Introducing the new Office on Windows Phone 8

 

By Bert Van Hoof, Office Engineering

Today, we’re proud to introduce the new Office; it comes pre-installed on every Windows Phone 8, which is launching worldwide today.

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When we started on this journey we set five clear objectives:

  1. All your Office documents, where and when you want them
  2. The best Office document rendering on any phone
  3. All your notes – in one place and with you, anywhere
  4. Communicate and collaborate effectively from your mobile device
  5. The most world-ready Office experience on any phone

 

All your Office documents, where and when you want them

Whether you’re using SkyDrive or Office 365, getting access to your Office content is just part of the phone’s easy set up. Windows Phone 8 auto-discovery gets you connected to your accounts, so you can get things done from any place, at any time.

The Office Hub – your go-to spot for Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel  – is redesigned with a simple and fluid navigation. Finding and accessing your personal and work documents on SkyDrive, Office 365 and SharePoint is also easy and intuitive.

In Office 365 your documents “travel with you,” even on different devices. No matter which device you used to last view or update a file, it will show up in your list of recently used documents on the phone. Email attachments you’ve opened in Outlook Mobile will also show up automatically in the Office hub. And you can access documents on SkyDrive or Office 365, and share them with others.

And of course we’ve made sure that the Office Hub takes advantage of the new ‘Tap + Send’ feature in Windows Phone 8 to let you share documents by tapping your phone on another NFC-capable device.

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Figure 1: Your list of recently used documents on SkyDrive, Office 365 and SharePoint, across all of your devices

The best Office document rendering on any phone

Viewing Office content is a natural and delightful experience, optimally adjusted for the unique attributes of Windows Phone 8. Simple edits can be made with ease. In Word, Excel and PowerPoint, we’ve made the best even better by introducing a number of noticeable user experience and content fidelity improvements. All apps put content first and have a greatly enhanced ability to render gorgeous charts.

PowerPoint seamlessly renders all shapes and SmartArt Graphics, and honors your transition effects and timing. We added portrait mode with speaker notes, and slide thumbnails make navigation between slides a lot easier.

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Figure 2: Portrait mode with speaker notes, and slide thumbnails in PowerPoint

 

Excel also offers noteworthy new enhancements. Workbooks open at the last saved sheet and zoom level, and navigating through a large Excel worksheet is fast and fluid. New touch-friendly handles make range selection and resizing of columns and rows a snap.

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Figure 3: New cell selection handles in Excel

 

It is now easy to read cells with lots of text on the small screen. As you navigate and tap through more cells in the sheet, the new reading panel refreshes its content.

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Figure 4: New Excel “view cell text” feature

 

The new full-screen reading mode in Word is a true delighter: Your controls automatically move out of the way as we put the content at center stage. Controls reappear by simply tapping on the document canvas. From there you can switch to outline view for quick navigation around the document, look for comments, or edit, save and share your document. Your cloud-connected document automatically resumes where you left off reading, no matter where you last viewed your document – on your PC, tablet or phone!

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Figure 5: Full screen reading in Word

 

All your notes and ideas – in one place and with you, anywhere

OneNote Mobile is now a separate app, always ready to capture your notes and ideas. Just tap the new OneNote Tile and take quick text, photo, and voice notes. You also have instant access to the notes you have made on other devices, search for specific notes, and get around your notebooks easily.

Notes look the same across OneNote 2013, OneNote for Windows Store and OneNote Mobile, so you always get a great, consistent experience wherever you are. Even ink content and annotations made with pen on your tablet PC will render perfectly on your phone.

OneNote Mobile accommodates both casual and advanced users. Users who just want to take simple notes on their phone, can use the Quick Notes starter experience. Advanced users who already organize their notes in notebooks and sections will enjoy the new navigation fine-tuned for the small screen.

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Figure 6: New OneNote navigation on top of the screen

 

One of the coolest new features is taking voice notes. Speech notes are added to the new Quick Notes section and contain audio playback alongside transcribed text. You can even dictate a note or reminder while the phone is locked, so your spontaneous thoughts are always captured.

And of course, no app makes creating to-do lists easier than OneNote. Creating a check box just takes a quick tap. We moved the icon from the middle to the left making it an even easier to hit target while typing.

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Figure 9: Creating checklists in OneNote is easy

 

Including new or existing pictures in your notes can happen from within OneNote or directly from the Photo Hub.

Just like all of the Office content, OneNote is fully cloud-enabled using SkyDrive and Office 365. This means you can access your notes from anywhere, on many different devices. Setup is seamlessly integrated with the phone’s easy configuration and you’ll have automatic access to your notebooks and notes.

The new Rooms experience on Windows Phone 8 makes it easy for family members, friends, and colleagues to share private notes. Rooms are an invitation-only place on your phone – and on the phones of the other members – where you can share a private calendar, group chat, photos or videos, and notes. When you set up a Room, a shared OneNote notebook is automatically created. No extra logins, it just works. Adding new notes is easy and everyone in your Family Room can do it. How cool is that?

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Figure 8: Shared notes in the Family Room

 

Communicate and collaborate effectively from your mobile device

Windows Phone 8 continues to offer the best Office communications experience on any mobile device. Outlook offers integrated email, contacts, calendar, and tasks – a hallmark experience on Windows Phone. With Skype, Lync, and Yammer apps you can view and manage all your communications, including voice, video, IM, email, SMS, feeds, and presence. It’s easy to participate in meetings from your mobile device without typing in any access codes. We’ll provide more details about our enterprise social experiences in the coming months.

The most world-ready Office experience on any phone

Office on Windows Phone 8 is now available in 50 languages, supports complex script, and UI mirroring (see figure 10). For Right-To-Left languages, not only does the text alignment and text reading order go from right to left, but also the UI elements layout follows this natural direction of going from right to left.

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Figure 9: Complex script in Word documents (Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Vietnamese, and Thai)

 

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Figure 10: UI Mirroring in Excel (English, Hebrew)

 

Go check it out!

Microsoft Office feels right at home on Windows Phone 8 and is ready to serve! Go check it out in person later this year at your local Microsoft Store or phone retailer. The new Nokia, HTC, and Samsung phones all come pre-installed with Office. Visit the Windows Phone website for more information, and stay tuned for more news over the coming months.

Keeping Your Organization Safe with the new Exchange

 

Editor’s note: Beginning this week at the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC), you will have opportunities to have in-depth dialogues with the Exchange team – both in-person and virtually. We kick off this week with a blog post that highlights a need of organizations everywhere and of every size as they look towards ensuring they have control of their data in a secure and manageable fashion. We hope to continue the conversation with you this week at the conference, and in the future via the EHLO and Office Next blogs. Today Harv Bhela, General Manager for Exchange Program Management, joins Office Next to kick off the week.

 

Taming the Email Data Beast

This is the age of big data. Around the world, people are creating and transmitting data in unprecedented volume. At the same time, organizations have an extraordinary need to manage liability of this information. A survey conducted by Harris Interactive in March of 2012 showed that 68 percent of companies send sensitive data via email.[1] Another survey showed that 63 percent of organizations are extremely or very concerned about their organization losing sensitive data without their organization knowing it.

Enterprises face extraordinary challenges in keeping all this data safe. Staying ahead of ever-more-sophisticated external threats such as viruses, malware, and spam is a daunting task in businesses of all sizes. IT managers also need to comply with industry regulations by preserving data in a way that is both immutable and accessible. They must also deal with the risk that users will unintentionally create data leaks, typically due to a lack of awareness or education. For example, in April of 2012, a physician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences emailed a document containing the un-redacted personal financial information of 7,000 patients to an outside party.[2] Businesses need tools that can prevent this type of common but potentially disastrous error.

While the responsibilities of IT professionals grow, their relative numbers dwindle. Over the next ten years, while worldwide data is expected to grow exponentially, the number of people employed in IT will increase only fractionally. With the ratio of data to IT professionals growing rapidly, it is becoming increasingly critical to enable workers to manage this email risk without hindering their productivity and experiences, and to automate and streamline the risk management process wherever possible. Microsoft understands and is addressing these challenges. The data protection and archiving features of Exchange are designed to help IT professionals take control of data protection and archiving in a big-data world. These new and improved features include:

  • Cloud-based email hygiene with Exchange Online Protection
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technology to identify, monitor, and protect sensitive information
  • In-place email archiving, hold, and native data governance to preserve email as long as necessary
  • Advanced, yet easy-to-use eDiscovery tools to locate information in the organization
  • Integration with SharePoint supports safe team collaboration with site mailboxes

Move Email Protection to the Cloud with Exchange Online Protection

Exchange Online Protection is the Microsoft cloud-based email protection service, which works with Exchange on-premises and online. Companies using Exchange Online Protection no longer have to worry about the disparity between data volume and staff available to manage it. They also benefit from email protection that is continuously updated to deal with present and emerging threats. Microsoft security researchers constantly monitor spam, phishing, malware, and network attacks globally and update Exchange Online Protection to protect against them. Exchange Online Protection uses a sophisticated multi-engine malware detection approach to catch viruses and spam messages before they are delivered. Even the most security-conscious companies would find it difficult to maintain the level of security vigilance, innovation, and virtually unlimited scalability Exchange Online Protection provides.

To keep customers’ email available 24/7, Exchange Online Protection uses a globally load-balanced network of data centers to provide five nines (99.999 percent) network uptime. Exchange Online Protection can actually increase email reliability by queuing email for up to five days, eliminating bounces if on-premises email servers go down. Exchange Online Protection is also highly scalable: when organizations grow, Exchange Online Protection grows with them, seamlessly.

