What Is the Microsoft Office Desktop App and Is It Any Good?

Did you know there’s a Microsoft Office for Windows? After using Microsoft Office and writing about Windows every day, even I didn’t know it existed. But is that because Microsoft doesn’t advertise its existence? Or is it because the Office app isn’t very good?

Either way, here’s everything you need to know about the Microsoft Office app.

What Is the Microsoft Office App?

The Office app is a central hub for all the other Microsoft Office apps on your computer: Word, Excel, Outlook, and so on. It acts as a launcher for those apps, a portal to your calendar, and a place to organize your recent documents.

microsoft office desktop app home

Along the left, you’ll find a list of frequently accessed Microsoft Office apps, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. There’s also a handy document launcher, with options for Word, Spreadsheet, Presentation, Form, Quiz, and Page.

If you have a Microsoft Office package installed, such as Office 365 or Office 2019, clicking one of these buttons launches a local version of the relevant app on your computer. If you don’t have Microsoft Office apps installed, the Office app launches a free version of each program instead, taking you to the Microsoft Office for the web (formerly Office Online) page to do so.

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microsoft office desktop app create new document

Those in a business environment might have a different experience with the Office app as businesses and other organizations can personalize it to suit their requirements, adding internal searches, or stylings, and so on.

Is the Office Desktop App Worth Using?

It might not be. The Office app isn’t a streamlined process and there are question marks over its usability.

For example, when you launch Calendar it opens a new web browser tab displaying your Outlook calendar. Taking you to the calendar is fine in itself, but it would be better if it displayed it within the Office app, allowing you to edit your events or otherwise without leaving.

Similarly, if you launch Skype from the Office app, it opens the Skype web app in a new web browser tab, rather than launching the desktop app. It seems there’s no way to set the desktop version of Skype to launch rather than the web app, which is another oversight.

For the Office app to become truly useful, to turn it into a true Office hub, these integrations are essential. There’s little doubt it makes finding the shortcut for some of these apps slightly easier to find. But if you’re accessing a specific site or service in your web browser, why not just create a bookmark and use that without introducing an entirely separate app to the equation?

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If Microsoft’s goal is to raise awareness of the free online version of Microsoft Office, then this app succeeds in part. But again, we loop back to the previous point: why not just use a bookmark?

Related: Get Microsoft Word for Free: Here’s How

Where Do I Find the Office Desktop App?

The Office app now comes as a pre-installed Windows 10 app. Type office in your Start Menu search bar and select the Best Match.

If you don’t see the Office app, you can download it from the Microsoft Store.

Office App for Android and iOS

The Office desktop app hit the market in 2019. In early 2020, Microsoft brought the Office app to Android and iOS, allowing users of those operating systems to “Manage all your documents, notes, and media in one place.”

Download: Microsoft Office for Android | iOS (Free)

The mobile version of the Office app has a bit more going on than the restrictive desktop version. First up, the mobile Office combines Word, Excel, and PowerPoint into a single app. Of course, these are the mobile app versions, but they’re now all accessible through a single portal.

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There are other integrations, too. You can use Office to scan a document, extract the text into a Word Document (integrating Microsoft Lens, an picture to text scanning tool) or scan a table into an Excel Spreadsheet. You can also transfer files to other devices using Nearby Share or AirDrop, sign and scan PDF documents, create a form, or scan QR codes.

While the Office desktop app’s response was somewhat underwhelming, the reviews for the Office mobile app are more positive, with many users happy to see Microsoft unify the previous separate apps.

Managing Your Microsoft Office

There are undoubtedly positive aspects of the Office app. If you use many different Microsoft Office apps and have heaps of different document types, the Office app helps organize them in a single location.

Similarly, if you’re using Office on the web, the Office desktop app can help you keep track of your documents, but there are plenty of other ways to manage your computer documents as well.

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