, too many crashes. Compared to Word Online and Excel Online, PowerPoint Online seems severely limited.
If your needs are modest and you don’t rely on PowerPoint much, Office Online may be all the productivity software you need. Word Online has many of the features everyday users might want, and Excel Online’s capabilities come even closer to those of the desktop version — to a first approximation, anyway
If you think Microsoft’s Office Online will let you view and edit Office docs with nary a hiccup, you’re wrong. Although simple Office documents can go through a round trip to Office Online and escape without much trouble, even moderately complicated documents can end up in shreds. The technology just isn’t there yet.
Source: Associated Press