Office Web Apps Out of Beta for Outlook, SkyDrive Users

Omar Shahine from Microsoft's official Windows Blog reports that Office Web Apps is now available for all SkyDrive and users. The news arrives after Microsoft threw open the doors to its free online version of Office for beta testing back in July.

"More than 750,000 of you opted to try out the latest updates," Shahine wrote on Monday. "So a huge thank you goes out to all of the participants – the feedback and data that we were able to gather was invaluable to making sure that the latest version of the Web Apps was ready for prime time."

Microsoft is launching Office Web Apps with a handful of improvements including co-authoring in PowerPoint, 30-percent faster document rendering and improved support for touch-based devices. This latter detail is important for the Redmond company, as the touchy-feely new Windows 8 operating system launches on Friday, bringing with it a slew of new form factors and Microsoft's own Surface tablets.

"Part of the promise of SkyDrive is that your files are available anywhere you go, and that especially means no matter what kind of device you’re on," Shahine wrote. "The Office Web Apps are now touch-friendly, and support many of the touch gestures, such as pinching, swiping, holding, and dragging. Selecting text is easy and intuitive, and a quick tap on the selected area brings up context options to make editing a snap."

Office Web Apps is Microsoft's answer to Google's own browser-based services connected to its Google Drive virtual locker. Revealed in July, Microsoft promised improved authoring, touch support, co-authoring, and improved speed compared to the original Office Web Apps suite released in June 2010. New documents would look more professional, Microsoft said, and Excel would even support PivotTable editing, QueryTables, richer charts, new types of slicers, and more.

"With the initial release of the Office Web Apps it was easy to create basic documents or make quick edits to more complex documents," said Mike Morton, Group Program Manager of the Office Web Applications. "However it wasn't always easy or possible to achieve the final formatting, layout, or presentation that many users have to come to expect from Office documents. With this latest update of the Office Web Apps, it is now possible to create great looking Word documents, sophisticated spreadsheets, and dynamic presentations."

Office Web Apps can be used here – all you need is a free Windows Live ID. The online suite includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Onenote, all of which support co-authoring and touch-based devices. Happy authoring!