Moving email hygiene to the cloud also has a number of operational benefits. Microsoft has designed Exchange Online Protection to help customers offload the costly, repetitive, and unproductive aspects of email protection such as purchasing and servicing hardware, applying software updates, and managing network connections. At the same time, it gives customers control over what really matters to their businesses. Organizations can set specific filtering rules and policies through an easy-to-use, web-based administration tool. Exchange Online Protection also delivers comprehensive reporting, auditing, and message trace capabilities.

Use Sensitive Data Safely with Data Loss Prevention Technology

Many organizations handle personally identifiable information (PII), financial data, regulatory or other sensitive information in the daily course of business. They need ways to ensure data is sent and used appropriately, keeping it safe without affecting worker productivity. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technology in Exchange uses deep content analysis to identify, monitor, and protect sensitive information.

Exchange administrators can easily create DLP policies in the Exchange Administration Console. DLP policies can include rules, actions, and exceptions, and uses the full power of Exchange transport rules. Upon identifying sensitive information, DLP can automatically take action such as applying Information Rights Management protection, appending a disclaimer, generating an audit log, sending the message for moderation, or preventing a message from being sent. DLP works with a new feature called Outlook Policy Tips that informs users of a potential policy violation before it occurs. Policy Tips help educate users about what sensitive data has been found in the email and can educate them about related company policies. This ongoing education helps users manage data appropriately and avoid sending sensitive data to unauthorized users. The DLP feature is a sophisticated system built into Exchange for helping users work with sensitive data safely and efficiently.

Manage Data with Large Mailboxes, In-Place Archiving, and Retention Policies

With growing volumes of email data, organizations used to face a difficult choice: keep email archives on slow, expensive, third-party archiving systems, or limit the amount of historical email available to users. With Exchange, organizations can provide users with large mailboxes and keep archived and current email data in one system through in-place archiving technology. This provides a number of advantages. Users can access archived and current email quickly and easily, and they no longer have to waste time managing their inboxes to stay within quotas. They also do not need to store messages in .PST files outside the control of Exchange administrators and backup policies.

From the perspective of IT, administrators have the flexibility to balance storage performance and cost to suit business needs. They can manage and search archived and current email through one interface and no longer need to deploy and maintain separate archiving infrastructure. This also means they have a single place to manage compliance and retention.

With large mailboxes, organizations need efficient, automated ways to manage message retention and expiration. Exchange provides easy-to-manage policies for controlling how long messages are kept so users do not have to worry about it. Retention policies can apply to messages, folders, or even entire mailboxes. Organizations can achieve all these benefits while choosing to keep Exchange archives on-premises or in the cloud using Exchange Online Archiving.

Making Data Tamper-Proof with Hold and Searching It Efficiently

Many organizations need the ability to capture and store email in a tamper-proof (or “immutable”) archive. HR policies or litigation can create the need to make content immutable. At one time, virtually the only way to enforce immutability was through journaling—basically, forwarding email to a special, separate archive deployed and managed independently from Exchange. Today, Exchange makes immutability simple with in-place hold. With this technology, an IT administrator can easily place a group, a user, a mailbox, or even individual items on hold from the web-based eDiscovery Center. Users on hold experience no change to their workflow, and there are no client plug-ins to manage.

The ability to search current, archived, and held email is critical in big data environments. Because it can keep archived and active email data in one system, Exchange makes such searches easy. In tandem with SharePoint, Exchange allows organizations to search email, instant messages, calendars, and contacts, as well as SharePoint documents, sites, file shares, blogs, wikis, and more, all from the eDiscovery Center. For greater efficiency, IT administrators can use role-based access control to delegate search, hold, retention policy management, and auditing to HR or legal personnel without providing full administrative privileges. Finally, auditing capabilities built into Exchange can record configuration changes and compliance activities. Audit logs can be used to prove due diligence and, if necessary, pinpoint tampering by an administrator.

Collaborate while Maintaining Compliance using Site Mailboxes

With site mailboxes, Exchange works with SharePoint to give users more ways to collaborate while keeping data safe. In a site mailbox, members of a SharePoint site can access project emails and documents in a central location place—right from Outlook on the desktop or the SharePoint site itself. Users view site mailbox emails just as they would any other Exchange message, while SharePoint enables versioning and coauthoring of documents. Site mailboxes can be searched using the Exchange eDiscovery Center, and the email and documents stored in site mailboxes can be put on legal hold. Additionally, site mailboxes adhere to the lifecycle policies applied to the SharePoint site with which they are associated, enabling automated retention and archiving of the entire site mailbox.

Turn Email Data from Challenge to Asset

Exchange helps organizations deal efficiently and effectively with the explosion in email data. A wide range of new technologies built into Exchange can reduce costs, improve security, and keep workers productive. Businesses can move email hygiene to the cloud with Exchange Online Protection, stopping viruses and spam before they get anywhere close to the company’s network. New DLP technology enables organizations to work with sensitive information safely and helps everyone in an organization better manage sensitive data. In-place archiving and large mailboxes offer better access to the information and organizational knowledge contained in past email while eliminating the need for third-party archives. Built-in eDiscovery functionality makes it easy to find needed information across held, archived, and current email. In tandem with SharePoint, organizations can search email, instant messages, calendars, and contacts, as well as SharePoint documents, sites, file shares, blogs, wikis, and more, all from the eDiscovery Center. Site mailboxes allow users to naturally work together – while compliance policies are applied behind the scenes. By integrating all of these data protection features into one system, Exchange greatly simplifies IT infrastructure and helps reduce costs. With Exchange, organizations can do more than tame vast and growing amounts of email data—they can turn it to their advantage.

 

– Harv Bhela
General Manager, Exchange Program Management

 


[1] http://www.techjournal.org/2012/03/sharing-sensitive-information-via-email-ftp-poses-enterprise-challenges/
[2] http://www.govhealthit.com/news/top-10-data-breaches-include-public-health-depts?page=0,1

Weekend Reading on the new Exchange

 

 

Editor’s note: Michael Atalla is the Director of Product Management for Exchange Server and Exchange Online. He’s here today to share some interesting content from the world of Exchange and share plans for next week during the Microsoft Exchange Conference 2012 (MEC 2012).

As Gray mentions, next week is the first Microsoft Exchange Conference in 10 years — in fact, I am finalizing this blog from the Seattle airport waiting to board my flight to Orlando for the conference. When we last held MEC, email was the main way people in the workplace communicated – today the way people work has expanded to include social networking and collaboration with products like SharePoint, Yammer, Lync and Skype to name a few. Back then, Exchange was an email server which dabbled in calendaring. Today it includes email, shared calendars, address books, voice mail, spam and virus filtering, data loss prevention, archiving and e-discovery solutions — all in one product and cloud service — tightly integrated with the capabilities of SharePoint and Lync.

This week we began a series of blogs on the Exchange Team Blog (known affectionately as “You had me at EHLO” for those who follow the space closely) focusing primarily on the expanded cloud capabilities of the new Exchange.

  • We began the week with a post focusing on the new and improved Exchange Online Protection service.
  • We also compared Exchange Online and Exchange Server, highlighting the key factors to consider when deciding between on-premises and moving to the cloud, along with highlighting the hybrid deployment options supported with Exchange Online.
  • Yesterday, we had a two part post, the first focusing on deploying hybrid and the second on managing hybrid.
  • And earlier today we had a post on managed availability and monitoring.

Next week, we’ll be back on both the Office Next and EHLO blogs to share more about the new Exchange, with additional information on the new capabilities in security and compliance, including posts on archiving, eDiscovery, and Data Loss Prevention (DLP).

Thanks for your interest in the Office Preview and Exchange and I hope to see you at MEC 2012 next week!

– Michael Atalla, Director Product Management, Exchange Server and Exchange Online

Building Office for Windows RT

Editor’s note: Earlier this year, Steven Sinofsky announced Windows support for ARM processors (Windows on ARM or WOA). His post on the Building Windows 8 blog included the following news about Office:

“WOA includes desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. These new Office applications, codenamed “Office 15”, have been significantly architected for both touch and minimized power/resource consumption, while also being fully-featured for consumers and providing complete document compatibility.”

In the months since that announcement, there has been a great deal of speculation about what we are delivering. David Brodsky, Partner Test Manager and Josh Pollock, Principal Development Manager join Office Next to walk you through what Office for Windows RT is and why it exists; specific optimizations we’ve made (and why most of those will benefit you on other platforms too); what wasn’t possible and the functionality differences that resulted; and finally how to get Office Home & Student 2013 RT.

 

The Birth of Office for Windows RT

Shortly before the January 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we were asked if we could create a version of Office that would run on reference hardware with an ARM processor. This led to Steve Ballmer’s CES demo of Word and PowerPoint running on ARM. Office for Windows RT was born.

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Why Create Office for Windows RT?

In doing research for Office for Windows RT, we spoke to people to understand how they use current, in-market tablets. We wanted to understand what was missing that would make for a more compelling experience. One answer was nearly unanimous – people wanted a complete Office experience; not just a viewer. However, they also wanted a version of Office that was optimized for the tablet form factor – most importantly supporting touch and providing long battery life.

Office Home & Student 2013 RT is Office running on the ARM-processor based Windows RT OS. It is full Office built from the same code base as the other versions of Office, with small changes that were required as a result of differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT. Our goal when starting the Office for Windows RT project was to deliver:

  • ARM as a “first class” platform, including the Same look and feel as x86/x64, same level of polish and reliability, full Office feature-set and fidelity and Service parity (e.g., save to SkyDrive, roaming settings, other Windows Live integration, Office.com experience, etc.)
  • Stunning battery life (both active and idle), great performance and responsiveness

While we knew we wanted to deliver the same great Office experience across Windows and Windows RT, we also knew that Windows RT gave us an opportunity to optimize the product for the type of devices that would run on this new platform.

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Optimizing Office for the Windows RT Platform

The Office Home & Student 2013 RT applications – Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint run on the desktop on Windows RT. Our highest priority was making sure that customers can successfully do the things that are most important to them when using Office on these Windows RT devices.

