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Since I have been writing this blog, I have periodically been asked “what’s up with the Office Web Components”. Today, I wanted to post the official “roadmap” from the Office Web Components team. Here you go:
As some of you have recently noticed, the Office Web Components are no longer installed when installing Microsoft Office 2007. The Office Web Components (OWC) are a set of ActiveX® controls that provide four principal components: Spreadsheet, Chart, PivotTable®, and Data Source Control (DSC).
Microsoft has shipped different versions of OWC in the last three releases of Microsoft® Office, including Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Office XP, and Microsoft Office 2000, however, the Office Web Components will not ship with the 2007 Microsoft Office system. The version of OWC that shipped with the 2003 release of Microsoft Office will be the last revision to this technology. Additionally, the ability to author OWC-based web pages is also being removed from Microsoft Office 2007 applications such as Microsoft Office Excel® 2007 and Microsoft Office Access 2007, and OWC will not ship with Microsoft Office SharePoint® Designer 2007, which is partially based on Microsoft Office FrontPage® 2003. Though they will not be updated, the components will ship with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007.
The Office Web Components are being discontinued because Microsoft needed a more flexible technology to help customers address the following challenges they faced with OWC
In order to address these customer challenges the Enterprise Client Access License (CAL) version of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 will include a technology called Excel Services that includes:
*Note that this means that Excel Services has been designed to scale and perform on a server and it is not merely an Excel spreadsheet stored on a server.
*Note that this means that Excel Services has been designed to scale and perform on a server and it is not merely an Excel spreadsheet stored on a server.
For additional information on Excel Services please see http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms546696.aspx or this series of Excel blog posts.
Although OWC is being discontinued it will continue to be supported per the Microsoft Product Life Cycle. This means that important bugs and security issues will continue to be addressed. Updates to OWC will be delivered through service packs and hotfixes, and the GUIDs for all versions of OWC will remain the same. Also, the most current update of OWC can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center at any time. The support time frame for OWC is defined in the table below:
So what should you do if your are currently using solutions that use the Office Web Components? If the solutions are meeting your present needs then you should continue to use OWC, but if you feel that OWC is lacking certain features to address those needs, be aware that we are discontinuing OWC and no additional features will be added. Many browser-based OWC solutions might be migrated to use the new, thin Excel capabilities on the server, but the server does not provide a complete superset of functionality (for example, typing into any cell in the worksheet or adding new measures or dimensions to a PivotTable view from the browser is not supported). Rich client applications that embed OWC today might consider building plug-ins for Office Excel 2007 to exploit the new PivotTable, PivotChart, and worksheet capabilities of Excel. For many solutions, there are new advantages to using Excel client or thin Excel capabilities on the server, such as extremely high consistency and fidelity with the Excel client, anywhere access, and Internet service–style licensing models that don’t require licenses or specific Microsoft Office client application versions for all users. In general, customers will need to review their current solutions to determine if OWC will continue to satisfy their needs or if they would benefit from using the new features provided by Excel Services.
what is the difference between OWC and Excel 2007 server-side capabilities?
I thought that the Excel Services generate a read-only Spreadsheet? I need read/write functionalities for a Datasheet - a lot of our customer projects based on this feature. What should I use in future?
Despite the name ("web" components), one of the important uses of OWC was in Windows apps. OWC gave us the ability to include Excel-like and Excel-compatible spreadsheets and charts in VB and VBA forms. If OWC is going away, what should developers use instead? 3rd party controls, I guess...
On a personal level I really regret MSFT's stand to drop the collection...
However,I'm not surprised that MSFT has decided to drop the OWC-collection, especially in view of the strong focus on server-based solutions as well as the lack of internal support & development of these components from MSFT.
For those of use who need controls that can do the work I believe that the following controls may be of interest.
FarPoint Spreadsheet: http://www.fpoint.com/
Just to be clear, OWC will still be available via web download and supported per the timeline posted by Dave Gainer. You still have the option of using OWC in your solutions. However, we will no longer be investing in new features for OWC.
Excel Services fills some aspects of what you could do with OWC. Shown below is a breakdown of common OWC scenarios and how Excel Services can fill these.
Usage Scenario #1: Expose fully interactive worksheets on a Web page.
