Differences between using a document in the browser and in Word

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

The document you open in Word for the web 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 for the web 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

Features supported for viewing and printing

Features that differ between the browser and the desktop

Opening and saving

Editing and formatting

Reviewing

Objects

File formats supported in Word for the web

Word for the web 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 for the web displays documents in these formats, but to edit the document in the browser, Word for the web saves a new copy of the document in .docx or .dotx format. Word for the web can’t save documents in the .doc or .dot formats.

  • OpenDocument Text (.odt)

Word for the web can’t open documents in other file formats. For example, these formats are not supported: Rich Text Format (RTF), Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Portable Document Format (PDF), 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 for the web, the document looks the same as it does in Print Layout view in the Word desktop app. Word for the web uses a PDF reader to print documents (see the list of supported PDF readers).

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 for the web, click Open in Word.

This Feature

Works like this in Word for the web

Print Layout view

In Reading view, Word for the web 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 for the web. Likewise, side-by-side viewing and split windows are not available in Word for the web.

Rulers and gridlines

Word for the web 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 for the web, 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 for the web supports features that might apply to your documents. To use features beyond what’s available in Word for the web, click Open in Word.

Opening and saving

This Feature

Works like this in Word for the web

Information Rights Management (IRM)

In Outlook Online attachments and SharePoint libraries that are IRM-protected, Word for the web opens documents for reading, but not for editing. IRM protection can’t be added to documents in Word for the web.

Password protection

Word for the web 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 for the web in Reading view, but the document cannot be edited in the browser. Click Open in Word to remove editing restrictions.

Manage Versions

Versions are managed on the server rather than in Word for the web. 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 for the web

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 for the web.

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 for the web.

Page size

In reading view, Word for the web displays pages in the size they're designed for. Editing is supported for Letter, Legal, Executive, A4, A5, and custom size layouts. If you know the dimensions for a standard paper size that isn't listed, enter them in the Paper Size dialog box. For example, to edit in A3 page-size layout, set the custom paper size as 11.69 inches wide by 16.54 inches high (297 by 420 mm).

Find

Find is available in both Reading view and Editing view. Find and Replace is available in Editing view.

Zoom

Apply one of several zoom levels in both the Editing and Reading views.

Line breaks and page breaks

Breaks between lines and pages are displayed in Reading view. In Editing view, page breaks are indicated with dotted lines.

Columns

Page layout is preserved but can’t be edited in Word for the web. You can see preserved columns in Reading View.

Theme, page color, watermarks

Theme and page background are preserved in the document but can’t be edited in Word for the web.

Co-authoring

Multiple authors can work simultaneously in Word for the web. Co-authoring works across Word for the web or later and Word for Mac 2011.

Reviewing

This Feature

Works like this in Word for the web

Proofing tools

Check spelling and grammar, translate the document, and set the proofing language. Word for the web does not use a custom dictionary or include a thesaurus.

AutoCorrect

Word for the web 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 for the web makes a correction you don’t want, press Ctrl+Z to undo it or change your settings in the AutoCorrect Options menu.

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 for the web

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 for the web.

Tables

Insert tables. Delete by table, column, or row; insert rows and columns; align cell text left, right, or centered; merge and split cells; format the borders, backgrounds, and table styles. Other table features--such as cell size and sort order--are preserved in the document, but cannot be configured in Word for the web.

Pictures

Insert pictures or clip art stored on your computer or from Bing. You can apply a number of picture styles, write alt-text, change the size, drag to a new location, crop, and rotate. You can’t create screen shots directly in Word for the web, but screen shots in a document display as pictures in Word for the web.

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 for the web.

Equations, 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 for the web.

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, footnotes, endnotes

These display in the document as expected in Reading view. They can be viewed and edited in Editing view, but they do not display in-line in the document.

Table of contents

Tables of contents can be inserted, modified, and deleted in Editing view. Navigate the document using the table of contents in both Editing view and Reading view.

Bibliography, 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 for the web.

Linked pictures, embedded files

These are preserved in the document but are displayed as placeholders in Word for the web.

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