Business advice
    10 July 2019

    James Francis

    Get the most out of Office 365’s applications

    Office 365 is more than just a great place for your email and calendar. Everything you need to write letters, build inventories, save files, organise teams and more is already in your O365 account.

    Office 365 (O365) is more than just a great place for your email and calendar. Every subscription has access to the online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more. Some subscriptions even let you download versions you can install onto your PC. But everything you need to write letters, build inventories, save files, organise teams, take notes and much more is already in your O365 account.

    Let’s take a look at what you can do. You can access the online apps by clicking on the tiny squares icon at the top left corner. A dropdown will show your options. From here you can select an online app. You can also click on ‘All Apps’ to see everything available to you.

    A quick note on downloading software

    Maybe you are not ready for the full-browser experience. Some of us like having certain applications installed on our computers. Not to worry – O365 has that covered. Several of the O365 accounts also let you download the desktop version of some of the software. This includes popular applications such as Word and Excel. These can save files locally or online in your OneDrive account.

    Please see the end of this article for details on how to get the application downloads.

    The common features

    Almost all of O365’s online applications follow the same interface logic. Once you see it in action, you can make sense of the other applications. Let’s open Word.

    The initial Word screen may seem confusing:


    This is actually where you select what you want to do in Word (or the application you chose). You can create a new file or select a template. You can also see recent files stored on your OneDrive or shared with you by others. If you see files here the first time you log in, don’t be alarmed. Documents from email attachments might also appear in the interface.

    Select to create a new blank document. That’s it: you are ready to use the application. If you are familiar with desktop word processors, you will notice the same familiar settings: change fonts, alignment, colours and much more. If options seem to be missing, click on the three dots for more choices. You can also change the options by clicking on the ‘Simplified Ribbon’ toggle at the top (some applications, such as Excel, do not have simplified menus). You don’t need to save the file. This is in the cloud, so it is saved all the time. If you want to recover an older version of the file, you can do so in OneDrive (see the tips at the bottom). But you can download copies for yourself. Just click on ‘File’ and then ‘Save as’:

    Here you can save an online copy or download the file in Doc, Pdf and Odt. You can also rename the file - the same works if you click on the file’s title at the top of the main screen. This should be enough to get you started. Below is a quick look at some of the applications, as well as tips to get the most out of the browser apps.

    Apps on offer

    Even the most basic O365 subscription gives access to a variety of top Microsoft applications that any modern browser can run. Here are a few of the highlights:

    • Word: the world’s most popular word processor is now right in your browser and almost as powerful as the desktop version.
    • Excel: spreadsheets are now easy to manage because you can keep them online and in one location.
    • PowerPoint: yes, the ultimate presentation tool is also online. Grab assets online and offline and quickly put together a presentation that dazzles.
    • OneNote: organise your notes with words, links, audio and file attachments. Drag and drop items with ease.
    • OneDrive: each O365 account gets a terabyte of space on OneDrive. This is where all your files are automatically saved. You can also upload desktop files to OneDrive and add them to your online O365 world.
    • Forms: create forms for polls or surveys that you can share with select people or even publicly through a link.
    • Planner: get stuff done with this neat, Kanban-style drag and drop planner for individuals and teams.


    • Attach files to emails easily. In Outlook, simply click on the paperclip icon at the bottom of a new mail, select ‘cloud locations’ and find the file on OneDrive. For other email clients, just download the file to your machine, then attach it as you would with any other file.
    • You can access some online apps directly in the email client. If an appropriate document is attached to an email, click on it to launch the associated online Office application in the same interface. The document will just show the contents. If you want to edit it, click on ‘Edit and reply’ at the top. This will create a copy of the file in a new email. You can edit this and send it without changing the original attachment.

    • These applications might run in a browser, but that doesn’t mean they are lightweight. Always run the most current browsers such as Edge, Firefox or Chrome. Also remember that the more tabs you have open, the more resources you are using. Close a few to help speed up the rest of the sites.
    • Perhaps you made a lot of changes to a document and you want an older version. If it was edited and saved online, you can do that. Open the OneDrive application, scroll down to the file and select it. Then click on ‘Version history’ at the top. Right click on the version and choose to restore or open it. (If the browser causes a load error, look at the address bar and delete everything before ‘https’, then hit enter)
    • Some of the O365 accounts give you access to the desktop software. You can download these and install them on a Windows machine. Click on your profile icon (top right corner) and select ‘My account’. Click on the gear icon at the top of the browser screen, then select ‘Software’. This will show what software is available to download for your account. You can also find mobile versions such as for Android and Apple iOS here.
    • Documents can easily and safely be shared in O365. If you have a document open, click on the ‘share’ button near the top right corner. From here you can set who has access and create a link that others can use.

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    James Francis