When worksheets are being saved from Office Excel 2007 to Office SharePoint Server 2007, the user can also specify what parts of the worksheet should be displayed to the end user. Combined with the new Office SharePoint Server 2007 View right, this can enable the worksheet author to lock down their worksheet so that end users will be able to see only the portions of the worksheet the user has specifically chosen to make viewable.
Additionally, Excel Services offers a similar user interface to the new Office Excel 2007 client application, and support for new Office Excel 2007 specific functionality, with data visualizations such as gradients, data bars and icons, new Table and PivotTable styles, and full integration with Data Connection Libraries.
Excel Services targets consumers and explorers of spreadsheets, so it does not allow you to directly edit a worksheet in your Web browser. However, specific cells in a worksheet can be marked as editable parameters to allow users to do ‘what if’ scenarios in a parameters Task Pane. Excel Services also integrates well with the new Office SharePoint Server 2007 filter controls by allowing you to hook these parameters up to these filter controls and have them feed values into your worksheet.
Unlike OWC, Excel Services offloads the calculation of the spreadsheet from the client computers to the server, offering greater scalability and spreadsheet security.
Finally, you can also either open the worksheet from Excel Services into Office Excel 2007 in the exact same state that you were currently working on it, or, if you don’t have rights to do that, you can open a snapshot containing only the values and formatting (that is, no data connections or information that was not marked as visible in Office Excel 2007), again in the same state you were working in, for further exploration.
Usage Scenario #2: Create a calculation engine for Web-based charts and reports.
This is all much simpler now with Excel Services. You save your worksheet to Office SharePoint Server 2007 and set it to render a specific chart or selection of charts. Because all of the loading and calculation now happens on the server, you don’t need to associate charts to worksheets; you simply need to create a chart in Excel and publish the worksheet to the server. The chart will continue to update based on values in the worksheet or external data, because it is simply the chart in the worksheet.
Scripting support for custom applications is available through the Excel Services API, which allows you to open worksheets, get and set values, refresh data, and calculate worksheets all through a set of Web services API calls.
Usage Scenario #3: Create and explore dynamic reports based on multidimensional cubes.
Since Excel Services is targeted at consumers and explorers of data, authoring actions aren’t available. This means that you cannot add or remove dimensions from a PivotTable view in Excel Services. You can however drill up or down on levels, filter, and sort PivotTable views.
Additionally, Excel Services supports all of the great new additions to PivotTable views in Office Excel 2007. This includes PivotTable styles, the new compact axis mode, user-friendly drill indicators, and new filtering capabilities based on the type of data.
PivotTable page fields can also be marked as parameters and hooked up to SharePoint filter controls which can then control them in a dashboard environment. Since Excel Services also supports accessing external data through new Sheet Data functions, and due to the fact that you can convert PivotTable views to Sheet Data functions, you can create customized asymmetrical reports modifiable in a dashboard by hooking page fields to parameters and converting the rest of the PivotTable view to Sheet Data formulas.
Usage Scenario #4: Expose charts on a Web page that are bound to external data and automatically update.
To expose a chart, all you need to do is create an Office Excel 2007 worksheet that contains charts using external sources, save it to Office SharePoint Server 2007, and then in the Excel Web Access Web Part, have it display the chart you are interested in.
Not only is this now simpler, but there are many more advantages to using Excel Services. Excel Services supports Microsoft SQL Server™ 2005 and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services cubes, which expose a new layer of functionality in Office Excel 2007.
Excel Services can import external data from connections embedded within worksheets, PivotTable views, and the new Sheet Data functions. QueryTables, unfortunately, are not supported in Excel Services.
Additionally, since the worksheet is now being calculated and run on the server, your data connections are more secure because they can all be executed from behind a firewall, and the end user never needs to know anything about them. This also makes the solutions much more scalable.
Usage Scenario #5: Analyze data with interactive PivotChart views that support drag-and-drop creation and drilldown.
Excel Services supports and renders PivotChart views. The charts render based on external data values and change with the PivotTable view that they are built on, just as they do in Excel.
However, in Excel Services you cannot interact directly with PivotChart views, only with the PivotTable views whose values they are based on.
Usage Scenario #6: Establish external data source connections.
