Introduction to Office Online

Have you ever been this close to home when you realized that you forgot to update that PowerPoint presentation—the one that you're supposed to serve with donuts at the homeowners' meeting tomorrow morning? Or you didn't check the Excel spreadsheet to see if any of the other parents were bringing elf-shaped cookies to tonight's fourth-grade holiday party?

If your brain works like mine, this happens way too often. But thanks to Office Online on OneDrive, you can get to those PowerPoint, Excel, and Word documents online, edit them, and easily share them with other people virtually anytime—whether you're at work or at home, on a PC or a Mac.

What you'll need:

  • An Internet connection

  • A supported browser

  • A free Microsoft account

Your old friend Microsoft Office

One of the best parts of Office Online is that if you've used Microsoft Office 2007 or Office 2010—and who hasn't?—you're already familiar with the features, setup, and toolbars.

To get started sharing your project, sign in with your Microsoft account, and then click OneDrive at the top of your screen. Today, we'll be working in Excel Online.

It's alive! Posting your document

An Excel Online spreadsheet in Office Online

The first thing you'll do is post your file to OneDrive, and then you can decide whom you'd like to share it with.

My roommates and I have been collaborating on this masterpiece, creatively titled "November Auctions." Our closets were all overflowing with T-shirts that we've decided to auction online, in the hopes we'll earn enough to take a midwinter trip to the lower, warmer latitudes.

Thanks to this spreadsheet, we can each check to see what has been listed for sale, what's already sold, and what we need to ship to the buyers. Plus, it's nice to know how many more days I can wear this "I'm With Stupid" T-shirt.

Safe at home (and online)

An Excel spreadsheet in Office Online

Whether you're wired or wireless, on a PC or a Mac, you can get to your documents as long as you have an Internet connection. And your work is automatically saved for you, stacked in a neat row with the previous versions of your documents.

You also have several options after you've opened a document. You can download a copy to your desktop or open and edit it using the Office programs on your own computer. By clicking Share you can get and send a direct-access link.

Simultaneously make edits

An Excel Online spreadsheet in Office Online

When multiple people collaborate on a document, it can be difficult to keep up with all of the revisions and versions that appear in your inbox. Did Kate's "Thursday A.M." edit come before or after Matt's "Today Part 1, Version 2"?

With Office Online, you'll always have the most recent version and everyone can simultaneously edit the document. While Matt notes that he's shipped his "Contents Under Pressure" shirt, I can still tell him that I've taken pictures of my "A Baby Ate My Dingo" tee, shortly before realizing why I'll be single forever.

Share and share alike

You control who sees your documents—whether it's selecting a name from your contact list or entering a new email address—and exactly what they see. You also decide whether each new set of eyes just gets to look at your work or can also edit it. All it takes is one click of your mouse.

It's your turn

Sharing files on OneDrive

Now that you can get to and share your Office documents online, the possibilities are endless. With Excel alone, you can keep track of your child's cookie sales or your own fantasy football draft. You can make a guest-and-dish list for that bridal shower or chart donations for the school field trip to the aquarium.

Share that PowerPoint presentation before tomorrow's meeting. After that, maybe you should buy a T-shirt. I think "Big Hair, Bigger Dreams" would look great on you.

About the author

Jelisa Castrodale is a freelance writer who has covered technology, culture, and entertainment on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to her ongoing contributions to MSN and Microsoft, she is a regular contributor to NBCSports.com. She is also a recent Jeopardy! champion who should probably stop mentioning the fact in polite conversation.