Microsoft Ramps Up Office Web App Features

Microsoft rolled out some new features to its free Office 365 Web apps this week, including real time collaboration, which also happens to be one of the new features Apple introduced with its recently updated iWork app suite. Office 365 includes Web-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, just as Apple's iCloud versions of iWork includes Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

Microsoft's Web-based Office Suite gets real time collaboration supportMicrosoft's Web-based Office Suite gets real time collaboration support

Along with the new co-authoring features, Microsoft also improved the document formatting controls, added the ability to drag-and-drop cells and improved workbook compatibility. PowerPoint gained image cropping, and all of the Web apps now support file renaming in the edit window.

Microsoft's announcement comes several days after Apple released the new versions of its iWork apps and companion Web-based iCloud versions. The apps support real time collaboration with other users regardless of whether they're using the apps on a Mac, an iOS device, or via the Web.

The company is working to make its online Office Suite more attractive, too. "Over the next several months, we'll deliver on previously promised updates. Notably, we're still on track to enable editing from Android tablets, so you can access Office files and tools from even more devices," said Microsoft technical product marketing manager Amanda Lefebvre. "And of course, we'll continue to bring the Office features that you value most to the Web so you can more easily create Office files from start to finish online."

Assuming Microsoft rolled out its new features simply as a response to Apple's iWork updates is a bit of a stretch considering how short the time frame is between the two. It takes time to build, test, and launch new features, but the timing is nicely convenient for Microsoft.