Microsoft launches Office Online in battle with Google Drive

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Microsoft is rebranding its Office Web Apps to Office Online today, just a day after the company launched its OneDrive cloud storage replacement for SkyDrive. The new branding, revealed partially last month, is designed to simplify Microsoft’s free web versions of Excel, Word, and PowerPoint away from the bewildering Office Web Apps monikers. "We heard from customers that the inclusion of Apps in our name was confusing," admits Microsoft’s Amanda Lefebvre. The apps part confused some who assumed Office Web Apps were installable applications rather than online Office variants.

No new major features, just improved usability

While today’s launch doesn’t include a round of new features, it’s entirely focused on clearing up the usability aspects of Microsoft Office online. A lot of users simply aren’t aware Microsoft has online versions of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint because they’ve been buried away in SkyDrive (now OneDrive) previously. Microsoft is also competing heavily against Google Drive and the simple cloud-based variants its rival provides. A new Office.com site aims to rectify that by placing the web versions of Office at the front of the site in a tile formation that makes it clear exactly what services and online apps are available. There’s even an updated app bar at the top of the site to switch between services like Outlook.com and OneDrive, or Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote Online.

Microsoft is also pulling together its template system for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel Online, allowing users to find the hundreds of available templates a lot easier. Today’s improvements are rather minor, but they go a long way in improving the discoverability and usability of Microsoft’s web versions of Office. All of the changes can be found at Office.com.

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