When you use the Office applications on Windows RT, you’ll find yourself in a familiar environment that feels just like what you are used to using on other platforms. You may also notice some of the enhancements we made to optimize Office for the Windows RT environment – like automatically enabling touch mode (but if you don’t notice and find that everything just works as you’d expect, that’s okay too).

When you look at the specifications for Windows RT devices, you’ll find that most share some common characteristics:

  • Touch-enabled;
  • Portable with the ability to run on battery for long periods of time;
  • Memory capabilities start at about 2GB;
  • SSD drives of 16 to 32 GB capacity; and
  • Wireless connectivity with some having 3G

We’ve optimized Office for these capabilities. We’ve already described our touch investments in the post “Using the new Office with touch.” In addition to these broad investments in touch, Office applications are enabled for “touch mode” by default, so the touch experience is better out of the box.

Let’s take a look at some of the other improvements we’ve made while developing Office for Windows RT.

Maximizing Battery Life

Battery life is a difficult problem that requires good citizenship from all parts of the system to get the best possible results. A single poorly-performing component, whether hardware, driver, or software can significantly reduce the delivered battery life. In Office Home & Student 2013 RT, we carefully evaluated the impact Office has on the system and then made deep investments to ensure that we met the overall citizenship goals for the platform. For example, ideally Office would have no perceptible user impact at idle. In reality, Office apps need to maintain such things as data freshness which necessarily uses some power. Where we couldn’t remove a feature’s impact on battery, we invested in reducing the extent of that impact. Here are some of the common challenges we addressed.

Software Needs to Let the CPU Sleep

The most actionable thing that drives battery utilization is how often we wake up the CPU to do work, especially when the user is not actively typing, scrolling, etc. CPU power state transitions are expensive. To reduce these transitions, we want to avoid breaking up work across multiple CPU wake ups. Instead, whenever possible, we try to do all the required work at once. We focused on two things to reduce net wake ups: 1) coalesce timers and 2) remove the need for some timers entirely.

The primary mechanism that software uses to ask the system to wake it up is timers. Prior to Windows 8, Windows was not “tickless” meaning you were guaranteed to wake up every ~16 milliseconds. Timers were also often set to wake the process after a specific amount of time or repetitively on a given interval. Windows 8 added new coalescable timers which allow programs to be more battery-life friendly by specifying a range of time to wake up rather than an absolute interval. This allows the system to cluster wake ups with the end result being more CPU sleep time. This extends battery life dramatically.

In Office 2010, there were some situations where applications would wake up the CPU more than 1000 times per minute during idle. With the new Office, we have reduced that by 95% when the user isn’t interacting with the program. Most of the changes are in how Office interacts with the system at a deep level, so you shouldn’t notice any difference. However, there are a few changes that an observant user might notice. One example is the blinking cursor. There is no hardware or operating system support for a blinking cursor so software implements this feature using timers. To minimize the power impact, Office on Windows RT stops blinking the cursor after a few seconds if the user stops interacting with the application. When the user is away, we just show a fixed, non-blinking cursor. This requires no timer and is the best power citizenship option. This is just one example you might notice, and there are several others you won’t notice at all until your battery lasts longer than expected.

Take Advantage of the Hardware

Windows RT is designed to run on ARM System on a Chip (SoC) processors. Unlike a traditional PC where the CPU, graphics card, network adapter, and other systems components are generally all separate pieces, SOC processors combine these components onto a single integrated chip. This improves performance and reduces power consumption. It also guarantees that we can rely on the hardware for expensive operations like playing back videos.

Windows 8 detects this support and takes advantage of it. This is a real benefit to software vendors. For example, in the past, we would write code to detect the level of graphics support delivered by the video card and would write software-based “fallback” code to use when the graphics card in the system did not provide the required capabilities. When using the fallback software-based algorithms, execution cannot be optimized to the extent that can be done when implementing the same algorithm as a dedicated feature of the processor. This impacts both performance and battery life – often dramatically. We’ve taken advantage of these hardware offloads in situations like showing video in PowerPoint. By doing so, we improve the overall battery life of the system.

While the impetus for doing all the work I just described was the desire to deliver great battery life for Office for Windows RT, the fact that it is the same code base as the other Office products means that all users benefit from these changes regardless of what edition of Office they are using.

Using Less Resources When They are Scarce

While running, most programs load or create a great deal of temporary information that is necessary for the program to display information on the screen or to perform other operations. To improve the program’s performance and responsiveness, this information is saved in memory, called caching, so that it can be reused without the overhead of reloading or recalculating. When multiple programs are running the amount of memory available can become limited requiring the operating system to swap out some or all of the program to make that memory available to other programs. This “memory paging” is expensive and can reduce the responsiveness of the system.

Office detects when the user is not actively using the system. When this occurs, Office releases these temporary caches. By having Office determine what memory can most optimally be released rather than relying on operating system memory paging, both Office and the rest of the programs on the system benefit by more effectively utilizing limited memory.

Make Room for the User’s Information

Windows RT systems generally have Solid State Disk (SSD) drives. These drives are fast and battery efficient. However, while the cost per gigabyte continues to decline, these drives are still more expensive that traditional rotational drives. As a result, these drives tend to have smaller capacities. When programs are loaded on today’s large rotational drives that can be over a terabyte in size, most users don’t notice the space used by the program. However, when loaded on a 16GB SSD the operating system and programs can fill a significant portion of the total drive.

While developing Office for Windows RT, we carefully evaluated each feature’s impact on the overall footprint of Office on the drive. For example, rather than including large number of templates and clipart on the drive, we opted to put frequently used templates on the drive while making the more extensive collection available via the start center in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and also online .

One area that was identified for space savings was language packs. Many OEMs load multiple languages onto the systems they ship. If a user only uses one or two languages, the language resources such as spellers, grammar checkers, and UI strings for the other languages historically have continued to take space on the drive. Office is designed to clean up unused languages packs that are not configured for use by the user. If a user decides later that they want one of the languages that were removed the system will automatically download the required files from Windows Update.

Helping Users Avoid Bill Shock

One of the features we expect to see in many Windows RT systems is cellular network support. A characteristic of these networks is that their use is often metered. That is, users pay for the data they utilize – either some amount of money per megabyte of usage or with a monthly cap and then additional fees if they exceed that cap. As a good citizen on these devices we felt we needed to help users know when they are using a metered cellular network and give them the choice whether or not they want to pay for the usage or not take a particular action. Internally we referred to this as helping users avoid bill shock.

Windows RT provides APIs that allow applications including Office to understand the user’s current network state. We can identify if the cellular network is unrestricted or if usage is metered (the user is paying for their usage), if the user is approaching or over their limit, and whether or not they are roaming. When we detect that the cellular network is metered we throttle network traffic to reduce our impact. When users are roaming or over their cap we inform them and give them the options to turn off network traffic. Ultimately, the user knows best what they are trying to do and whether or not they are willing to pay to do it, so we try to give the user more feedback and control.

Benefits for All

While the work I’ve just described was done to optimize Office for Windows RT, most users will benefit no matter what edition of Office they choose to use. Office automatically determines whether or not the necessary operating system and device support is present to enable these enhancements. The majority of the changes are enabled when Office is running on any edition of Windows 8. Only features such as support for touch or cellular networks require additional hardware support.

Differences between Office for Windows and Office for Windows RT

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Word 2013 Word 2013 RT

Screen shots of the two applications look very similar because the products are very similar by design. Differences between the versions are subtle. Office Home & Student 2013 RT includes the vast majority of Office Home & Student 2013 features available on PCs, and the features customers use most. Windows RT tablets have special requirements for security, reliability, and battery life, and we’ve worked to ensure that the RT version is well-suited for the platform. Beyond the differences listed below, Office for Windows RT is fully-featured Office with complete document compatibility.

  • Macros, add-ins, and features that rely on ActiveX controls or 3rd party code such as the PowerPoint Slide Library ActiveX control and Flash Video Playback
  • Certain legacy features such as playing older media formats in PowerPoint (upgrade to modern formats and they will play) and editing equations written in Equation Editor 3.0, which was used in older versions of Office (viewing works fine)
  • Certain email sending features, since Windows RT does not support Outlook or other desktop mail applications (opening a mail app, such as the mail app that comes with Windows RT devices, and inserting your Office content works fine)
  • Creating a Data Model in Excel 2013 RT (PivotTables, QueryTables, Pivot Charts work fine)
  • Recording narrations in PowerPoint 2013 RT
  • Searching embedded audio/video files, recording audio/video notes, and importing from an attached scanner with OneNote 2013 RT (inserting audio/video notes or scanned images from another program works fine)

 

Getting Office Home & Student 2013 RT

Office Home & Student 2013 RT is only available on Windows RT devices and is not sold standalone. The Windows RT devices available at Windows RT General Availability will include preview editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. After the final edition of Office Home & Student 2013 RT is released in a customer’s language, their Windows RT device will be automatically updated with the final edition for free via Windows Update (Wi-Fi connection required). Customers can expect to get these updates starting in early November through January depending on their language. We’ll publish the specific update schedule on October 26 on the Office blog.

Summary

Developing Office Home & Student 2013 RT has been a ton of work but also great fun. You’ll find Office for Windows RT to be a full-featured member of the Office family. We hope the work we’ve done helps make Office a great part of your Windows RT experience. We can’t wait to see customers put it to use!

– David Brodsky, Partner Test Manager
– Josh Pollock, Principal Development Manager

 

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Click-to-Run and Office on Demand

 Update 9/11/2014: Starting November 2014, Office on Demand will no longer be available. For more information please visit the Office 365 Community ForumPlease note Click-to-Run and Office 365 ProPlus are otherwise unaffected and will continue to be available for installation as described below.

