One of the issues many adults face when choosing to try out a Chromebook is the integration – or lack thereof – with known software properties like Microsoft Office. For users in my general age bracket, we all grew up using Windows in school, college, and then in a work environment. We used it because it is what we knew, and with that OS came Microsoft’s now-heavily-embedded office suite of products that many have come to rely on heavily for their professional work.
For me, the story was a tad different. Once out of college, I was on the prowl for free, open source office software that I didn’t have to drop a bunch of money on. Turns out a kid fresh out of college doesn’t have a ton of money to spend on expensive software suites, so I was in the market for alternatives right as Google Docs was just becoming a reality. I was bought-in from the get go.
For many others, however, that hasn’t been the experience. Instead, they’ve left school and transitioned to a workplace where the same Microsoft Office experience was either handed to them as part of the job or they were required to have it to get a foot in the door. At the end of the day, many of us are still slaves to this software out of pure necessity, not out of choice. While I’m glad to be a bit platform agnostic with office tools, not everyone has that luxury, and that’s what makes Outlook’s transition to the web a more compelling option than ever.
As of late November, Microsoft has gone all-in on Outlook.com as a full-blown PWA with background functionality and notifications just like a regular desktop app. While there’s a win here for the web, the bigger win is interoperability with basically anything that runs a Chromium-based browser. On a Chromebook, for instance, installing the PWA is dead-simple.
Head to outlook.com, sign in, and then you can install the app by hitting the plus sign in the right side of your URL bar or clicking Chrome’s 3-dot menu and selecting “Install Outlook.” In general, this won’t do much more than Outlook on the web did before, but installing the PWA will allow the app to be listed alongside your other apps and pinned to your tray. Oh, and it will open up in its own window as well, giving way to a more native app experience.
I love PWAs for this very reason. I love that I can install an app from Microsoft on a Chromebook without the need of an app store or any other delivery mechanism. The web is powerful and its reach is bigger than any single platform or operating system. The more we see large companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple embrace the growing viability of apps not only built on the web, but delivered via the web, the closer we get to a future where software isn’t tied down to a specific set of devices. Instead, you’ll buy the device that is best for you and all your work, apps, and files can come along for the ride. Good on Microsoft for taking steps in that direction.