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Excel Services 2010 Overview

Thanks to Steve Tullis for putting together this post.

Before delving into Excel Services 2010, I want to recap a point that some readers may not be aware of.  The Excel team is delivering two browser-based solutions as part of the Office 2010 wave of products.  The quick synopsis – here are the two solutions:

  1. Excel Services: Version two of our real-time, interactive, Excel-based reporting and dashboard capabilities which ship as part of SharePoint Server 2010. Also included are APIs which enable rich business application development.
  2. Excel Web App: The companion to the Excel client which extends the ability to create, view, edit, and collaborate on Excel workbooks using only a browser.

In the enterprise, these two offerings can be installed together – at which point, all the benefits of both are realized:  A lightweight spreadsheet authoring and collaboration tool AND an enterprise BI and application development tool.

Today’s post is the first post of a series which introduces, then explains in detail, Excel Services 2010.  Later on we’ll have a series of posts on Excel Web App.

A Bit of Background

If you remember, Excel Services 2007 shipped in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 as part of the Enterprise CAL. The focus of the 2007 release was twofold: leverage SharePoint to provide control of Excel workbooks . . . to ensure there existed only one version of the truth; and provide Business Intelligence (BI) capabilities which any SharePoint user could leverage to share data and analysis which they had done in Excel by publishing it to SharePoint and allowing users to consume it via the browser.

Excel Services 2010

Excel Services 2010 is all about continuing the promise we made in 2007, by which I mean:

  1. Better symmetry across Excel and Excel Services
  2. Continued integration with SharePoint
  3. Improved user experience
  4. Tools for application development

Let me touch on each of these briefly . . . as a teaser for the blog postings which will be made over the next few weeks.

Better symmetry across Excel and Excel Services:

We heard your feedback regarding file support . . . and have changed our paradigm from refusing to open files which contain unsupported features to making our best effort to open any workbook. For features we partially support, we either show cached values (e.g. query tables) or notify the user and remove the feature prior to displaying the workbook (e.g. Office Art shapes).

Not only have we invested to support common features – such as embedded images – but we also ensured new Excel features are available in Excel Services. Examples of new features include Sparklines, Slicers, PowerPivot, improved conditional formatting, improved functions, and many more.

Continued integration with SharePoint:

We continue our tight integration with SharePoint for security, content management, version control, document-level compliance, data connection management, service administration . . . essentially, all those features required to run and manage a service, and to establish and maintain a single version of the truth.

Additionally, we work closely with the SharePoint BI team to ensure tight integration between Excel Services, PerformancePoint Services, and other BI related capabilities shipped in SharePoint. When you get SharePoint Server 2010, create a new site based on the ‘BI Center’ template to see this in action.

Improved user experience:

We’ve made numerous investments to improve user experience . . . the top investments: we’ve Ajax-ified our service; which means you can refresh elements of a page instead of having every change require a page refresh; and, we’ve introduced scrolling, which means you can easily and smoothly navigate through your Excel content. While these are the most visible investments, there are many, many more.

Tools for application development:

Our application development story expanded significantly – improvements to the Web Services, and introduction of a JavaScript Object Model and a REST API, open the doors for both professional developers and end users to build business applications, mash-ups, or just provide an easy way to share Excel content beyond the workbook.

Wrap-up

I know I have introduced more questions than answers . . . by doing so, I hope I have piqued your curiosity about Excel Services. Our plan is to address those questions via posts on this blog over the next few weeks.

As you can tell, this release introduces many new capabilities. I encourage all of you to come back and read these posts. If your questions aren’t answered, let us know. If you have feedback or suggestions, let us know those as well. We are very excited about the changes and improvements we’ve made – I am certain that what you see over the next few weeks will provide great insights into how you and your organization can benefit from Excel Services 2010.