Editor’s note: Paul Barr is Lead Program Manager for Click to Run, and joins Office Next to discuss this important technology. Earlier in the blog we’d outlined some aspects of Click to Run and Office on demand, today we’ll expand on the topic in depth.

If you’ve downloaded the new Office Customer Preview, then you probably noticed that your installation experience is quite a bit different than in any previous version of Office. These changes aren’t just cosmetic, they’re part of our strategy to bring the rich Office applications that you know and love into the future as an integrated part of our Software + Services offering. In this post I want to talk about why we think it’s important to invest in client delivery, what we did, how we did it, and what it means to you in your everyday interactions with the new Office.

Changing software landscape

User expectations for software have changed dramatically over the last 5 years. The emergence of rich web-based applications and services, as well as new application models on modern devices have caused a shift in how users expect to interact with their software. Getting a new app on your phone is a fast and painless experience, and so is accessing rich web applications from your internet browser.

We believe that Office applications that are built to take advantage of the unique capabilities of your chosen hardware have tremendous value (whether that’s a desktop PC, a notebook computer, a tablet, or a mobile device). Our goal with Click-to-Run in the new Office is to make finding, installing, and using the Office applications as fast, easy, and secure as possible.

A brief history of Office installation

Office has come a long way from its start in the early 90’s. During that time we’ve seen evolutions in both media and installation technologies. It used to be enough for Office to ship on a couple of floppy disks and copy some binaries to the file system. But as content became richer, applications more powerful, and integration with other software key to users’ productivity, Office needed to evolve. And that meant a bigger and more sophisticated installation. From the basic file copy method, we moved to ACME installations that allowed flexibility for automating the installation. After that came Windows Installer in Office 2000, which could handle sophisticated component co-existence and offered better uninstall and repair support. In Office 2007 and 2010 we supported multi-MSI installs with our “Catalyst” install technology to better support multi-
language and multi-product scenarios.

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Office 97 was the last version of the Office suite to ship on floppy disks (45 of them!) and we soon moved to CD-ROM. After that it was the DVD. But during this time, the internet was quickly emerging as a primary vehicle for obtaining software, and none of our existing install technologies were proving to be a great experience for users on the internet.

Going to a physical store is quickly becoming a big barrier for getting new software. Not only that, but we don’t think our customers should even have to think about “getting software”. They just want the right tools, for the right device, when they need it to get their tasks done. Click-to-Run and Office on Demand are about making that happen.

Click-to-Run v1.0

imageIn Office 2010 we made investments to improve downloading Office from the internet. While traditional Windows Installer packages remained the primary distribution vehicle, Click-to-Run v1.0 was available for a limited number of consumer SKUs in some markets. This was our first attempt at building a technology that was designed for installing big applications over the internet, and we learned a lot:

  • Need for speed: The faster we can get users up and running with the Office applications, the happier they are.
  • Fresh is best: Don’t download old software! The first thing you do when you get your shiny new application from the internet should not be to install an update.
  • Balance: Office shouldn’t disrupt other software already installed on the machine, but it has to work well with add-ins and other applications.

C2R v1.0 was successful in proving the need for a new installation technology, but there was plenty of room for improvement.

  • It could be even faster.
  • The technology we were using under the covers was too impactful. It required local file system drivers and created a new virtual partition in the system (the infamous Q: drive), that caused problems for some users.
  • A side effect of the virtualization we were using was that run-time performance was slightly impacted. Booting apps (especially for the first time) was a little slower.
  • Integration with other software was not as rich as with traditional install technologies in some cases, and compatibility could suffer.

That brings us to…

Click-to-Run v2.0

Our goal with Click-to-Run v2.0 was to make the applications feel like a seamless and integrated part of the new Office service experience. We strove to make installing software a non-event in our customers’ workflows for getting things done. Based on our learning from v1.0 we knew we had to:

  1. Be fast
  2. Be integrated: Office applications are a productivity platform, part of their value is that they are rich, integrated, and extensible.
  3. Be up to date and modern: Gone are the days where you install software and forget about it for the life of your PC. Beyond just making sure your software is secure, we need the ability to evolve the client to support new value coming online with Office services.
  4. Be agile: There are times when the rich client applications are the only tool for the job, but doing a full installation isn’t always an option. We wanted to give users the mobility of a web application and the richness of installed Office applications.

With these goals in mind, and great support from our App-V partner team at the NERD development center in Cambridge, we set out building Click-to-Run v2.0, which is re-architected from the ground up to deliver on our shared vision.

Click-to-Run v2.0: The experience

Let’s take a look at the Click-to-Run installation experience and talk about what’s happening in each step.

First is the “Provisioning experience”. Provisioning is just a fancy word for any website that you use to start a Click-to-Run installation. In the Office 2013 Customer Preview you are signing up for an Office 365 Home Premium Subscription that allows you to install up to 5 copies of Office on machines you own. In the future there will be several Microsoft and even partner websites that customers will be able to install Click-to-Run Office from. We have built Click-to-Run to be compatible with many different provisioning experiences.

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There’s a couple of interesting things going on with this website that are worth calling out. First, you can see the link below the “Install” button for “Language and install options”. This is where you will find additional options like native 64-bit installations and additional languages. Note that 32-bit is always the recommended default for compatibility reasons, even on 64-bit Operating Systems, and it’s important to remember that you can only ever install one or the other of 32 or 64-bit Office products on a single machine. You cannot mix 32 and 64-bit products, even across versions (i.e. Office 2007 and Office 2013). This is true for all Office installations (C2R and MSI), and is due to limitations in how the applications integrate between themselves.

Next, this website is communicating with the Click-to-Run Setup Service and the Office Licensing Service to give you a customized experience that doesn’t require you to copy down a 25-digit license key (remember those?) to get up and running. That all happens seamlessly in the background!

Finally, in future releases, this website will actually start early pre-caching of Office client bits before you even click the “Install” button, resulting in an almost instantaneous start of Office applications depending on your network connection.

Once you select the “Install” link, you’ll be prompted to either “Run”, or “Save” an executable file to start the installation. Your experience may vary by what browser you are running, but here’s IE10:

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This file, which we call a “bootstrapper”, is a small executable (~500KB) that is both product and language specific. We recommend that you Run it directly from the browser, but you can also save it locally to your computer and Run it later. Don’t wait too long though because this file contains some specific licensing information that is unique to your account, and we can’t automatically activate your Office product if it expires. Don’t worry too much if that happens, installation will still succeed and you’ll just be prompted to activate later on if that’s the case.

Next you’ll see our Click-to-Run streaming splash screen:

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What’s actually happening here is we’re downloading just the parts of Office that we need to run the “First Run Experience” (FRE for short), and the “Hero” application. The Hero application is the first Office application users will run when they install Office. For the Customer Preview, that application is PowerPoint.

Next you’ll see the First Run Experience video and other content:

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After you’ve navigated through First Run (hopefully you’ve signed in to Office and selected a personal theme), you’re given the option to take a quick tour of some of the new features in Office 2013. Selecting “Take a look” will start PowerPoint with an interactive presentation.image

Whether you take the tour or not, the screen you’ll see next looks like this:

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This is where we show the overall download progress for Office. At this point you can use all of your Office applications, but the entire product is not yet downloaded, so don’t go offline! We prioritize the download of Office functionality in the order that we think you’ll need it.

If you try to access something that’s not downloaded yet, you’ll get some UI that looks like this.image It will only happen once for that part of Office, and once you’re fully downloaded you’ll never see it again. Depending on the speed of your network connection, you may never see this UI, or you may see it multiple times if you’re on a slow connection and really exercising the apps while they’re still downloading.

When Office is done downloading, we show the “You’re good to go” dialog. This is the sign that Office is fully downloaded and installed, and that it’s safe for you to go offline, just as you would expect.

Up until you see this dialog, there will be some subtle differences in Office that are worth talking about. For instance, not all of the fonts that you get with Office will be available, and some integration functionality like “Print: Send to OneNote” won’t be there yet. This is because fonts are really big, and system integration functionality takes a long time to install, so we put stuff like that at the very end of the installation to get you running faster.

That’s the end of the Click-to-Run experience. It’s faster, smoother, and has better progress than any previous Office release. Early data says that Click-to-Run v2.0 installs actually succeed at a higher rate than Windows Installer packages, and we’re doing everything we can to make it the best installation experience ever.

More goodness

That’s the end of the first run experience, but it’s not the end of the value of Click-to-Run. Here are some other areas where our new architecture makes your software world a better place:

  • Side by side support: Making a change to your productivity tools isn’t always easy. You want the latest version because it unlocks new scenarios you’ve never had access to before, but during the transition, wouldn’t it be great if you could keep your old version around for just a little while? C2R v2.0 lets you do that. By default it installs right alongside with your older Office software, and you can even use two different versions of Outlook for the first time ever.
  • Repair: Nobody’s perfect, and sometimes things go wrong. Maybe you installed another piece of software and suddenly your Word documents are opening up in an unfamiliar program. Repair is there for you if that happens. With C2R v2.0 you can just repair your shortcuts and file type registration (“Quick Repair”), or you can do a “Full Repair”, which will basically uninstall and re-install your applications (just as quickly and seamlessly as the first time) without losing any of your settings or documents. Both of these options can be found in the Windows “Programs and Features” area.

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  • Uninstall: Now uninstall takes seconds instead of minutes, and it leaves your computer in a cleaner state than ever before. You can even de-activate licenses you’re no longer using so you can re-use them on new machines.

