Excel Web App in Office 365 – Working in the Cloud

microsoft-excel-office-365You might have recently heard about Microsoft Office 365 – and if you work in IT you’ve almost certainly come across Cloud Computing.

Office 365 is Microsoft’s new “cloud” version of Microsoft office. Essentially that means online versions of Excel, Word, Outlook etc… that allow users to:

  • Access their office documents from any PC
  • Create, edit and share Microsoft Office documents (including Excel Workbooks) from PCs which don’t have the native version of MS Office installed on them

These online versions of the MS Office packages are known as Web Apps. Here we take a preview of the Excel Web App in Office 365 and how it will work.

Need help with Excel? Check out these 10 time saving Excel formulas

What is the Microsoft Excel Web App?

The Excel Web App in Office 365 is essentially a web-based version of Excel that runs in a web browser. This means that you can run it on any PC with web access (you don’t actually have to have Excel installed on your PC).

The look and feel of the Excel Web App is exactly the same as the latest versions of the Excel desktop application, so if you’re used to working in Excel 2007 or 2010 you should have no problem using the web app.

But if you’re using Excel online – where do your Excel Web App workbooks get saved?

Depending on how you are implementing Office 365, the actual workbooks are stored in one of two places:

  • Windows Live SkyDrive - which is a free online storage & sharing service (if you use the Mac “MobileMe” service – soon to be replaced by iCloud – this is the Windows equivalent – If you have a Windows Live ID (e.g via having Hotmail account) you’ll be able to log in using this.
  • SharePoint Site - If your organisation uses SharePoint server, all of your documents can be stored here

How to Create an Excel Web App Workbook

If you already have a Hotmail account or Windows Live ID – try logging in to your account (if you don’t have one you can set one up here)

If you look at the top navigation bar, you’ll now see a “SkyDrive” option – if you click on that, you’ll see a drop-down that allows you to create all sorts of Microsoft Office Web App documents, including Excel Workbooks:

create-excel-web-app-workbook-office-365Now you just need to give your workbook a name (notice the file extension is .xlsx, just like a normal Excel spreadsheet) and you can start working with Excel online – it looks like this:

excel-web-app-workbook-office-365Just the same as a normal Excel document! So now you can enter data, add formulas, format cells. insert charts (under the ‘Insert’ menu) etc…

To access the file again, just go back to your Documents folder under the “SkyDrive” menu and all of your documents are listed.

How to Edit Permissions and Share Excel Web App Workbooks

One of the main benefits of working with Office 365 and the Office Web Apps is the ability to share documents with your colleagues online.

At the moment, only you have the permission to view your new Excel Workbook.

To allow others to see it too:

1) Go to your Skydrive Documents folder – notice under “permissions” it says “just me” at the moment.

2) Click on the document you want to share – you’ll notice a new menu in the right-hand navigation bar. Click on the “edit permissions” option here:


Click image for full-size version

3) Now you can set the file permissions to whatever level of security you wish. You can select categories of people who are able to view the files, make them public so that everyone on the web can see them, or select individuals by e-mail address to share with.

You can also determine whether those people can just view the document, or choose to give them permissions to edit it too.


With the increase in mobile usage, and with more and more people working remotely, we think Office 365 and the Excel Web App have a big future. Watch this space for information on how to do more clever stuff with it!


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Andy Trainer

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