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30 Days with Office Online

by Eric Kraus

Here’s a account of a 30 day experiment I did using only Office Online.  For clarification, I will refer to the Office installed locally as (desktop) and Office products in the browser from Office 365 as (online).

Rules of the Experiment

Parameters of the experiment were pretty simple: unless jeopardizing my job or customer, I was only going to use Office (online) – no Office (desktop).  This means I authored, edited, shared and presented content all from Office 365.

Week 1 – “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

I’ll admit, I wasn’t new to OWA, SharePoint and the Office Online applications.  However, going ‘cold turkey’ on the desktop apps was a complete trust fall into the arms of the product group.  I had been pitching the value of browser-based productivity with customers for quite some time, but candidly, had not made the full move myself.  We all are still heavy users of Outlook, Word and PowerPoint.  Could this work?

I knew starting day 1 that Lync (desktop) and OneNote (desktop) would be exceptions to my experiment.  Lync for the fact that our telephony system runs through it, OneNote for the handwriting.  However, whenever possible, I joined conference calls in the browser and edited my notes in the browser.  Other than that, I’ve had no issues switching over to the web versions of these tools.  There have been some minor trade-offs, but all-in-all the benefits out weigh the workarounds.  I’ve called out a few of these benefits/challenges, organized by importance to me.

Yammer Y Yammer

Yeah, that’s right… Yammer is #1.  Our team has successfully moved all of our conversations out of silo’d, private email and into a public group.  There are so many benefits we are seeing here – it warrants its own post.  However, important to call out here…while the Yammer Notifier and Windows Store App were helpful for notifications or browsing/simple replies, I really relied entirely on the web browser for interaction on Yammer.  I think this is a positive for Yammer’s sake… the web experience is so good it truly delivers a cross platform experience from the word ‘go’.

I’m excited for the arrival of Office 365 Groups.  It will be a major step towards the integration of Yammer into Office 365.  This will add some convenience to my productivity workflow; however…I’m not complaining right now.


outlook onlineOutlook

The Outlook (email) experience is similar to the OWA experience we’ve had in the past.  However, it has been massively overhauled.  For starters, the user interface is simple and responsive.  For the large portion of my day, I experienced no

When doing a people search, the search was incredibly fast compared with my Outlook (desktop).  For instance, if I wanted to look up a colleague and navigate his/her organization, it could take a few seconds for everything to load in the client.  In Outlook (online), it was near instantaneous loading.  However, while there was instant messaging support in Outlook (online), there was no integration with Lync (desktop).

I really liked the document preview in Outlook (online).  It felt more responsive and integrated into the whole experience of Outlook (online).  With the Yammer integration into Office Online and Outlook, I could see the vision of that all tying in together well with that experience.

Outlook Attachment





Image. Attachment Preview



calendar logoCalendar

The calendar has the biggest pros/cons for me.  The performance was significantly improved over the rich Outlook application.  Switching between Outlook/Calendar was fast and responsive.  When receiving meeting requests, I liked that it showed the actual conflicts without having to open a separate calendar.  There are many other UX improvements I like, such as the meeting hover/preview.  And of course, all of the Office Store Apps work seamlessly between (online) and (desktop).  LinkedIn is a regular use for me in Outlook and Calendar.

Meeting Preview






Image. Meeting Preview

One limitation for me is the ability to overlay other (non-corporate) calendars.  I have a personal calendar, in addition to a Family Room calendar and another business calendar.  I use my phone for a majority of this use case, so it’s by no means a showstopper for me.  Another feedback item I submitted was navigating the “weeks” at the top of the calendar.  It would be helpful to have the current week in bold, so you could easily find where you are.


tasks logoTasks

Converting over to Tasks in the browser was a non-issue.  I found the interface simple and responsive.  A huge positive was that my assigned tasks from our SharePoint Online team site were sync’d to my task list.  In OneNote (client)


OneNote logoOneNote

As mentioned above, the handwriting support on my tablet was the driving function why I did use the OneNote (desktop) application.  However, when editing/co-authoring, sharing or presenting, I was able to use the OneNote (online) version successfully.


powerpoint logoPowerPoint

I’ll admit I was a little skeptical on PowerPoint specifically.  However, it was a smooth transition.  I’ve been working on a side project that involved quite a bit of formatting to two presentations.  I was honestly worried about transitions and image layouts, etc.  All of that was for nothing and I was incredibly impressed with the fidelity and parity of features in the (online) version.  To me, PowerPoint and Word were the true litmus tests and they passed with flying colors.

The only limitation I saw was the ability to annotate during a full-screen presentation with inking on a tablet.  This scenario is rare for me, since I don’t present a lot.  However, when I do…it’s justification to have the PowerPoint (desktop) application installed and pull down a temporary copy of the desk.


word logoWord

In all honesty, I didn’t do much Word document authoring during the month.  A few times, I viewed documents in the browser.  When I did, I had zero issues in formatting or ability to edit the files I was working on.



Week 2 – The Presentation

Week 2 began with anxiety over two presentations I had to deliver.  These were PowerPoint presentations over a Lync conference.  Both presentations were given from a hotel’s Wifi network.  I was connected to our corporate network via Direct Access, but due to the nature of Office 365, that was irrelevant.  The week began with some worry.  Would the transitions all work ok over Lync?  If I made some last minute edits, would it goof anything up.  Can pause my experiment for a day or two to make sure this goes smoothly.

Both presentation went without a hitch.  I’m not sure anyone participating even noticed I was running off the (online) versions.


Week 3 – Ok, I Get It…I’m in.

By week 3, I was hooked.  I spent nights (voluntarily) working from my home computer.  Having a 30″ monitor made multi-tasking a breeze.  I pinned all of the websites as icons I used on the task bar.  I’ve heard of other people setting their browser home page to open up these sites as default tabs.  In any case, it was not hard to launch the apps whenever/wherever I needed.

Pinned Apps

In fact, I’m writing this blog post on my home computer and pulling screenshots from there.  I’ve been working at home in this manner all month.  I never take my Surface out of my bag unless I need access to the corporate network (rare).  I can do 90% of my job without VPN/DirectAccess connectivity.


Week 4 – Laptop Woes…Who cares…

This post concludes week 4 of my experiment.  How ironic, the last week I was without a corporate issued laptop due to a motherboard issue.  The moment it started acting up, I dropped it off to our local technology support desk.  I no longer think or care about the data that is on my devices any more.



I’ll wrap up the 4 week experiment by saying that I gained a lot of confidence in the (online) products within Office 365.  Now that I’m here, I don’t think I’m going to leave.  I’ll definitely stay to play with the Office 365 Groups, but I can’t imagine going back to a world which locks me into a device.  I enjoy working off of my home computer too much at night and enjoy the mobility of my tablets throughout the day.

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