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Office Web Apps Integration with SharePoint 2010 : Planning for Office Web Apps Use

3/25/2011 9:33:33 PM
This section provides some “food for thought” for organizations interested in implementing the Office Web Apps functionality to allow end users another vehicle for collaborating on Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote documents. Prerequisites, licensing issues, and limitations by browsers are covered in this section, although from a fairly high level due to the wealth of information provided by Microsoft on these topics (for which links are given).

Server Prerequisites and Licensing Considerations

SharePoint Foundation 2010 or SharePoint Server 2010 Standard or Enterprise is required to use Office Web Apps. Server prerequisites are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Server Prerequisites
System RequirementsDetails
Supported operating systemsWindows Server 2008 Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008 with Service Pack 2 (SP2)
HardwareProcessor: 64-bit; dual processor: 3GHz RAM: 4GB for stand-alone; 8GB for farm Hard disk: 80GB
SoftwareSharePoint Foundation 2010 or SharePoint Server 2010
Browser supportInternet Explorer 7.0 or later on Windows Safari 4.0 or later on Mac Firefox 3.5 or later on Windows, Mac, and Linux

As defined by Microsoft on TechNet in the “Deploy Office Web Apps (Installed on SharePoint 2010 Products)” article (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff431687.aspx): “Office Web Apps are available to business customers with Microsoft Office 2010 volume licensing and document management solutions that are based on Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Products.”

Organizations interested in using Office Web Apps in their environments still need to comply with Microsoft licensing policies, which can be found on the following site: http://www.microsoftvolumelicensing.com/userights/default.aspx. The legalese used makes a full understanding of appropriate usage difficult; however, several statements in the Excel Web App 2010 section shed light on some key concepts:

  • “If you comply with your volume license agreement, including these product use rights and the Product List, you may use the software and online services only as expressly permitted in these product use rights.”

  • “You may not host the products for commercial hosting services.”

From an organization standpoint, it is clear that existing product use rights (such as use of other Office products) still apply to the Office Web App (in this case, Excel Web App 2010) and some homework may be required to ensure that the organization is meeting the terms of the volume license agreement.

Note

In plain English, for a properly licensed organization to use Office 2010 core applications, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and have appropriate licenses for SharePoint 2010, there should not be an extra cost to use Office Web Apps. However that organization cannot allow external users to use the Office Web Apps feature without incurring liability on the licensing side, which would most likely include having to purchase any SharePoint CALs and Office 2010 CALs for these external users. For this reason, IT decision makers should carefully consider whether to enable the Office Web Apps feature, and if so, for which libraries and site collections.


Browser Support of Office Web Apps

For organizations that decide to support Office Web Apps, it is important to test the various browsers in use because the browser will become a primary tool used for editing documents. Office Web Apps can also fill the functionality gap that appears when organizations support browsers other than Internet Explorer 7 and 8 32-bit version, and operating systems other than the newest Microsoft operating systems, such as Linux, UNIX, and Mac OSX.

Microsoft offers a more in-depth review of limitations at the following URL: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc288142.aspx. This list should be reviewed in detail by organizations that officially support browsers other than the 32-bit versions of IE 7 and 8. In this article, Microsoft defines three levels of compatibility:

  • Supported (the highest level of compatibility)— IE 8 (32-bit) and IE 7 (32-bit) fall into this category.

  • Supported with known limitations (most features and functionality work)— IE 8 (64-bit), IE 7 (64-bit), Firefox 3.6 (on Windows operating systems and on non-Windows operating systems), and Safari 4.04 (on non-Windows operating systems) fall into this category.

  • Not tested (there may be issues when using a browser in this category)— Any browser not listed in the previous two sections fall into this category (such as Google Chrome).

A partial list of limitations is as follows:

  • Internet Explorer 8 (32-bit)— There are no known limitations for Internet Explorer 8 (32-bit).

  • Internet Explorer 7 (32-bit)— There are no known limitations for Internet Explorer 7 (32-bit).

  • Internet Explorer 8 (64-bit)— There are a variety of known limitations for Internet Explorer 8 (64-bit). See the previously mentioned link for more information on Microsoft’s TechNet website.

    Note

    An example of IE 8 64-bit limitations include the following: When accessing a SharePoint 2010 document library from an IE 8 64-bit browser, if the user clicks on Edit in a Microsoft Office Word entry from the drop-down menu for a Word document in the lib, an error message will appear that states, “The document could not be opened for editing. A Microsoft SharePoint Foundation compatible application could not be found to edit the document.”


  • Internet Explorer 7 (64-bit)— There are a variety of known limitations for Internet Explorer 7 (64-bit). See the previously mentioned link for more information on Microsoft’s TechNet website. Limitations are similar to IE 8 64-bit.

  • Mozilla Firefox 3.6 (on Windows operating systems)— There are a variety of known limitations for Firefox 3.6 on Windows operating systems. See the previously mentioned link for more information on Microsoft’s TechNet website.