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  • Sustaining: Sustaining is a fancy word for keeping your software up to date, and in today’s computing ecosystem, it’s more important than ever. C2R v2.0 allows us to quietly and automatically keep you as secure as possible. Once you’ve opted in, Office knows to securely check the internet for updates. It downloads them in the background, and the next time you restart all of your applications or computer, you’re running the latest and greatest. In addition to being a great user experience, C2R v2.0 solves three more sustaining problems. First, You never start with old software. Whenever you start a Click-to-Run installation, you’re getting the latest version of the applications. No more download, extract, install, then patch, and patch, and patch… You only ever need one update. In the old world you need to download every individual patch one after the other. And sometimes they wouldn’t install if you didn’t already have the right Service Pack or other updates already installed. With C2R v2.0 you only download one thing, and it always takes you to the latest version of your software. This is possible because we have invented a “differential updating” technology that uses fresh Hash files to move directly from any build to the latest in a single step, so even if you’ve been offline for a long time, getting up to date is fast and easy. There are fewer limitations to the types of changes we can make in an update. This means that if you subscribe to the Office service, we can deliver more application value and features to you over time (even including new versions of Office).
  • Click-to-Run for organizations: Finally, C2R v2.0 isn’t just for end-users. We’ve built a host of administrator functionality to help automate deployments in organizations of all sizes. You can read all about it here.

Office on Demand

When we first started working on Click-to-Run years ago, we kicked around a lot of crazy ideas. Stuff I won’t even repeat here for the sake of brevity, but one idea has always stuck in our heads and we’ve kept coming back to it over time. What if you could use all the powerful features of the Office applications without doing an install at all? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate “installation experience”? But what would that mean? Well… What if you could just use the applications on demand? Whatever Windows computer you were on, you could log in to a website, run Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and when you were done, they’d go away. How could we make that happen?

  • You’d have to be really fast. How fast? Under a minute at least. Under 15 seconds preferably.
  • You still need to protect your software, so you’d need licensing based on a user’s connected login.
  • You’d need a declarative install. The applications would need to be able to execute without being configured for each individual Operating System.
  • The applications would have to disappear from the computer when the user was done using them. You couldn’t install shortcuts, register file extensions, install system impactful extension points, etc.
  • And most importantly, you’d have to be able to run your application without needing administrative rights on the local computer.

It was always that last one that put this goal out of reach. Office is a large and complex set of applications, and getting them to run on a computer without installing them locally turned out to be a very tough problem indeed. But with a new architecture from our App-V partners, and investments in the applications themselves, we’ve been able to overcome this final hurdle. Using a technology we’re calling “user-mode streaming”, we’ve built Office on Demand.

Office on Demand is a unique feature enabled by the Click-to-Run architecture. It will be available to Office 2013 subscribers, and allows them to run temporary instances of the most popular Office applications on computers where they normally would not be able to install software. Office on Demand versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, Visio, and Project will be available.

Using the Office on Demand applications is easy. Just click on the “My Office” tab of the Office 2013 Customer Preview site. Choosing any of the “Create New” icons on this page will start the individual Office on Demand applications.  When you close them, they go away, they do not stay installed on the computer.

Office on Demand will also be integrated in to the Office Web Applications for subscribers. If there are no Office applications installed on the computer, subscribers will be able to “Open in <application>” directly from the Office Web App and run their Office on Demand applications.

I could talk for hours about this new feature, but this post is getting pretty long, so let me just leave you with the following points:

  • Office on Demand is a feature for subscribers of Office 2013.
  • Only the parts of the application you need are actually downloaded as you need them (not the whole thing). They run locally, and it’s very fast, only seconds depending on connection speed.
  • It’s always the latest version of the application.
  • Office does leave behind cache files for performance reasons, but the applications cannot be launched from shortcuts on the local computer. To use the applications again, always start from the website.
  • You have to be online to use it, and you have to be logged in to Office to validate your rights to use the software.
  • That’s it!

Summary

Thanks for reading this far. We’re very excited to bring you the next generation of Office applications and services powered by Click-to-Run. We have lots left to do, and we’d love to hear your feedback. If you click on the Smiley Face during installation, then we are reading your comments.

Give the Office on Demand applications a try, and stay tuned to this blog for more information in the future.

 

Paul C. Barr
Lead Program Manager for Click-to-Run

Apps for the new Office and SharePoint IT admin guide

Editor’s note: Brian Jones and Cyrielle Simeone rejoin Office Next for a final post on the apps and extensibility in the new Office. You can learn more by visiting the Apps for SharePoint and Office blog.

On Monday, we covered the new set of scenarios and user experiences that apps will offer to users in the new Office and SharePoint. If you haven’t watched it already, I recommend you do so by checking out the Medal Tracker video that showcase apps for Office in action. On Wednesday, we talked about the new and enhanced developer experience we are enabling in this release to move the platform to the cloud, and make it more open and accessible.

Today we want to talk to you about deployment, management and security of apps for Office and SharePoint for enterprises.

 

A little bit of a background

If you are in IT, or just help out around the office with managing machines and accounts, you know how difficult it is to get a handle on what apps folks are using. The problem scenarios often go like this… there is someone in the finance group who builds a spreadsheet and writes a few macros to help that spreadsheet bind to some backend data. The set of macros continues to grow, and that spreadsheet becomes a full blown app. More folks in the org are using the app including the VP of finance. No-one in IT is aware of this app, and as a result, there isn’t anyone on point to help support it and make sure it keeps running. One day someone is cleaning up the databases and gets rid of a few sprocs they didn’t think anyone was using. Turns out the spreadsheet used one of those sprocs and so it breaks. The VP of finance makes an urgent call to IT saying their app is broken, and IT now needs to get a copy of the spreadsheet, debug it, and eventually discover why it’s no longer working.

As a result of challenges like this, we often see IT set a significant amount of their discretionary spend aside to help them deal with these surprises that pop up. In the new Office, we’ve done a lot of work to help give IT much more visibility into what people are using within Office and SharePoint so that they can be better prepared going forward.

 

A new deployment model

Apps for Office and SharePoint come with two main components: a web app and a manifest file. The manifest file is what is used to “deploy“ the apps, they’re managed through the Office Store, or for internal apps the app catalog. Users then hit the Office Store and App Catalog when they look for an app, and the manifest file is returned. The manifest points to the actual web app, which can run on the developer’s favorite hosting service (Azure, IIS, LAMP, etc…).

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For SharePoint apps we even provide an option for developers who don’t want to host the web app on their own servers. They can package the web app files with the manifest and submit the full package into the Office Store. When the app is installed we will automatically deploy the server code directly into Windows Azure.

 

The store is optimized for organizations

The Office store has been optimized to make it easier for organizations to purchase, consume and manage apps. There are four key reasons why an organization will love the Office Store:

Discovery: The Office and SharePoint stores represent a great opportunity for business users looking for apps solving daily tasks or frequent business processes shared among organizations. Looking for an efficient way to manage expense reports, assets, or event planning? Check out the store before you start building something or calling IT.

Acquisition: Once acquired by a user, all apps are linked to his Microsoft account. As soon as the user logins to Office with their Microsoft account all their apps are ready and available for use. Think of how much time can be saved setting up a user’s machine after a PC refresh or an upgrade. With the Office Store licensing model, apps don’t just follow the machine, they follow the user and hence are available instantly no matter what device a user decides to use.

Deployment: Apps aren’t installed in the regular sense. Instead of embedding the app code into the document or into SharePoint, the app is deployed as a pointer (a URL) to the web server hosting the app. This could be in the cloud, or a server in your datacenter. This model introduces a new decoupled way of managing app lifecycle and Office/SharePoint upgrade cycles independently of each other.

Control: With SharePoint, administrators can see and manage all the apps for SharePoint purchased by the users in their organization. Administrators can also configure Store access so that users can browse for apps and submit a purchase request to their IT department. The admin can then approve (and purchase) or reject the request based on the business need. Once an app is purchased by an IT admin, the admin can then decide which users within the organization would have access to the app subject to the number of seats covered by the purchase. When an admin assigns an app to a user the user can use the app directly within their SharePoint sites without any additional hurdles. Should and organization decide they want complete control over the apps users can install they can switch off the public store (through group policy for Office) and only provide access to approved apps (both in-house and 3rd party).

Security: In addition to testing all apps that are listed on the Office Store, we also have flexible reactive systems in place that allow us to shut down an app if it is identified to be malicious. Shutting down an app removes the listing from the Office Store and deactivates the app within Office and SharePoint next time it’s run. This ongoing reactive process helps ensure users are protected from rogue apps.

 

Managing the App Catalog

The app catalog is how you make apps available to the users in your org. In the simplest sense, it’s a SharePoint library that contains all of the apps you have for your org. The Office clients all point to this library, so if you want to give your users access to a new app for Office, just add the manifest file it to the library, and the app will automatically show up for everyone right from Office. The same is true for apps for SharePoint, just add the app package to library and it will start showing up for everyone. Since the app catalog is a SharePoint library you can easily manage who gets access to what app, and quickly make updates when needed. Apps for Outlook require Exchange Server 2013 and use Exchange as a catalog to upload manifest files.

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Learn more about how to deploy and manage apps for Office and SharePoint in the following articles:

The diagram below summarize the different channels for developers and ISVs to reach Office users.

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Security and isolation

We have baked security and isolation into the heart of the new cloud app model.

Apps for Office no longer run in the same process as your document, this app isolation is an important change because it helps protect your experience with Office from misbehaving apps. No more frustration from slow or locked up documents while an extension runs.

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The figure above depicts an Excel workbook with three apps, these are running across the red dotted line in a separate process (there is one of these app runtime processes per document) and they do not have direct access to the data in the host process or even the same integrity level, making them safer to run than previous extensibility models.

