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Sharepoint 2013 : The Office Web Applications for Sharepoint - Desktop Enhancements

12/8/2014 3:31:22 AM

A primary concern for Microsoft following the release of Office Web Apps 2010 was the varying user experience between different operating systems. For example, users of Office Web Apps on a Mac had only some functions available. For the new version, Microsoft wanted to provide a consistent user experience, regardless of what desktop operating systems were used. With Office Web Apps 2013, Mac users can work from a personal laptop or the corporate workstation and enjoy the same features and capabilities, enabling a smooth, unified experience — one that is associated with the browser’s capability to use HTML5, not the machine. In this section you will take a look at some of the new capabilities that will really help to extend user productivity.

User Experience Improvements

To achieve the improved user experience that Microsoft sought for Office Web Apps, the focus was placed on eliminating the dependence on the desktop in order to create a consistent, browser-based UI. For example, when editing a document within the Office suite, users can expect to find screen elements in the same position, and the mostly commonly used features are available from within the browser. Similarly, users of the Word Web App have more control over their documents, including the ability to view documents in a print layout and even perform a simple word count. Another more prominent example of added features to make the Office Web Apps feature set more enticing is the capability to create PowerPoint presentations with animations. By enhancing and unifying these features across applications, Microsoft has brought the full desktop experience closer to the user via any modern browser.

PowerPoint Broadcasting

With the previous Office Web Apps you could, in conjunction with SharePoint, set up a PowerPoint Broadcast site and then publish your PowerPoint presentation to a URL where others could watch in their browser as you presented thanks to Attendee View. That feature has now gone the way of the dodo bird — if the dodo bird now lives on Mars, that is. The broadcasting functionality is no longer part of SharePoint in any way and is instead integrated with Lync Server 2013. As part of the Lync platform they have introduced enhancements, including display capabilities and support, for a greater number of mobile devices. Unfortunately, all of this is dependent on Lync Server 2013.

Excel Web App vs. Excel Services

SharePoint Excel Services is often confused with the Excel Web App provided by OWA, in terms of both functionality and use. While both applications enable the end user to view and interact with Excel workbooks, there are some critical differences. The chief difference is that the SharePoint-specific Excel Services offers business-level intelligence to use PowerPivot and slicers. Using the Excel Web App provided by the Office Web Apps does not offer these advanced business intelligence tools, but it does enable users to create and edit new workbooks in the browser. Before deciding which functionality to use in your SharePoint 2013 farm, it is important that you identify which parts of Excel functionality are critical to your business needs. Keep in mind it is common to use them both. Each one just scratches a different itch.

If, after comparing functionality, you decide you would prefer to default to Excel Services you can use the New-SPWOPISupressionSetting cmdlet. For example, the following command will stop XLSX files from opening using OWA so you can open them with Excel Services instead:

New-SPWOPISuppressionSetting -Extension "XLSX" -Action "view"

Table 1 provides a summary of how common functionality differs between Excel Services and Excel Web App.

TABLE 1: Excel Services vs. Excel Web App

Create or edit workbook in browser No Yes
Publish workbooks using external data Yes Yes, with limitations
Publish a single item via a Web Part Yes Yes
Refresh workbook data Limited functionality dependent on data source Limited functionality dependent on data source

Change Tracking

New to Office Web Apps 2013 is the capability to open a document that has Track Changes enabled. Not only can you open the document, but you can also edit the document and your changes will be tracked. Unfortunately, you still have to go back to the client if you wish to do things like Accept and Reject changes or look at various markup styles, but this is still a great step forward compared to the previous OWA, which would not open these documents at all.


The Comments feature, available in both Word and PowerPoint, enables users to work collaboratively, annotating a document without actually changing the text, by adding comments or queries to a separate section of the original document. Using either the Word Web App or the PowerPoint Web app, users can view, add, edit, and reply to comments in either of these file types. Look at Figure 1 for an example of both viewing and adding a comment to a Word document from the browser.




Co-authoring in Office Web Apps is a handy feature that enables multiple authors to work in a single document simultaneously. This prevents people from getting locked out of the most current document or working on an outdated file version. In addition, the co-authoring functionality enables a single document to track all intended changes, preventing a loss of the last known changes. Co-authoring has been greatly expanded in Office Web Apps 2013, with its functionality extended beyond the Excel Web App and OneNote Web App into the Word Web App and the PowerPoint Web App.


Embedding is a new feature to Office Web Apps. Previously, when you wanted to open or edit a document in SharePoint, you only had that control from a SharePoint document library. Now, with embedding, you can incorporate the Word Web App, the Excel Web App, and the OneNote Web App directly into the page. For example, this functionality enables you to embed a PowerPoint presentation on the page. You can even flip through the presentation without having to open a link. Figure 2 shows an example of a classic SharePoint presentation on the home page of a team site.