Because Excel Services loads the worksheet on the server side, there is no need to create external data source connections other than those already in the worksheet.
Excel Services can also take connection information from a Data Connection Library, which offers a single place that administrators can go to change connection information that will affect worksheets both on the server and on people’s client computers, making it much easier to manage connection information across organizations for administrators.
Usage Scenario #7: Author OWC-based Web pages in Excel, Access, and FrontPage.
Because Office SharePoint Designer 2007 is now the Web page editing tool, and because all you need do to make a worksheet render using Excel Services is add an Excel Web Access Web Part to a SharePoint Web Part page, you can do all of this with FrontPage.
In Office SharePoint Designer 2007 you can create new Web Part pages, edit existing ones, and within them add Excel Web Access Web Parts and position them appropriately on the page.
Also, new in the 2007 Microsoft Office release is a programmable Task Pane. Using the new Task Pane, developers can add in their own custom Task Panes to Microsoft Office applications. Calling out to the Excel Services API from these programmability Task Panes can allow for rich integration experiences with Office client applications.
Usage Scenario #8: Enable client-side programmability in a browser or client application.
Excel Services does not have an object model, unlike the Excel client. However, it does expose an API with simple functions such as open a worksheet, get a worksheet, get and set cells or ranges of cells, refresh connections, and calculate the worksheet. Using this set of API commands, developers can create custom Web Parts or applications that call to the Excel Services API but use their own interface. This is especially powerful for businesses that want to keep their business logic in Excel but have their own custom reporting interface. If a formula or variable changes, it is much easier to update an Excel worksheet than it is to update code.
Additionally, Excel Services supports User Defined Functions (UDFs), which developers can use to write their own functions and call them from within an Excel worksheet.
Summary of advantages of Excel Services
Integration with the new SharePoint filter controls for creating custom SharePoint dashboards.
Support for new Office Excel 2007 conditional formatting (such as data bars and icons) and Table and PivotTable styles.
New Table and PivotTable data type filters.
Support for SQL Server 2005 and the ability to take advantage of all of the great new enhancements to Analysis Services 2005 cubes.
Use of the same calculation engine as the Office Excel 2007 client, resulting in identical calculation results.
Calculations can now be offloaded to the server, whereas with OWC they still run on the client computer.
Users need only download the content and the data they want to see, as opposed to the entire worksheet.
The ability to use the new SharePoint View right to lock down a worksheet to hide proprietary information, data connections, or formulas.
Exposes a Web services API.
It would be really really useful if developers could get a better idea of what technologies might bite the dust. Especially if there is no very low pain migration.
VB.classic to VB.NET
Jet based dB
Indicators like uptake levels, development issues, return / value estimates (from MS point of view), might help developers not dump months of their lives needlessly.
In this case an Avalon (aka WinFX, aka .NET 3.0) implementation and migration might have been expected! The fact it isn't there doesn't look good.
A shorter summary of advantages of Excel Services:
1) Sell more SharePoint
2) Eliminate competition for SharePoint
3) that is all.
"Since Excel Services is built on the SharePoint products and technologies platform, it will not be possible to run Excel Services in isolation."
Many thanks for giving us a more detailed view of all the new possibilities with the upcoming SharePoint Server.
However, being in the 'frontline' there are some aspects I want to point out:
a) It will take considerable time when SharePoint Server 2007 and later will be a de facto standard.
b) Some corporates will never invest in SharePoint Server due to the costs involved and/or there exist to needs.
It's good that You maintain a mainstream support to until 2011 as there still exist needs to ship solutions that are 'client'-based and based on 'outdated platforms like classic VB and classic Delphi'in where the present OWC-package works well with.
That's very interesting - thanks for an informative post. Can we please (pretty please) get a roadmap for development for addins, xlls, com addins etc (same as the other posts I have made on this subject)
Thanks very much
anon, unfortunately, I think you are right:(
SpreadsheetGear for .NET provides ASP.NET Excel Reporting and an Excel compatible Windows Forms Spreadsheet Control, and is already being used to replace the Microsoft OWC Spreadsheet in a number of companies which are moving from ASP, VB6 or MFC to the Microsoft .NET Framework.
Founder and CEO, SpreadsheetGear LLC