The Office 365 Diaries, Part One 1

When I installed the most recent Windows 10 update, I was disheartened that it broke my current installation, sending me into a panic as I tried to think about what I was going to do for grad school. After a few minutes, I remembered that I had three certifications on the Linux operating system, so I decided to go that route and save some money. It worked until I needed to run Microsoft Office.

In the past few years, Microsoft has offered their historically robust productivity suite online, in a product called Microsoft 365. Well, Microsoft 365 is more of a subscription identifier, but the result, if you elect not to install the full version (which you do have access to in the Microsoft 365 subscription), is to use the browser-based version, which is called Microsoft Office 365, as opposed to Microsoft Office 2016. I was happy that I could continue to write my research papers without missing a beat, but soon realized there were limitations that put a halt to my research. In the following paragraphs, I’ll detail some the main features that seem to be missing from the browser-based version, and whether or not there are any workarounds available.

Reference Section

Doesn’t have: Not having the full version as a reference, I can still safely report that the References section is missing entirely. For undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students, this is a must-have feature. Without the ability to cite references by entering them into a citation manager, the student will have to manually enter this information in their reference section. This doesn’t prevent students from properly referencing other work, but it can be cumbersome. However, some students might want to manually create their reference sections to make sure there are no missing punctuation marks that would lead to plagiarism or a bad grade. Add-ins can be purchased or added to the application, but the ones tested so far are buggy and unreliable or require purchase of other services to fully operate, such as SmartCite. I would catalog this under a preference-related issue.

Does have: The ability to footnote, add page numbers, and provide headers. If you manually create your reference sections anyway, this version can work for you.


Doesn’t have: I was asked to perform a mail merge from Excel to Word, creating labels for teachers to record usernames and passwords for students for use in student folders the teacher was using to keep track of documentation for each student. To my surprise, this feature is completely non-existent in Word 365. So, if you want to create your own mailing labels, forget it. A search in the Add-In store revealed no options to make up for this omission.

Does have: Nill in the mailing department.


Functions and Formulas

Doesn’t have: Formulas! Ouch! This chick needs to be able to enter formulas for statistical research, and this functionality was gone. Deal-breaker! If you are working on a paper that requires presenting formulas as well as results, this version of Word will not work for you. A search on the Add-In store came up empty for anything that would come close to allowing you to enter formulas of any kind.


Doesn’t have: robust formatting with tables. The ability to set cell-spacing and fitting. Right-clicking on a table just gives the user a limited, superficial menu. There is no visible way to merge two cells, even. If you are looking for a header that serves two columns below it, forget it! Ugh! Fitting your table on the page also requires you use the mouse to change the width manually.

Does have: Well, you can make a table and change the widths of columns with your mouse.


These are but a few of the most noticeable features missing in Microsoft’s most accessible word processor to date. While this product does give users the ability to do some of the basic functions of the desktop version, it lacks readily the ability for some key features like mailing lists and labels, formulas, customizable tables, and citation tools for academics. As more features are explored, more reviews will come. Stay tuned!

This blog was written in LibreOffice 5 on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS..

Abby Jones

7 Generation Games

When Abby isn’t reviewing the office suite, she’s testing Making Camp, our free game that teaches math and social studies.

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