Screenshot of Word Online, as of August 2014[update]
|Type of site|
|Registration||Mandatory for web mail and file sharing; optional for others|
|Launched||June 7, 2010|
Office Online (previously Office Web Apps) is an online office suite offered by Microsoft, which allows users to create and edit files using lightweight, web browser-based versions of Microsoft Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. The offering also includes Outlook.com, People, Calendar and OneDrive, all of which are accessible from a unified app switcher. The on-premise version of this service called Office Web Apps Server can be installed in private clouds in conjunction with Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft Lync Server.
Office Web Apps was first revealed on October 2008 at PDC 2008 in Los Angeles. Chris Capossela, senior vice president of Microsoft business division introduced Office Web Apps as lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that allow people to create, edit and collaborate on Office documents through a web browser. According to Capossela, Office Web Apps was to become available as a part of Office Live Workspace. Office Web Apps was announced to be powered by AJAX as well as Silverlight; however, the latter is optional and its availability will only "enhance the user experience, resulting in sharper images and improved rendering."  Microsoft's Business Division President Stephen Elop stated during PDC 2008 that "a technology preview of Office Web Apps would become available later in 2008". However, the Technical Preview of Office Web Apps was not released until 2009.
On July 13, 2009, Microsoft announced at its Worldwide Partners Conference 2009 in New Orleans that Microsoft Office 2010 reached its "Technical Preview" development milestone and features of Office Web Apps were demonstrated to the public for the first time. Additionally, Microsoft also announced that Office Web Apps will be available to users in three ways: via Windows Live for consumers (instead of the previously announced Office Live Workspace), or via Microsoft SharePoint or Microsoft Online Services for business users. However, Office 2010 beta testers were not given access to Office Web Apps at this date, and it was announced that it will be available for testers during August 2009. However, in August 2009, a Microsoft spokesperson stated that there has been a delay in the release of Office Web Apps Technical Preview and will not be available by the end of August.
Microsoft officially released the Technical Preview of Office Web Apps on September 17, 2009. Office Web Apps was made available to selected testers via its OneDrive (at the time Skydrive) service. The final version of Office Web Apps was made available to the public via Windows Live Office on June 7, 2010.
On October 22, 2012, Microsoft announced the release of new features including co-authoring, performance improvements and touch support.
In February 2014, Office Web Apps were re-branded Office Online and incorporated Calendar, OneDrive, Outlook.com, and People. Microsoft had previously attempted to unify its online services suite (including services such as Microsoft Passport, Hotmail, Messenger, and later SkyDrive) under a brand known as Windows Live (patterned off its Xbox Live offerings), first launched in 2005. However, with the impending launch of Windows 8 and its increased use of cloud services, Microsoft dropped the Windows Live brand to emphasize that these services would now be built directly into Windows and not merely be a "bolted on" add-on. Critics had also criticized the Windows Live brand for having no clear vision, as it was being applied to an increasingly broad array of sometimes unrelated services. At the same time, Windows Live Hotmail was re-launched as Outlook.com (sharing its name with the Microsoft Outlook personal information manager).
Office Online can open and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations in Office Open XML formats on the web. Starting on July 2013, they can render PDF documents or convert them to Microsoft Word documents, although the formatting of the document may deviate from the original. Since November 2013, the apps have supported real-time co-authoring and autosave Word files.
Personal edition of Office Online is available to the general public free of charge through the Microsoft Office website, which superseded SkyDrive (now OneDrive) and Office Live Workspace. Enterprise-managed versions are available through Office 365 offering. In February 2013, the ability to view and edit files on SkyDrive without signing in was added. The service can also be installed privately in enterprise environments as a SharePoint app, or through Office Web Apps Server. Microsoft also offers other web applications in the Office suite, such as the Outlook Web App (formerly Outlook Web Access), Lync Web App (formerly Office Communicator Web Access), and Project Web App (formerly Project Web Access).
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