Microsoft this week added new features to the Web-based versions of its Office productivity applications, finally giving them features that most users might have expected to have out of the gate.
The updates provide key additions to Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Office Web Apps, and are sure to interest many PC administrators and decision makers who have been wondering whether the Web-based versions of the productivity suite will be adequate for employees when they are away from their companies’ secure networking environments and without their usual PCs or laptops.
“When we shipped Office Web Apps in June, we set out to make the Office experience more accessible so you could work from anywhere and share with anyone … The latest updates to Office Web Apps add some much-requested functionality to Word Web App, Excel Web App and PowerPoint Web App,” Nick Simons, program manager for Office Web Apps, said in a post to the Microsoft Office Web Appsblog on Monday afternoon.
Chief among the new features in the streamlined online versions are enhanced support for printing in Word, charts in Excel, and clip art in PowerPoint. For instance, although the online Word viewer supported printing already, the new capability makes accessing print functions much more consistent with the full version of Office’s print menu.
“Now in Excel Web App, you can go to the Insert tab and insert charts. You will then be able to manipulate the data and elements of the chart in much the same way you can in Excel 2010,” Simons said. Also added in Excel is an auto-fill feature that enables a user to populate adjacent cells with the contents of one cell.
Additionally, the PowerPoint Web App now supports the use of clip art, including the ability to add high-quality photos and illustrations to presentations using more than 200,000 royalty-free images available from Office.com’s image library. The PowerPoint Web App also lets users select more themes for presentations.
Microsoft began shipping the Office Web Apps— the Internet-based versions of its Office 2010 productivity suite — to business customers in mid-May.
A month later, the company began shipping Office 2010 and the Office Web Apps for consumers.
Simons said that the Office Web Apps will receive further updates in coming weeks.
Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.