This Office Web Apps upgrade, in preview tests since July, is now live on SkyDrive and Outlook.com, Microsoft said Monday. A spokeswoman added that it's being rolled out to Office 365 customers as well, a process expected to be completed by the end of the year.
There are also feature improvements in areas such as document authoring, touch interface, collaboration, and performance, amounting to what Microsoft described in July as the most significant update of the product to date. Editing, layout, and formatting features have been beefed up, while the interface has been optimized for touch-based screens such as those in tablets, following the design of the new Windows 8 interface, formerly called Metro.
In Monday's blog post, Microsoft highlighted improved rendering of graphics, images and layouts in Word, as well as new capabilities to view and add comments to documents.
Meanwhile, Excel offers what Microsoft calls "essential" spreadsheet features such as merging cells and auto-fitting of columns, while PowerPoint now lets users play back video and audio from presentations, as well as do joint editing and commenting for collaboration. OneNote now features the ability to search on a page or within a section.
Microsoft also said it improved the performance of Office Web Apps, so that basic operations such as typing and formatting don't slow down as documents get larger. The performance improvements are particularly noticeable in Excel and PowerPoint, according to Microsoft.
Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers, and general technology breaking news for the IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.