    Note

    A Firefox plug-in is required to open and edit Microsoft Office applications. However, testing showed that this plug-in is included with Firefox for Windows version 3.6.3, as shown in Figure 1, so use of Firefox 3.6.3 to open and edit Microsoft Office Word 2010 was seamless.

    Figure 1. Microsoft Office 2010 plug-ins installed by default with Firefox 3.6.3.

  • Mozilla Firefox 3.6 (on non-Windows operating systems)— There are a variety of known limitations for Firefox 3.6 on non-Windows operating systems (Mac OSX and UNIX/Linux). See the previously mentioned link for more information on Microsoft’s TechNet website.

  • Safari 4.04 (on non-Windows operating systems)— There are a variety of known limitations for Safari 4.04 on non-Windows operating systems (Mac OSX (Version 10.6 and Snow Leopard)). See the previously mentioned link for more information on Microsoft’s TechNet website.

Note

Per the Microsoft document, “Plan browser support (SharePoint Foundation 2010)” for Firefox 3.6 Windows and non-Windows operating systems and Safari 4.04 on non-Windows operating systems: “If you install and configure the Office Web Apps on the server, the Edit functionality works and you can modify Office documents in your browser.”

Planning to Support Multiple Versions of the Office Rich Client

Even though Office Web Apps enable users to edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents in their browsers, the features made available are limited and pared down from what the full Office applications provide. Therefore, users will still often work in the full clients, assuming the organization uses the Microsoft Office application suite. Initial testing of Office Web Apps reveal the importance of thorough testing for an organization interested in implementing this functionality. These examples are just examples of the issues that can be encountered and should be taken into account in the planning process.

If Word 2003, Excel 2003, or PowerPoint 2003 were used to create documents that were saved to SharePoint 2010 and users want to edit those documents in the browser, they will get an error message. The error message will state, “To Edit This File in Word Web App It First Must Be Converted to the Newest File Format. This Will Also Create a Backup of The Original File. To Edit This File Without Converting It, Open It in Microsoft Word.” If the user proceeds with the editing process, a new version of the document will be saved in the same document library with “- Converted” attached as a suffix to the document title. Although not a “show stopper,” this behavior could lead to confusion, so the SharePoint administration team may require that files be converted to the newer .docx, .xslx, and .pptx formats before being uploaded to SharePoint 2010 document libraries that will be enabled for use with the Office Web Apps feature and browser-based editing.

Another example pertains to organizations that may be standardized on the Office 2007 suite, but users may still save files using the older, backward-compatible file types. In this case, a user created a spreadsheet in Excel 2010 but then saved the document in Excel 97–2003 format because she needed to send it to an external partner who she believe had an older version of Excel. She then uploaded the spreadsheet to a SharePoint 2010 document library enabled for browser editing using Office Web Apps. One of her coworkers accesses the library from his netbook that doesn’t have the full Excel client on it and clicks on the title of the spreadsheet, expecting to edit it in the browser. Instead, the coworker sees an error, “Do You Want to Save This File, or Find a Program Online to Open It.” If the coworker had Excel installed locally, he would be asked to open the document in Excel in Read Only or Edit mode, which again was not what he was expecting.

Mobile Device Support

Many organizations are intrigued by the ever-present concept of further enabling productivity between mobile users and office-bound employees. Office Web Apps offer a toolset that can be investigated for this purpose and provide a reduced set of tools that are better suited for devices with small screens. Of course, the SharePoint environment needs to be accessible from the outside world for this functionality to be useful, and the organization needs to thoroughly test the different supported devices.

A primary limitation is the small size of the screens on the mobile devices, but new features such as panning and zooming and more powerful processors in the devices make the experience more tolerable than in the past.

The following devices provide mobile “support” for Office Web Apps in SharePoint according to Microsoft, but the organization needs to test thoroughly to establish if the level of functionality provided is adequate:

  • Windows Mobile

  • BlackBerry

  • iPhone, iPod Touch

  • Nokia S60

  • Japan feature telephones, including NTT DOCOMO, SoftBank, and au by KDDI

The organization should make an initial decision whether mobile devices will be supported, and if so which specific makes and models, and then engage in thorough testing.

As an example of this testing, the iPhone is listed in the preceding list of compatible devices, but when Office Web App access was tested from an iPhone (operating system version 3.1.3) the documents were viewable but not editable using the built-in version of Safari nor could new documents be created. Over time, Microsoft may change their support, or other browser could become available that enable more interactive access to Office Web Apps from mobile devices.

Tip

A good way to test mobile device access to Office Web Apps is to use the Microsoft Live service. Simply visit http://home.live.com/ and then either log in with an existing account or sign up for a new account and provide the information requested. Then click Office in the top menu, and then click one of the icons under the heading “Create a New Online Document” to test Office Web Apps and create a Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote document, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Microsoft Windows live site with online document options.
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