This is apparently one of those super-secret features. If you would like to embed a document on your SharePoint page, it is a two-step process. First, open the document in the browser and then click File. From that menu, choose Share; and then from the fly-out click Embed. Now you can copy the source code you will need. With the source code in hand, edit the SharePoint page in which you want to embed the document. From the Insert tab on the Ribbon, click the Embed link and insert the code. There it is. <sarcasm> Not sure why everyone cannot just figure that out? </sarcasm>

Ink Support

Ink support, a feature that enables users to write and draw in documents using a finger, mouse, or stylus, has long been a part of the Microsoft Office suite. The latest version of Office Web Apps enables Ink elements to be viewed, created, and edited reliably in Microsoft Office Word and OneNote documents via the web browser. Combined with enhanced support for web browsers on phones, tablets, and other devices lacking a native version of Microsoft Office, this creates the opportunity for a wider range of people and devices to participate more easily in document collaboration.

Quick Preview

New to Office Web Apps 2013 is the capability to preview supported documents in a preview window directly from SharePoint 2013 search results. This enables users to quickly determine whether they have found the correct file. Figure 3 shows an example of what a user might see while previewing a document.



If you are having problems getting search previews to work after you install and configure OWA, blame search. You have to do a full crawl after your install the OWA to get the search previews to kick in.

Sharing a Document

An example of how Office Web Apps 2013 has expanded beyond just SharePoint 2013 is clearly evident with the new Share feature. Now a SharePoint user can send a link for a document to another user, enabling the recipient to leverage Office Web Apps and preview that document. When sharing documents, you also have the option to specify whether the recipient has permission to edit the document, rather than just view it.

NOTE When sending documents using the share-by-link feature, ensure that the proper configuration is set for recipients. Documents sent by share by link can be edited via Office Web Apps regardless of licensing status or whether editing is disabled on the Office Web Apps.

Office Web Apps URLs

Another improvement to Office Web Apps 2013 is how URLs are generated for user consumption. If you have ever seen a URL produced from Office Web Apps 2010, then you know how long it can be, as shown in the following example:


Fortunately, users no longer need to work with such unwieldy URLs, as the new Office Web Apps 2013 URL format is greatly condensed. This enables users to easily share a URL directly from the browser, as the following revamped URL demonstrates:


Default Open Behavior for Documents

Office Web Apps 2013 offers farm and site collection administrator control over how a document is opened at the farm or site-collection level. By default, when OWA 2013 is made available to SharePoint 2013, it opens all Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote files in the browser, as opposed to the desktop client application.

Farm-Level Document Control

To control the document opening behavior at the farm level on a per-file-type basis, a farm administrator can run the following Office Web Apps cmdlets to modify an existing Office Web Apps farm:

Get-SPWOPIBinding –Action "edit" –Application "Excel"| Set-SPWOPIBinding 

Site Collections and Document Libraries

At the site-collection level and lower, site collection administrators and users with appropriate permissions can determine file behavior. Users with appropriate permissions can change the setting of a document library via the properties of that particular library. A site collection administrator can change file behavior for the entire site collection by activating the site collection option Open Documents in Client Applications by Default.

Other -----------------
- Sharepoint 2013 : The Office Web Applications for Sharepoint - Licensing and Versions
- Microsoft Lync Server 2013 : Persistent Chat Administration (part 2) - Chat Room Management by End Users , Persistent Chat Troubleshooting
- Microsoft Lync Server 2013 : Persistent Chat Administration (part 1) - Chat Room Management by Administrators
- Microsoft Lync Server 2013 : Configuring Persistent Chat (part 4) - Creating a Chat Room Using the Lync Server Management Shell , Creating a Chat Room Using the Lync 2013 Client
- Microsoft Lync Server 2013 : Configuring Persistent Chat (part 3) - Chat Room Categories
- Microsoft Lync Server 2013 : Configuring Persistent Chat (part 2) - Persistent Chat Server Options
- Microsoft Lync Server 2013 : Configuring Persistent Chat (part 1) - Administrative Access, Persistent Chat Policies
- Microsoft Lync Server 2013 : Persistent Chat Deployment (part 3) - Installing the Persistent Chat Server Role
- Microsoft Lync Server 2013 : Persistent Chat Deployment (part 2) - Topology Update
- Microsoft Lync Server 2013 : Persistent Chat Deployment (part 1) - Topology Options and Scaling
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