Facepalm: Microsoft seems to be experimenting with the idea of automatically installing Progressive Web App (PWA) versions of Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint without user permission using the new Edge browser in Windows 10. That in itself would not be so bad After all, getting some kind of free Office can be helpful for most users. However, according to reports, the experiment is not limited to Windows Insider testers, and in the worst case, Windows will restart your machine to apply these “updates” without your consent.
Microsoft Office PWAs are web-based versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint that can be accessed through a web browser such as Edge or Chrome. Typically, if users want to use one of the Office PWAs, they have to manually install them, and the apps are then added to the Windows Start menu, where they are easily accessible.
However, Windows Latest points out that Microsoft seems to be experimenting with a different approach. Over the weekend, a number of Windows users found that Office Web apps were installed on their Windows 1
Based on the information available so far, the feature seems to be part of a Microsoft Edge experiment (the newer version of Chromium, which is pretty good).
What has now caught the attention of many is that these Office PWA auto-installs do not just happen to Insider users who consent to such experiments. Instead, many reports pop up of regular Windows 10 users who have seen these shortcuts added to their Start menu without permission. Some call it a lightweight version of bloatware or free Microsoft ads on your PC – though Google tends to do the same on Chromebooks to promote Google Docs.
The progressive web apps do not take up space on your drive, and it can be really helpful to get some sort of free Office tools on your computer, especially for beginners who might notice the difference with ease of use. Between this and the inflated Office trial alternative that comes with a 30-day expiration date, we could even argue that we like this approach. With that said, just like Google Docs, which is also free, Office Online can always be accessed without much hassle using a web browser.
We wonder if Microsoft could do better by simply providing this as a light feature and not forcing the PC to restart unannounced. In this regard, Apple has mastered macOS software updates by restarting your machine, but without losing any work in the process. On macOS, you boot back to the exact location you were (regardless of saved mode), while Windows usually welcomes you to an empty desktop.
As a side note, uninstalling Office PWAs is easy: Launch the Control Panel and navigate to Programs and Features or from the Settings app launch Apps and Features. There you can remove the PWAs for Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint for good.