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Weekend Website #24: Office Web Apps

Posted by on February 18, 2011

Drop by every Friday to discover what wonderful website my classes and parents loved this week. I think you’ll find they’ll be a favorite of yours as they are of mine.

web aps

Age:

5th grade and up, as well as teachers, homeschoolers

Topic:

Productivity software

Address:

MS Office Web Aps

Review:

MS Web Apps is one of the stable of FREE online tools to replace or enhance installed software. Though MS Office has a gazillion percent of the marketplace, as we the people become more mobile, more interactive, MS Office has become tattered at the edges. It doesn’t run with all versions of itself. It is linked to a specific computer–incompatible between Macs and PC (fixable), between Office and other word processing programs (fixable at times), documents aren’t available online (you have to convert to a pdf to display the doc or upload as an icon). A document can’t be shared.

Did you see how many times I said ‘fixable’? Many of the issues I mentioned can be fixed IF you’re techie enough to understand how to do it. Most of us aren’t and that makes the problem a nonstarter. As a tech teacher, that type of user-required knowledge makes the entire process cumbersome and a non-starter.

Apparently others agreed, because a variety of programmers stepped into the breach with good alternatives that solve the problems I mentioned (Google Docs most famously, but also Open Office). As a result, Microsoft has arrived fashionably late to the shared-documents party. Maybe too late; only time will tell.

Now for a more objective evaluation:

  • More images are available and transfer from a document prepared in MS Office software.
  • Web Apps will feel familiar, and is in fact quite similar to your MS Office software, but a lite version (about 10% of the original features). It’s missing the more advanced tools, but the typical user should be comfortable. A few pluses over other online productivity software (Google Docs, Open Office)more fonts available on Web Apps
  • Depending upon the user, you may feel that Web Apps cut too many of the tools you like. In any case, Google Docs has more tools available.
  • MS gives you more online storage space
  • Users report it’s easier to share docs in Google Docs. If this is important to you, that’s a biggy.
  • Google Docs requires a Google account. MS Web Apps requires a Live.com account. I’ll let you decide who that’s a pro/con for

Aside from the reasons I’ve listed, there’s one reason why I’d pick Google Docs over Web Apps: Linux users require an MS license to use Web Apps. This is inequitable and flies in the face of what open source people and others are trying to achieve with cloud computing, which is make more technology available to all.

This is easily integrated into many lesson plans. Anytime students have a project with a report, research, rubrics, that requires, collaborative work, this is how to do it. The old days of sending emails back and forth, reviewing MS Office docs one at a time, slowly–are the old days. Office Web Apps, as well as Google Docs and Open Office, make collaboration on work as easy as doing the work yourself.

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