Is Word available on this device?

Back in the day, say, oh, 2003, every corporate desktop had Word installed, and that desktop was a Windows PC.

Documents were stored in a file share, or Documentum (pharmaceuticals) or iManage or Hummingbird (law firms).

These tools relied on Word being installed to do the editing, with help from protocols such as WebDAV and SharePoint.

Fast forward to today, and you might be using a Mac.  Or a mobile device.  And there’s a good chance you’ll be using a browser based interface.

Is Word installed on the device you are using right now?  What about your other devices?

As an app developer, can you still get away with expecting the user to save/download the file, edit it whatever tool might be at hand, then upload it again?

  • At best, this involves extra clicks (compared to editing what you see in the webapp).
  • If the user doesn’t just think “too hard”, then they might “break the document” by using their installed application (eg Pages on iOS).
  • Unless you have the luxury of a standard operating environment (SOE) which covers mobile, then your help desk is going to get calls around a combinatorial explosion of different applications and platforms and versions.  Not to mention locales and fonts…

A much better experience is to be able to edit the document right there in your webapp.  Easier and more intuitive for users.  Lower support costs.  And the possibility of giving the user a tailored experience which isn’t feasible if the wordprocessing component is outside your control.

I guess this is a no-brainer.  We’re currently seeing the “bar being raised”, where web apps are now expected to provide not only viewing, but in-app editing.

Leading the charge here are the so-called file sync n share apps like Dropbox and Box which integrate with Office Online, even as they compete with Microsoft’s OneDrive product.

My next post will show you why Native Documents could be a better option for your webapp!