Microsoft Office Web Apps Server (OWA Server) together with SharePoint Server 2013 brings a modern user-friendly interface for Office document collaboration that will save your users’ time and the company money.
OWA Server is a new server product released alongside the Office 2103 suite that brings browser-based Office document viewing as well as editing capabilities and integration to SharePoint 2013, Exchange 2013, Lync 2013, shared folders and websites. What was previously a bolt-on application for SharePoint 2010 is now a stand-alone server product whose services can be centrally consumed by multiple instances of the Server products listed above. You may have already seen the functionality provided by OWA Server since it is enabled in Office 365 and SkyDrive.
You can expect some great improvements with the latest version that will make your internal and external users happy and more efficient while creating, editing and collaborating on Office documents in SharePoint. Some of these improvements include cross platform browser support, better feature fidelity and a familiar user interface to that of the Office client applications, integrated sharing and co-authoring, document previews within search results and libraries, and more. Along with the improved interface and features licensing, OWA for external users is now more budget friendly in terms of licensing requirements.
OWA Integration with SharePoint 2013
Once an OWA farm has been set up and SharePoint 2013 has been configured to consume its services, you will notice a few key integration points, namely in document libraries and search results. When you click on “new document” in a document library, four choices for document type will pop up.
Figure 1: Creating a new Office Document in the browser with the features enabled by Office Wev Apps Server.
Here we see that the user can select the desired type of office document to create in the browser. The selection will then open the associated Web App (Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote).
Another time saving integration point is Document Preview in Search Results. Document Preview allows the user to view and read an entire Word document right next to the search results. For PowerPoint files the user can now flip through every slide as well as view animations and transitions. This is the first time an OWA feature has allowed this.
Figure 2: Viewing an entire PowerPoint presentation without downloading the file or navigating to a different page.
Along with the new, time-saving ability to view entire office documents from within search results (and document libraries) another new feature within the preview is the ability to download the file, print the file to PDF and embed the file elsewhere.
Figure 3: Useful features have been added to the document preview pane which saves mouse clucks and office load times.
By clicking SEND, OWA will generate a link in an email so that you can quickly send another user a link to this document. Clicking the maximize button opens the Web App in full screen and allows editing if you have permissions and are accessing this from a supported device. (We will cover what devices are supported later in the article.)
Interestingly enough, you can follow a document directly from this pane as well. Following is a new feature of SharePoint 2013 that allows you to easily track changes sites/documents/projects through a Facebook-like newsfeed in your My Site.
Document Previewing is now available in document libraries too. This feature will certainly save your users’ time by not having to manually open each document. Just click the ellipses next to a document you’d like to preview and the preview pane will open.
Figure 4: OWA provides Office document previewing directly in document libraries as well as search results.
These integration points of OWA and SharePoint 2013 will reduce the time and productivity users typically waste searching for the information they need. Along with the ability to preview office documents, each Office Web App has been updated and provides a subset of the Office client application feature set allowing the user to create, edit, view, and collaborate on Office documents.
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