Office Web Apps are Live!

No more waiting, the highly-anticipated Office Web Apps are now live. If you live in the U.S., the U.K., Canada or Ireland*, you’re the first to have access to the new web-based versions of Microsoft Office’s most popular programs, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Just head over to Office.Live.com to get started.

The documents are stored in Windows Live SkyDrive and you can upload more than one at a time via drag-and-drop if you’re using Microsoft Silverlight. Otherwise, you can use the standard file uploader.

Once online, you can edit your documents in your browser or create new ones right from the web. Another bonus: if you upload a Microsoft Office document to Web Apps, it doesn’t lose document fidelity either online or if you re-download a file back to your computer. That’s a lot harder than it sounds, as many online office users will tell you, especially when dealing with feature-rich files or complex spreadsheets.

Also, as you’ve surely heard by now, the new Web Apps aren’t just online versions of Office programs, they introduce new collaboration abilities, too. Users can co-author documents in real-time, for example. Plus, they can be viewed from your smartphone with no extra software required, even if you’re not on a Windows Mobile device. The Web Apps include advanced features, too, like version history, enhanced search (search all your docs and those shared with others), and the ability to print Word and PowerPoint files from the browser. More features will be coming in future versions.

When combined with Office 2010, additional features include offline editing and co-authoring with revision marks, comments, and other rich features in Word and PowerPoint.

Files can easily be shared via Messenger and email, too and you can even set permissions limiting access to specific groups, just you or everyone. To try Office Web Apps, sign in with your Windows Live ID here.

*Note: if you don’t live in one of the supported regions, you can still get access, just follow the instructions here or wait until June 15th, when they arrive worldwide.

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