From the security perspective there are three major controls:

  1. The Office file format is clean – we never store the app inside the document, instead we store a pointer to the catalog that holds the app definition, or manifest file. So apps cannot sneak in across firewalls and any nuisance apps can be turned off quickly without having to purge them from existing documents.
    Our new app marketplace provides the ability for our customers to feedback on apps. We’ll be looking at all feedback and using it to work with developers to constantly improve the quality.
  2. The Administrator is in control – both of the app capability itself and of any external catalogs. By default the Office Store is enabled, and we take a lot of care to ensure the apps from the Office Store come from verified developers and add value to our customers.
  3. The User has the final say – if the user opens a document that contains an app that they haven’t seen before then we will prompt before we start it – and we always prompt for all apps if we recognize the document as coming from an external source. And remember, an app can’t just insert itself into a document, it always has to be added by someone with edit permissions.

We’ve done a lot of other things under the covers to keep the user as safe as (or safer than) browsing to web sites, an upcoming whitepaper will explain this work in a lot more detail.

Apps for Office are integrated into the new monitoring tools described in the next section, so you can quickly see which apps your users are using in which documents and if these apps are having problems.

Learn more about security with apps for Office and SharePoint by reading the following articles:

Monitoring and managing apps lifecycle

Apps for Office and SharePoint usage can also be monitored by administrators.

Office Telemetry is a new feature that gives IT Pros visibility into what apps, documents, and add-ins are actually used and how well they perform in Office 2013. By giving customers the option of logging how Office is being used, it can answer questions like:

  • What documents are used by the most people?
  • What documents host apps?
  • What are the most popular apps? Are they running properly and not, for example, consuming too much CPU time?
  • Are solutions loading from the local disk? SharePoint? As mail attachments?
  • How long do add-ins slow down the loading of Office apps and how can I manage solutions centrally?

 

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It works by having each PC save logs to a network folder. From there the Telemetry Processor aggregates the logs into a SQL Server or SQL Server Express database where it can then be reported on it in Excel. Look for the Telemetry Dashboard under the Microsoft Office Tools folder in the Start menu after installing the Office 2013 Customer Preview.  An agent is also included to report on document and add-in usage in Office 2003, 2007 or 2010. Developers can also use Office Telemetry to see the order that solutions are loaded and any flagged issues. Just start the Telemetry Log, also under the Microsoft Office Tools folder. Learn more about the Office Telemetry tool in Makoto Yamagishi’s article: Introducing Office Telemetry in the new Office on the Office IT Pro Blog.

Administrators can track the usage of apps for SharePoint by using the app monitoring features built into SharePoint. App monitoring tracks information like:

  • How many times was an app launched and by how many unique users?
  • How many times has an app been installed or uninstalled?
  • Are users hitting install, runtime, or upgrade errors?

App monitoring works for apps in the app catalog or acquired from the Store.

 

Call to Action!

We’ve told you about the advantages of the new cloud app model and we know that you’ll be excited about the new scenarios that Office.Next opens up, as well as the opportunity to reduce your existing applications total cost of ownership, so where to start?

  • Provision a free Office 365 Developer Site, this will only take a moment and we’ve made the process as painless as we can, you can then download the Office client preview from your new site (or get it from here)
  • Use the Office clients to evaluate the Office Store, does this make sense for your organization? It’s open in preview mode right now and has a host of free applications that span the Office client applications, so take a look and decide if you want to enable these for your enterprise.
  • Work with your developers to evaluate the new cloud app model for Office and SharePoint, if you have home-grown applications built already that might be ported to the new model, or you are starting a new project then investigating the new model will pay dividends.
  • And even if you aren’t in a position to do a full investigation we recommend taking a look at the Office Telemetry tools, these open up what is happening on your user’s desktops like never before and will help you deliver a better service to your enterprise, and remember, these tools work all the way back to Office 2003.

 

Summary

As you can see, it’s now easier to understand and monitor what is used within your organization! In addition of the new monitoring capabilities, this new deployment model will give both developers and IT Pros much more flexibility that before.

By now, we hope you have a pretty good understanding of the new cloud app model and its benefits for end users, developer and IT administrators. We will continue the conversation on our dedicated developer blog, don’t hesitate to let us know what you would like us to cover.

Thanks for reading us!

New file format options in the new Office

 

Editor’s note: Jim Thatcher, Principal Program Manager Lead for Office Standards joins Office Next to discuss file format standards. Interoperability remains an important focus of the product teams, our documentation, interoperability events and our efforts in file format adoption are going strong. You can catch up on the latest Office interoperability news on the Interop team blog.

In the next release of Office, we have added two additional formats for use: Strict Open XML and Open Document Format (ODF) 1.2. We have also added support for opening PDF documents so they can be edited within Word and saved to any supported format. By adding support for these standardized document formats, Microsoft Office 2013 provides users with more choice for office document interoperability. Regardless of your preferred document file format, the new Microsoft Office gives you more options for sharing, collaborating, and archiving office documents. This post explores the details of the support for these standards in the new Office.

For those of you who haven’t been immersed in document formats, the participants in the ISO/IEC standardization process recognized two objectives with competing requirements. The first objective was for the Open XML standard to provide an XML-based file format that could fully support conversion of the billions of existing Office documents without any loss of features, content, text, layout, or other information, including embedded data. The second was to specify a file format that did not rely on Microsoft-specific data types. They created two variants of Open XML – Transitional, which supports previously-defined Microsoft-specific data types, and Strict, which does not rely on them. Prior versions of Office have supported reading and writing Transitional Open XML, and Office 2010 can read Strict Open XML documents. With the addition of write support for Strict Open XML, Office 2013 provides full support for both variants of Open XML.

The next release of Office also includes support for the next version of ODF, version 1.2. Microsoft added support for OASIS ODF 1.1 in Office 2007 SP2. The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) published version 1.2 of the ODF standard in January. As a member of the OASIS technical committee working on ODF, Microsoft provided technical expertise in key areas of improvement in ODF 1.2. The most significant improvement in ODF 1.2 is the specification of Open Formula to standardize formulas for spreadsheets. Excel 2013 provides very complete support for Open Formula. The new Office also supports XAdES digital signatures, added in ODF 1.2. In April, Microsoft hosted the 8th ODF Plugfest in Brussels, Belgium, where representatives from most ODF implementers gathered to test interoperability of our implementations of ODF 1.2. Although we had not yet released the public preview of the new Office, we provided a web server for other Plugfest participants to submit ODF documents that were then loaded into the new Office, which saved the files as PDF, Open XML, and ODF files and returned the results to the submitting participant. This allowed participants to see how the new unreleased version of Office would render ODF files from their applications.

The following table shows the evolution of file format support in the last few versions of Office:

Office 2003 Office 2007 Office 2010 The New Office
Binary format
(.doc, .xls, .ppt)
Open, Edit, Save Open, Edit, Save Open, Edit, Save Open, Edit, Save
Transitional
Open XML
Open, Edit, Save Open, Edit, Save Open, Edit, Save Open, Edit, Save
Strict Open XML Open, Edit Open, Edit, Save
ODF 1.1 Open, Edit, Save Open, Edit, Save Open, Edit
ODF 1.2 Open, Edit, Save
PDF Save Save Open, “Edit”, Save

In addition to providing updated support for the Open XML and ODF standards, the new Office adds exciting new features around PDF files as well. With this release, Microsoft introduces the option, which we call PDF Reflow, to open PDF files as editable office documents. As Tristan Davis, Senior Lead Program Manager for Word, explained: “With this functionality, you can transform your PDFs back into fully editable Word documents, rehydrating headings, bulleted/numbered lists, tables, footnotes, etc. by analyzing the contents of the PDF file.” The goal is not to make Word into a PDF reader or PDF editor. The goal is to help you to bring the contents of PDF files back into an editable format using Word 2013.

Microsoft continues to lead in giving customers choice and flexibility in file format standards and interoperability. With these enhancements, Microsoft Office now provides full read and write support for the most commonly used document format standards, including ISO/IEC 29500 (Strict Open XML and Transitional Open XML), ISO 32000 (PDF), and OASIS ODF 1.2. So no matter which of these formats your documents are in today, you will be able to work with them in the next release of Office. And you will be able to save your Office documents in any of these formats, providing the broadest options for document format interoperability.

– Jim Thatcher

A new and enhanced developer experience for Office and SharePoint

Editor’s note: Brian Jones returns to Office Next for the 2nd of 3 posts on the new development experience for Office and SharePoint. Today Brian is joined by Cyrielle Simeone, Product Marketing Manager for SharePoint.

On Monday, we introduced the end user experiences around the new class of apps available for Office and SharePoint and their associated Office Store. Today, We’d like to focus on the developer experience that we have enabled to help them build and sell apps.

As you all know, there are already a huge number of mission critical solutions out there that our customers have built on top of the Office platform. On SharePoint alone there are well over 700,000 developers building solutions, and that number is small when compared to the full set of developers targeting Office.

If you are already an Office or SharePoint developer, you’re going to love what we’ve done with the new model, while we continue to support your existing solutions. If you aren’t yet an Office developer, but you build web solutions, you’re going to want to give us a big hug, as we’re bringing you a huge set of potential customers. J

You’ll see with these new investments though that we are committed to making our platform more open and flexible. With the new cloud app model, we have embraced web standards and technologies to transition our platform to the cloud, and become more connected and accessible.

 

Developers can now build apps that enable brand new user experiences and scenarios by combining web technologies and cloud services right in Office and SharePoint. New experiences that we could not have dreamt off before. As an example, customers can acquire a collection of apps on stitch them together to create powerful solutions to monitor metrics with KPIs right in Excel. Apps in SharePoint that help solve specific goals that users have like planning events or managing their business contacts.

