Unexpected Office web apps in Windows 10 Start menu reportedly bug

If you see Microsoft’s Office apps appearing in your Start menu as web apps, you’re probably wondering why they are there. The answer is they are not, and Microsoft is taking care of the problem.

Last week, Windows Insiders began reporting that versions of Microsoft’s Office apps started appearing in their Start menu as Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs. But other users started complaining over the weekend that PWAs were also landing in their Start menu and not being part of Insider’s beta program. So what happened?

From what we understand, the pinned Office PWAs were the result of a bug. Ultimately, if you right-click on any Office PWAs that ended up in your Start menu, it’s safe to unpin them.

What went wrong

A source close to the company describes the addition of Office PWAs as part of the transition to the new Edge browser, which was originally released in January. Users had started complaining over the weekend that the new Office PWAs were being installed as part of the Windows 10 October 2020 Update, which given that the latest feature release adds the new Edge browser, seems to be true.

One of the features of the old and new Edge browsers is that specific web pages can be pinned to the Start menu and taskbar as shortcuts. The new Edge offers extended support to mark these sites as progressive web apps, if the site allows it. Running Word in a browser and running it as a PWA are pretty much the same thing, with a few minor but essential differences. For one thing, a PWA will remove the address bar, tabs, and other components that make the web application look like a web page. Second, and more importantly, a PWA can be saved as an “app” on the Start menu.

On a PC that doesn’t have Office (or Microsoft 365, as it’s now called) installed, Microsoft automatically inserts shortcuts to the online versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The bug, however, translated the automatic installation of shortcuts to these Office web apps into a request to install Office. PWA, rather.

Microsoft is still planning to put shortcuts to Office web apps on the Start menu as part of new PCs, we hear. But until Microsoft can ensure they don’t become PWAs, Microsoft plans to end the practice.

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