What Microsoft Should Fix About Office Online to Improve Its Adoption

Our team at 7 Tutorials works online and all our articles are a collaborative effort. We use mostly Google Drive because it is simple and it offers all the collaboration features we need. When Microsoft announced Office Online we were very excited and we decided to give it a try. We have used it to work together using Office Online and we've learned quite a lot about this service, its strengths and weaknesses. We have learned that while Office Online has more features than Google Drive, when it comes to quick and effective collaboration on documents, it falls short. Here's what Microsoft should improve about Office Online before we and other teams like us can make the switch:

How Do We Work Collaboratively?

We are a small team of editors, that's geographically distributed. We have editors in different cities of Romania and an editor in the United States. Our editors work on multiple devices with diverse operating systems, from anywhere they wish. Personally, I have worked on creating and publishing articles in all kinds of places, from my home's office to coffee places, trains, airplanes, mountain peaks that were more than 2000 meters high and even beaches at the seaside. The same is true of my colleagues at 7 Tutorials.

Our work involves mostly creating simple Word documents or tables and graphs in Excel. Sometimes we also create brief presentations using solutions like PowerPoint. Our Word documents are then published as articles on 7 Tutorials.

We don't need many features for editing documents because our documents are simple blog posts. But we do need to work collaboratively as easily and as fast as possible. We have enjoyed using Google Drive because it is simple and its collaboration features are top notch. For example, we can work together on the same document at the same time, chat in the same document editing window, leave comments to others, receive automatic notifications when comments are placed or solved, and easily share documents among ourselves.

We were interested in using Office Online because it is well integrated with OneDrive and it has some interesting features that Google Drive doesn't have. For example, the multilingual support in Office Online works better than in Google Drive. This is important to us because we write in two languages: English and Romanian. Another aspect we like is the fact that there are no conversion issues when using our documents in Microsoft Office. All Office Online documents look the same both online and offline, which is great.

Office Online, issues, productivity, collaboration

But… after giving it a try for a bit more than 3 weeks, we have decided to switch back to Google Drive. Read on to learn why.

12 Things Microsoft Needs to Fix About Office Online

In our day-to-day collaboration work with Office Online we have encountered the following problems that did not allow us to make the switch:

  1. You can't rename a document from the editing window. You must close it and rename it from the OneDrive documents library.
  2. There are no zoom options available when working with a document, like there are in Microsoft Office. When working in a browser, on different screens with different resolutions, being able to zoom in or zoom out is a productivity enhancing feature.
    Office Online, issues, productivity, collaboration
  3. We have encountered weird bugs when trying to select certain portions of text. For example, my mouse cursor is on a specific row and I use it to select text on that row. However, Office Online selects text on the row above it. This behavior is random and it happens in all browsers.
    Office Online, issues, productivity, collaboration
  4. Navigating documents with the keyboard can also be problematic. On random occasions, when we pressed the Down arrow to go to the row below, Office Online jumped two rows instead of one. The same when pressing the Up arrow - it jumped two rows up. Other times it refused to move to the next row and the cursor remained stuck in the same position, indifferent of the keys we pressed. This problem was solved only after reloading the same document a couple of times.
  5. There is a basic feature that's missing from Office Online: you cannot drag and drop pictures into your document. You must use the ribbon, go to the Insert tab, press Picture and then manually select it. Also, you can copy and paste images into your documents which is better but still not as quick as a drag and drop.
  6. There is no way to easily export images from Office Online documents. For example, if you right click an image and select Copy, so that you paste it into another document, you get an error message saying that the browser doesn't allow access to the clipboard. If you use keyboard shortcuts, you get no error message but the selected image isn't copied to the clipboard.
    Office Online, issues, productivity, collaboration

    Also, there is no Save As option for saving images to your computer.

  7. On several occasions, our documents were no longer accessible via Office Online, for unknown reasons. When trying to open them, Office Online said: "Sorry, there was a problem and we can't open this document". No matter how much we tried and how many browsers we used, we were not able to open those documents. The only solution was to download those documents and work on them offline, using Microsoft Office.
    Office Online, issues, productivity, collaboration
  8. When you copy and paste text with images from Office Online into a CMS or another program, the pasting process adds lots of residue. For example, images are replaced by tags that weren't added by users. Also additional spaces and empty lines are copied over even though they do not exist in the original document. All these issues do not happen when pasting the same text with images from Word.
    Office Online, issues, productivity, collaboration
  9. When sharing a document you cannot set the permissions so that others are able to share the same document with more people. Only the owner controls with whom the document gets shared. While this is good from a security perspective, there should be a permission level available that you can use, so that the people you share with can share the document forward.
    Office Online, issues, productivity, collaboration
  10. After you post a comment, you cannot edit it. You have to delete it and create a new one.
  11. When comments are posted, there are no notifications sent via e-mail, to the people collaborating on the same document. This forces people to send additional emails when working on the same document. Google Drive handles notifications very well and Office Online should provide a similar notification system.
  12. Office Online shows notifications from Skype, in the title bar of the document you have opened by you cannot access Skype from the document editing window and reply back. This is very annoying.

    Office Online, issues, productivity, collaboration


We will do our best to share this article with folks at Microsoft. Hopefully they will read it and start fixing the issues we raised. We hope that the Office Online online service will receive many updates and improvements. If the problems we have shared are fixed then we can easily make the switch to Office Online, use it on a daily basis and then teach you, our readers why and how to use this service.

Before you close this article, we would like to know if you have used Office Online. What were your impressions of it? Does it offer what you need? Does it have any shortcomings that do not allow you to use it on a regular basis? Be generous and share your experiences through the comments form below.

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