Three components of a successful platform

When we think about the overall set of investments to make developers successful, we think of three key pieces, which are all necessary for the platform to succeed:

  • Services & APIs – A key goal around all apps is that they run across multiple platforms and devices, which is why we’re focused completely on standard web technologies like JavaScript, HTML, CSS, REST, OAuth, and OData. Long term, our goal is that apps surface on all of your devices, and are backed by the rich set of Office 365 services.
  • Distribution & Lifecycle – We made a huge investment in making it as easy as possible to deploy and manage apps. There are no heavy installation steps required, and your apps will roam with you. We’ll also handle the transactions for app purchases, so as a developer, it’s very easy to build and publish an app to our store and immediately start getting paid as customers acquire your app.
  • Tools & Learning – The application model is built around the cloud and web technologies, so of course we wanted to make sure the tooling experience was the same. Thanks to the investments the Visual Studio team has made in the “Napa” app, you can start building apps today directly from your web browser, and never need to install any client bits if you don’t want to. Access has also been re-invented, so that it’s now the easiest way for a non-developer to build and publish a cloud based app for SharePoint. We’ve invested in dev.office.com to get people started building quickly, prioritizing code snippets and examples over deep reference documentation.

 

How apps work

An app for Office or SharePoint is simply put a web app deployed and running on a web server, using an .app package or a simple XML manifest file. In reality though, they are much more powerful, as once they are rendered within Office or SharePoint they can take advantage of the new set of JavaScript APIs and REST end-points, which allow a direct interaction with the content of the document, sites, or SharePoint services.

In SharePoint Server 2013 we are now supporting authentication through the OAuth 2.0 protocol, and we’ve made a bet on REST and exposed all the services a developer should need, including new Search and Social REST APIs just as an example.

In the new Office, we are releasing a new JavaScript API for Office that is content-based as opposed to application-based. By focusing on the content rather than the application runtime, we can provide richer portability, where not only can apps run on multiple platforms, but that can even run across different application hosts. As an example, when you work against data in a table, whether the table is in Word or Excel, the APIs are the exact same. When you think about it, reading or writing content into a document, workbook, or presentation should work the same way, and skills you learn building an app for Word should apply when building an app for Excel or PowerPoint. That’s what we enabled with this new JavaScript API.

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You can learn more about apps for Office and SharePoint anatomy and architecture in Rolando’s post Anatomy of apps for Office and in Howard’s post Building apps for SharePoint and Office 365.

 

Familiar toolsets and flexible lifecycle

We wanted developers to have choice and flexibility while building their apps: choice to use familiar languages, their favorite web development tools and any hosting services to run and deploy apps.

For the client-side code, apps for Office and SharePoint are built using web standards like HTML/HTML5, CSS/CSS3 and JavaScript. On the server-side, developers can use any language such as ASP.NET, C# or PHP. To deploy and host their apps, developers are also free to choose just about any hosting services: Windows Azure, IIS, LAMP or AWS.

Because apps are deployed on a web server or hosting services, and run in secure sandbox, they actually offer lots of advantages to users, developers and IT Pros. We have designed apps to improve forward compatibility to avoid future migration blockers, to support versioning to make it easier to update and maintain, and to run in isolated processes in order not to impact Office and SharePoint performances.

As we wanted to ease and streamline apps development and deployment in the cloud, we have built an integrated and enhanced development experience with Office 365, Visual Studio and Windows Azure.

 

Enhanced development experience in the cloud

If you want to get started building apps, you can go to dev.office.com and from there it will only take you about 15 minutes to not only have an instance of SharePoint, Exchange, and Office running, but you’ll also have your first “hello world” app installed and running. With the new Office 365 for developers offering, we really wanted to streamline the time it takes to go from 0-60 in terms of building and enabling developers to get started with their first app with just a few clicks. By now you might have already setup an Office 365 Enterprise Preview tenant which is also perfect. In that case you don’t need to get the developer offering; you can just install the tools in your existing tenant by following the same process as described here. That will give you a Developer Site as part of your Enterprise tenant (the difference between the Office 365 Developer and Enterprise offerings is the number of users supported: the Office 365 Developer is available for just one user).

As announced by Jason Zander and S. Somasegar in their respective articles Introducing “NAPA” Office 365 Development Tools and Office Development with Visual Studio 2012 and “Napa”, we also launched a new and powerful web-based development tool: “NAPA” Office 365 Development Tools. This tool is included as part of the Office 365 Developer offering and enables developers to build apps without installing anything on their machine, directly in the browser. This is actually the perfect example of a real world app for SharePoint.

 

 

NAPA: Office 265 Development Tools

 

From NAPA, developers can, in just one click, deploy their app to the cloud or open their projects in Visual Studio 2012 to continue to build their apps and do more. If you want to have your apps hosted in Azure, we have included templates to help you get started as part of Visual Studio 2012. That way, apps can be easily packaged and deployed to Windows Azure and leverage Windows Azure SQL Databases. You can learn more about Windows Azure and Office 365 integration in Scott Guthrie’s post.

 

A new developer center: dev.office.com

As part of this journey to improve the developer experience, we also launched a new developer center: http://dev.office.com that is dedicated to apps for Office and SharePoint. There, developers can learn more about apps, explore the concepts, sign-up for Office 365 Developers Preview, download tools and code samples and get trained.

Once their apps are ready, developers can publish apps directly to the Office Store from the Seller Dashboard. Think about this: the total user base of Office worldwide in over 1 billion users today. Currently, one copy of Office 2010 is sold every second. Of course, nobody knows what will happen with the new Office. All I can say is that we are pretty excited to give such an opportunity to our developer ecosystem thanks to the new Office Store. You can also read Vivek’s post The Office Store is now open! for more information about the Store.

 

 

Wrap up: Choice, Cloud, Consistency

As you can see now, one of our core principle was to open the platform to provide choice to developers while building apps for Office and SharePoint. We have designed this new model for the cloud. We actually call it the cloud app model. But we also wanted to provide consistency with on-premise solutions too. So that an app for SharePoint can be written once and still run the same way in Office 365 or SharePoint Server 2013 (on premises). Similarly, we wanted apps for Office to be built for the Office suite and not siloed by Office applications like today’s solutions. We wanted apps for Office to run seamlessly in the traditional desktop Office applications, or Win RT Office applications or Office Web Applications. This is our first step towards this model and I am really happy to share with you the progress we’ve made to modernize our existing and compelling platform, and improve the development experience.

Developers, please visit http://dev.office.com to learn more. Stay tuned in the new Apps for Office and SharePoint Blog for developers deep dives, and join the game right now by participating in the App Contest we just launched!

In our next post, we will talk more about how to manage those apps within an organization. Thank you for reading us!

– Brian Jones, Group Principal Program Manager
– Cyrielle Simeone, Product Marketing Manager

 

Introducing apps for the new Office and SharePoint and the Office Store

Editor’s note: This week, Office Next will discuss the new Office & SharePoint development platforms. Brian Jones, Principal Group Program Manager for the Office Solutions Framework team, joins the blog to offer three posts about apps for Office and SharePoint and how developers can start building them today.

We’re all familiar with the value of apps on our devices. Something that we on the Office engineering side think about a lot, is how we can take that lightweight connected model that exists today in app stores and bring that value to Office users. We knew that in order to succeed, we had to focus on three groups. For the end user, the experience of finding, trying, buying, and sharing apps had to be lightweight and secure. For the developer, we needed to focus on common developer patterns and provide an easy way to sell their apps. And for the administrator, there needed to be visibility and governance over the apps their enterprise uses. In this post, I’m going to talk about the work we did for the end user experience, and later in the week we’ll cover the developer and administrator posts.

In the new Office and SharePoint, we are introducing a new cloud app model that enables developers to build apps that are scalable and flexible using web standards, such as HTML5 and CSS3. We are also introducing a new Office Store for developers to publish their apps, and for people to find and try apps with confidence.

This is a very important new direction for the Office and SharePoint platforms. We have a huge set of customers who’ve already invested heavily in building solutions on top of Office and SharePoint using a number of extensibility hooks (VBA, Com-addins, web parts, etc.). We will continue to support those solutions, but we’re also taking a step in a new direction with the bet on web standards, which means Office and SharePoint can integrate with web solutions running anywhere. If you’re a web developer, you can also now become an Office and SharePoint developer, leveraging your existing tools, knowledge, and code. So what exactly does an app look like? Let’s go through some of the basics and then I’ll walk you through a solution that is available from the Office Store you can all try.

A new class of apps for Office and SharePoint

As a point of reference, here’s a short video that introduces the concepts of apps for Office and SharePoint. Take a look:

 

Here’s how it works… these apps are simply web applications that are inserted into Office documents or SharePoint sites. They can integrate and interact with Office and SharePoint though making them more powerful than your typical web solution.

Let me give you a few examples.

 

Apps for Office

excel template

Apps for Office have multiple form factors. They can be inserted inline or as task panes into documents, or be part of templates. In Outlook, they are activated automatically within mails or appointments when applicable.

We have a solution we put together over the past couple of weeks that shows the power of the new model, and is fun to play with if you’ve been following the Olympics at all. We just published a template for Excel, in the Office template gallery, that lets you view real-time results from the Olympics and visualize those results in brand new and interesting ways.

To try it for yourself, download the new Office Customer Preview, open Excel and you’ll see on the start screen a list of templates you can start from. The Medal Tracker template should be the second one in the list.

 

The Olympics spreadsheet is taking advantage of three separate apps for Office. Since an app for Office works just like any other content you can insert into a document (like a picture or chart), users can now quickly create mashups and dashboards by inserting multiple apps that together form a powerful solution that couldn’t have been experienced before. The Olympics template is a combination of the following three apps:

 

  1. Bubbles Chart – You just insert the app into an Excel spreadsheet and then specify what table of data you want it to be bound to, just like you would with a built in chart. It even allows you to insert example data to see what the shape of data is that it’s expecting.
  2. Medal Tracker – This app can be used in an Excel spreadsheet, and will let you quickly insert data from the games in progress as well as historical results.
  3. Bing Maps – This is an app built by the Bing team, and allows you to quickly visualize a set of data geographically. It can be used with any list of locations.

