Microsoft has always promoted the idea that its products are improved and enhanced when two or more are used together. However, the release of the Office Online extension for Microsoft Edge does seem to have limited usefulness.
It allows you to operate OneNote, PowerPoint, Sway Online, Excel, and Word without requiring Office to be installed while also providing access to recent files because of integration with OneDrive.
While all of this is completely accurate, we’re just not convinced it’s especially efficient.
The first problem with Office Online extension
Installing this extension is the same as any other, with a circuitous visit to the Windows Store and the web address for Microsoft Edge extensions.
After giving the go-ahead for installation using the unusual Edge dialog, you encounter the first issue: choosing between OneDrive and OneDrive for Business. Technically, Microsoft’s assertion that you can retrieve and edit your files due to integrating with OneDrive is true. The catch is that you’re required to choose one, you can’t move between them like you’re able to with the OneDrive desktop sync client in Windows 10 or any OneDrive mobile app on a supported platform.
How it works
After you’ve chosen, you’ll find the Office Online extension, which can be used much more efficiently when its icon is moved beside the Edge toolbar. It has five key areas to explore:
This view defaults to show the 7 most recent documents you opened in Office Online and also offers a link to view more, which opens a list of recent documents in your browser.
This option opens a menu offering Sway, OneNote Online, PowerPoint Online, Excel Online, and Word online options. I chose to open Word Online, where a new document opens within the browser, allowing to choose between a variety of document templates, similar to what you’d experience in the mobile and desktop options for Word.
You have two options here: Browse, which launches the Open File dialog in Windows 10, and From OneDrive, where a browser tab opens displaying OneDrive’s files view. The first option is interesting since you can employ it to open locally-saved documents, even those not located in OneDrive but in a web app for Office Online.
This displays which account you’re signed in as and allows you to sign out. However, there’s not an opportunity to add accounts, so only one can be in use at a time (again either OneDrive or OneDrive for Business).
With even less to offer than the previous menu, this option allows you to give Microsoft feedback, and that’s its only function.
Is Office Online extension worth it?
You could make the argument that this extension for Office Online may be useful when using shared or public computers, but these are places where the extension is least liable to be installed. And it seems unlikely that anyone would put in that much effort. If you’re using a PC in one of those scenarios, you can simply go online to access documents based in OneDrive.
Similarly, those who subscribe to Office 365 Personal or Home will probably prefer to install the desktop applications for Office 2016, or the Office Mobile apps, which are both more functional and provide more than the web apps.
There’s only one type of person who will really appreciate this new extension for Office Online: people without a subscription to Office 365 who have OneDrive accounts (or who have purchased individual desktop Office applications).