Microsoft is Testing Office PWAs in Windows 10

Posted on October 15, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Microsoft 365, Office, Windows 10 with 38 Comments

Late last year, Microsoft transitioned its core, web-based Office applications to Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). Now it’s taking the next step.

A recent report in WindowsLatest, which I discovered via Mary Jo Foley, claims that Microsoft is testing the automatic installation of its Office PWAs in Windows 10 “without user permission.” I’m not sure if this is really happening, but as I’m getting ready to start a series of articles about using only web apps, I was curious to see whether I could replicate this and what it looks like.

And while it’s not ideal, it’s better than it seems at first. Basically, what you need to do is navigate to Office.com with Microsoft Edge and sign-in with your Microsoft account. When you do, you’ll see a little Install (“+”) button in the address bar, indicating that the site is a PWA and that you can install it locally.

What’s interesting that the site makes it look like the web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook(.com) can be installed separately; just navigate to one of those web apps and you’ll see that same Install button.

But that’s not how it works: You can’t install just the web version of Word, for example. Instead, when you click Install anywhere on Office.com, you’ll find that five PWAs have been installed: Office.com, plus Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook(.com).

The icon for Office(.com) looks normal. But the icons for the other web apps are tiny and look weird in the Start menu and taskbar. Hopefully they fix this.

As to the bit about Microsoft installing these web apps without user permission, this appears to be happening only on some PCs that are enrolled in the Windows Insider Program, so this doesn’t seem to be a big issue. But the good news is that they’re easily uninstalled: You can do this via Microsoft Edge (navigate to edge://apps/), in the Programs and Features control panel, or by right-clicking them in the Start menu.

I’ll be looking at these web apps in more detail soon.

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