Differences between using a document in the browser and in Word

Microsoft Word Online lets you make basic edits and formatting changes to your document in a web browser. For more advanced features, use Word Online’s Open in Word command. When you save the document in Word, it is saved on the website where you opened it in Word Online.

The document you open in Word Online is the same as the document you open in the Word desktop app, but some features work differently in the two environments.

 Note    If you are using Word Web App with SharePoint 2010, see this version of Differences between using a document in the browser and in Word.

In this article


File formats supported in Word Online

Word Online opens documents in these formats:

  • Word Document (.docx)
  • Word Template (.dotx)
  • Word Macro-Enabled Document (.docm) or Word Macro-Enabled Template (.dotm)
    The document can be opened, but macros do not run.
  • Word 97-2003 Document (.doc) or Word 97-2003 Template (.dot)
    Word Online displays documents in these formats, but to edit the document in the browser, Word Online saves a new copy of the document in .docx or .dotx format. Word Online can’t save documents in the .doc or .dot formats.
  • OpenDocument Text (.odt)
  • Portable Document Format (PDF)

Word Online can’t open documents in other file formats. For example, these formats are not supported: Rich Text Format (RTF), Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), and Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions HTML (MHTML).

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Features supported for viewing and printing

When you view or print a document in Word Online, the document looks the same as it does in Print Layout view in the Word desktop app. Word Online uses a PDF reader to print documents (see the list of supported PDF readers). If you want Word features for printing (such as adjusting page margins), click Open in Word, and print in the Word desktop app.

When you are viewing a document, some features work differently in the browser than they do in the Word desktop app. To use features that are not available in Word Online, click Open in Word.

This Feature Works like this in Word Online
Print Layout view In Reading view, Word Online displays a document as it looks in Print Layout view. Other views available in the Word desktop app (Outline, Draft, Web Layout, and Full Screen Reading) are not available in Word Online. Likewise, the Navigation pane, side-by-side viewing, and split windows are not available in Word Online.
Rulers and gridlines Word Online does not display rulers and gridlines.

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Features that differ between the browser and the desktop

When you edit a document in Word Online, the document is presented in Editing view so that you can edit and format text. Editing view doesn’t show page formatting, such as margins or page breaks, cover pages, or headers and footers. Additionally, many kinds of objects are displayed as placeholders.

The following tables describe how Word Online supports features that might apply to your documents. To use features beyond what’s available in Word Online, click Open in Word.

Opening and saving

This Feature Works like this in Word Online
Information Rights Management (IRM) In Outlook Web App attachments and SharePoint libraries that are IRM-protected, Word Online opens documents for reading, but not for editing. IRM protection can’t be added to documents in Word Online.
Password protection Word Online can’t open documents that are encrypted with a password,
Permission to modify A document that requires a password to modify it opens in Word Online in Reading view, but the document cannot be edited in the browser. Click Open in Word to remove editing restrictions.
Save You save a document manually in Word Online; there is no auto-save feature.
Manage Versions Versions are managed on the server rather than in Word Online. If your document is stored on OneDrive, use the Version History feature in OneDrive. If your document is stored in a SharePoint library, see if the Version History feature has been configured for the library.

Editing and formatting

This feature Works like this in Word Online
Copy and Paste Copy and paste text, and copy/paste pictures from the web. Text is formatted to match the text surrounding where it is pasted in Word Online.
Font formatting Apply bold, italics, underline, strikethrough, subscript, superscript, font, size, color, and highlighting. You can also clear font formatting.
Paragraph formatting Align paragraphs left, right, or centered; run text right-to-left or left-to-right; increase or decrease indentation; adjust line spacing; format paragraphs as a bulleted or numbered list. You can also clear formatting.
Numbering and bullets Apply one of several built-in numbering or bullet styles.
Styles Apply one of a gallery of built-in styles. You can also clear formatting. You cannot create new styles or modify styles in Word Online.
Find Find is available only in Reading view. Find and Replace is not available in Word Online.
Zoom Zoom is available only in Reading view. Use your browser’s view settings to zoom in or out in Editing view.
Line breaks and page breaks Breaks between lines and pages are displayed in Reading view. In Editing view, line breaks look the same as paragraph breaks, and page breaks are not indicated.
Columns Page layout is preserved but can’t be edited in Word Online.
Theme, page color, watermarks Theme and page background are preserved in the document but can’t be edited in Word Online.
Co-authoring Multiple authors can work simultaneously in Word Online. Co-authoring works across Word 2010 or later and Word for Mac 2011.

Reviewing

This Feature Works like this in Word Online
Proofing tools Check spelling and set the proofing language, using the built-in dictionary. Word Online does not use a custom dictionary and does not include grammar checking, translation, or a thesaurus.
AutoCorrect Word Online corrects common mistakes as you type, such as switching letters that are typed in the wrong order (for example, “teh" is changed to “the”). If Word Online makes a correction you don’t want, press Ctrl+Z to undo it. Unlike the Word desktop application, Word Online does not include a way to customize the AutoCorrect options.
Tracked changes Tracked changes appear in Reading view. To turn Track Changes on or off, click Open in Word.

Objects

This Feature Works like this in Word Online
Hyperlinks Insert, edit, and follow hyperlinks. Bookmark and cross-reference links work, and you can edit their display text, but not their destination, in Word Online.
Tables Insert tables. Select by table, column, row or cell; delete by table, column, or row; Insert rows and columns; align cell text left, right, or centered. More sophisticated table features--such as table styles, cell size, text direction, and sort order--are preserved in the document, but cannot be configured in Word Online.
Pictures and clip art Insert pictures stored on your computer, or insert clip art available on Office.com You can apply a number of picture styles, write alt-text, and change the size, but pictures and clip art cannot be dragged to a new location. Instead, press Ctrl+X to cut, and then press Ctrl+V in the new location to paste. More sophisticated features for working with pictures, such as cropping, are not available in Word Online. You can’t create screenshots directly in Word Online, but screenshots in a document display as pictures in Word Online.
Shapes, charts, text boxes, SmartArt, WordArt These display in the document as expected in Reading view. In Editing view they appear as placeholders that you can delete but not edit. They cannot be moved or resized in Word Online.
Equations, symbols, ink These display in the document as expected in Reading view. In Editing view they appear as placeholders that you can delete but not edit. They cannot be moved or resized in Word Online.
Fields, content controls, cover page These display in the document as expected in Reading view. In Editing view the content of fields and content controls are displayed but cannot be edited or updated. A cover page appears as a series of placeholders for elements like text boxes.
Headers and footers These display in the document as expected in Reading view. Headers and footers, including page numbers, are hidden in Editing view.
Footnotes, endnotes, bibliography, table of contents, index These display in the document as expected in Reading view. In Editing view they appear as placeholders that you can delete but not edit or update.
Macros You can view, edit, print, and share documents that contain macros, but to run the macros click Open in Word.
ActiveX controls, embedded OLE objects, signature line These display in the document as expected in Reading view. In Editing view they appear as placeholders that you can delete but not edit. They cannot be moved or resized in Word Online.
Linked pictures, embedded files These are preserved in the document but are displayed as placeholders in Word Online.

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Applies to:
Word Online, Word Web App