Microsoft Office Web Apps: Limited, mediocre, dismal

Web-based editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote are underwhelming at best

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PowerPoint Web App and OneNote Web App: Epic fail
Disappointment became a theme as I used the two flagship Web apps, and that theme was only underscored as I moved on to the others. Perhaps seeing the Office 2010 UI in my browser distorted my expectations, but if the Word and Excel Web Apps seemed limited, the PowerPoint Web App was thoroughly mediocre.

Uploaded presentations looked mostly right in the browser-based PowerPoint viewer, even when slides contained animated transitions. Those transitions were invisible to the editor, however, which only seemed to offer basic text editing and no support for multimedia. When creating a new presentation I was able to choose between various project themes, but once I made a selection, there didn't seem to be any way to change it later. Buttons to insert images and Smart Art were grayed out, and opening SkyDrive-hosted presentations in PowerPoint 2010 didn't work, no matter what platform I tried.

Some fairly basic features are grayed out in the PowerPoint Web App's editor. Maybe next time?

But even that lackluster performance was nothing compared to the utterly dismal OneNote Web App, which was so bad I could hardly find a way to test it. I could create a new notebook in the Web editor, but as with the PowerPoint Web App, trying to open those notebooks in OneNote 2010 yielded only an error. Similarly, when I tried to upload .one files to my SkyDrive, it gave them the OneNote icon but wouldn't let me view or edit them.

OneNote 2010 includes an option to automatically share notebooks on SkyDrive, so I decided to try that instead. Unfortunately, I had already configured my copy of OneNote 2010 to use one Windows Live account, and there didn't seem to be any way to make it switch to a new one. I was stuck using the wrong account. It didn't matter, though, because one of the two files I tried to share showed up empty in the OneNote Web App, while the other was marked as corrupt. It was true -- the process of trying to share the notebook had apparently rendered it unusable on my PC, too. (Fortunately I had a backup.) File format mismatch wasn't the problem, either; OneNote 2010 forces you to upgrade your notebooks to the 2010 file format before it will let you share them on SkyDrive -- but even then, apparently, you can't share them.

So where did that leave me? The OneNote Web App let me compose basic outlines with bullets and numbering, insert pictures from my hard drive, mark text with hyperlinks, and organize my notes into pages and sections. But any word processor can do that, and any OneNote power user will recognize how utterly pathetic that sounds compared to the full feature set of the desktop OneNote application. I couldn't click where I wanted to on the page, I couldn't drag and drop, and support for recording or handwriting was nonexistent. Speaking as a regular OneNote 2010 user, I have to say the OneNote Web App was a waste of both bits and bandwidth.

Can your word processor do this? Of course it can. The OneNote Web App doesn't deserve the name.
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