Way back in October 2007 Microsoft announced that it would be bringing its suite of office applications online, and we've not heard much from the company on the subject since, with the exception of a beta of Live Office Workspace earlier this year.

Well, today Microsoft has announced that those web apps - online versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote - will be free, and that the full version of Office 2010 will start semi-private testing with developers immediately.

It'll integrate with the web apps, so you'll be able to work on- or off-line. There'll be full collaboration and co-authoring functionality, too, as well as a whole host of new features including the ability to "ignore" unwanted message threads in Outlook.

According to Microsoft, "Office 2010 and related products will deliver innovative capabilities and provide new levels of flexibility and choice that will help people"

Those new features include better collaboration tools with co-authoring in Microsoft Word 2010, Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 and Microsoft OneNote 2010, and advanced e-mail management and calendaring capabilities in Microsoft Outlook 2010, including the option for users to ”ignore” unwanted threads, as well as video and picture editing, broadcast capability in Microsoft PowerPoint 2010.

Elsewhere users will get a new feature called Backstage view that allows you to manage what to do next with your documents more efficiently. Sparklines on the other hand in Microsoft Excel 2010 to visualize data and spot trends more quickly.

"Office 2010 is the premier productivity solution across PCs, mobile phones and browsers", said Chris Capossela, senior vice president of the Microsoft Business Division. "From broadcast and video editing in PowerPoint, new data visualization capabilities in Excel, and co-authoring in Word, we are delivering technology to help people work smarter and faster from virtually any location using any device".

Microsoft also announced that it is streamlining the number of Office editions from eight to five.

The company also announced that Office Web applications will be available in three ways: through Windows Live, where more than 400 million consumers will have access to Office Web applications at no cost.