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Olympic apps Excel dashboard

One area that is unique to apps in Office is that apps in Word and Excel are essentially just content that you can insert into your documents. It introduces an exciting new type of content, and it also makes it much easier for people to share apps that they like with others. You’ll find that even if you aren’t a developer, the ability to quickly drop apps into an Office document gives you the ability to use you own creativity to compose powerful solutions.

In the case of the Olympics template, we had three apps built by three separate groups. Then one of our template authors who helps create many of the templates you see today in Office.com took those three apps and combined them to build a powerful spreadsheet. Think of the cool solutions you can create just by inserting a few apps into a document and then use Office to help create your own mashed-up solution.

clip_image010[4]In the preview builds, apps for Office are available in Word 2013, Excel and Excel Web App 2013, Project 2013 as well as in Outlook and Outlook Web App 2013. We’ll also have support for apps in PowerPoint 2013, it just wasn’t available in the preview.

In Outlook, apps behave a bit differently from the other applications. An app for Outlook shows up based on the content of mail item, providing contextual information that helps users get things done without leaving their inbox. Here’s an example. Take a look at the mail message (Figure 3). It’s a mail I’ve sent with information on a place to meet for dinner. Notice that at the top of the mail item, there are a few apps that are available to me:

  • LinkedIn – This app connects to LinkedIn to find the people included in the mail and either find out more about them or even let you add them to your network.
  • TakeNote – This is a fun app that lets you quickly jot down a note about the people on the mail item, and that note can be viewed on any mail item you open from that person.
  • Who’s Who – This is an internal app used within Microsoft that lets you look at who the people on the mail are within the company org chart.
  • Bing Maps – This is an app that will show up when there is an address in the mail.

Now, if I were to click on the apps tab, apps would appear and show me contextual information. For example, if I click on LinkedIn, and then Bing Maps, here is what I will see directly inside my mail:

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Apps for Outlook examples

Apps for Outlook, or Mail apps, are supported in Outlook and Outlook Web App 2013 Preview and require Exchange Server 2013 Preview. Read the article by Rolando Jimenez Salgado about the Anatomy of apps for Office to learn more.

 

Apps for SharePoint

clip_image015[4]In SharePoint 2013, just like on your phone, or Windows 8 device, everything is an app. Rather than having to worry about the difference between lists, document libraries, you just have a flat list of apps. Here’s a screenshot of my SharePoint site, and you can see I have a collection of apps. My document list is an app that came with SharePoint, but I also installed the “Bug Champion” app which is an app someone on our team built to help keep track of bugs assigned to our team. There is also the Nintex Workflow designer app that I got from the Office Store.

Apps for SharePoint can extend SharePoint Ribbon and menus, be embedded as part of a site, or be a full web page to provide an immersive experience to users.

Access 2013 Preview enables also power users to create their own apps for SharePoint, like a simple Asset Tracking app. You can learn more about how to create apps with Access 2013 in this article. A good read for developers is the Building apps for SharePoint and Office 365 article by Howard Crow.

 

Apps for Office and SharePoint keep you in control

We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make it easy to acquire and share apps, but that meant that we also had to work extremely hard to make sure that you don’t have to worry about security and the negative impacts these apps could have on your experience in Office. Here are a few key traits of an app that should help you feel more comfortable when trying out an app:

Apps can’t get in the way

Apps run in a separate, isolated process. If the app crashes, Office will not be impacted, and you can just restart the app if you want. Performance issues in the app won’t impact the performance of Office. Apps are even isolated from a UI point of view. They aren’t allowed to overwrite the Office UI, or even block events, which means you can have a number of apps in your document and not worry about them all conflicting with each other and turning the Office UI into a Frankenstein experience. This is a break from past models where add-ins could block events and overwrite the ribbon, which meant that if you had more than one add-in running you could get some fairly unpredictable experiences.

You decide what gets activated

One thing you’ll notice is that you can add 100’s of apps to your account without fear of Office itself getting bloated. In Excel and Word, the apps will only run if you insert them into your document, or open a document that already contains an app. If you don’t want it running anymore, just delete it from the document, like you’d delete a picture or chart. In Outlook, apps can advertise themselves based on the content of the mail, but the app will only run if you click on it, and will stop running if you click on another app or close the one that’s open. In SharePoint, you pick what site you want to install the app, and it will only run in the context of that site.

Many ways to get an app and share it

One of the first ways you’ll encounter apps will probably come from opening an existing document that has an app inserted by a friend or colleague. In Word and Excel, an app is just part of the document. You can insert it into the document just like you would a picture or a chart. You can then send that document to your friends and colleagues, and when they open the document they will have the option of activating the app, and in the case of a paid app they can either pay for it or run it in trial mode. Apps shouldn’t be thought of as an extension of the Office application itself, but instead as an extension of your document content.

 

Office Store

You can also find apps from the Office Store, and add them to your “my apps” list. Apps from the Store are highly discoverable right from the Office Ribbon and from SharePoint Sites.

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When you go to the store and provide your Microsoft account, any app that you install will be associated with your account and those apps will be available anywhere you run Office. There is no heavy installation process required… in fact nothing is installed on the machine. It’s all registered on the server and all your apps will roam with you. This means that anywhere you go, you’ll always have your apps available. Just log-in to Office, and when you click on the “insert app” button, you’re apps will all be there.

Learn more about the Office Store in Vivek Narasimhan post, The Office Store is now open!

 

App Catalog

Organizations can also setup their private “App Catalog“ to distribute and manage business critical apps internally. We’ll talk more in a next post about how to setup the App Catalog. But the nice thing about the App Catalog for users is that it’s also integrated right from within the Office Ribbon or the SharePoint Sites. As a result, users can access apps distributed by their organizations, or available from the Office Store, in a pretty easy and consistent manner.

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The screenshots below illustrate the user experience with apps for SharePoint. As with apps for Office, they are highly discoverable right from within SharePoint sites. In this release, SharePoint components are referred as apps to the users. Therefore, by selecting site contents > add an app, while building and customizing a web site, users can discover apps that are available to them, both internal apps from the App Catalog, or acquired through the public Store.

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So how do I get started?

We’d love to get your feedback on the overall experience with apps for Office. If you haven’t already, sign up for the Office 365 preview, and get your own SharePoint site, Exchange Server, and the new Office. Then just go to the Office Store and try out a few apps. There is a rating system for each app, so once you’ve had a chance to use it, please provide feedback. The various app builders would love to hear what you think.

If you are a developer who is interested in building apps, there are a few places you can start (visit http://dev.office.com and our blog). This post covered what the end user experience is around apps, in our next post on Wednesday, we’ll cover the work we’ve done to improve the development experience!

Thanks for taking the time to learn about the work we’ve done. You’ll see from the blogs and the newsgroups that our team has a lot of passion for this area and is really excited to start the discussion with you all about the new model and how we move forward on this new path.

Brian Jones, Principal Group Program Manager for the Office Solutions Framework team

The new Outlook Web App extends to tablets and phones

Editor’s note: Continuing with our focus on cloud investments, today Kristian Andaker, Principal Group Program Manager of Exchange joins Office Next to discuss the new Outlook Web App. Last week, we shared information about The New Exchange. Today we’re delighted to share some of the exciting new developments in Outlook Web App (OWA).

 

 

The primary purpose of Outlook Web App (OWA) is to give Exchange users access to their mailboxes from anywhere through the same Outlook UI and functionality they already know and love. In this release, OWA has evolved to reach not only laptop or desktop computers, but also tablets and phones. As we did with desktop browsers, we’ll continue investing in wider and richer support for tablet and phone platforms in the future. You can try our latest release by signing up for the Office 365 Customer Preview Small Business Premium or Enterprise plans.

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The new OWA on desktop, tablet and phone screens

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Desktops, tablets and phones have different User Interface (UI) requirements. To ensure people get a consistent experience across all their devices and to make it possible for us to continue evolving the UI for all device types in parallel, we built one OWA application which knows how to scale the UI to different screen sizes and across touch, mouse and keyboard input:

  • For screens found on laptops or larger devices, OWA projects a UI optimized for mouse and keyboard input. We refer to this mode as “Desktop.”
  • For tablet size screens, OWA projects a UI optimized for touch input. We refer to this as “touch-wide.”
  • For phone size screens, OWA projects a narrower UI for touch. This is “touch-narrow.”

The application logic running underneath the UI, representing >90% of the application code, is shared between the three UI modes. Because the modes are very similar in function and look-and-feel, users don’t need to relearn how to manage email or calendaring as they switch between different devices. Because the application logic is the same for the three modes, administrators can rest assured that the policies they put in place for this application applies on any device where it is used.

 

Windows 8 style UI

OWA has a new design language that gives it a fresh, modern look that aligns to Windows 8, Windows Phone and the rest of the Office 2013 products. It’s a clean, light, and open approach that enables people to focus more on the communication content, with less distraction. The simplified visual language and interaction models elevate people and content in the experience, and aims to strike a balance between form and function.

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Photos of people and attachment thumbnails

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To help users avoid context switching, we also added email inline compose in the main window. Users can pop out certain compose forms, or change a setting to have all compose forms pop out automatically. Inline compose without losing view of the email list view you’re working your way through is a good time saver for most users.

Although we have spent a lot of time ensuring the default colors of OWA will feel great, different people have differing tastes, so the OWA capability of selecting a different theme has been enhanced with more themes that affect more aspects of the UI for a more delightful experience.

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Some of the themes users can choose from in OWA

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Offline

In addition to the new User Interface, we made an additional major architectural change in OWA: offline support. You can now launch OWA in the browser and start working even if there is no network connectivity. The work you do while disconnected is automatically synchronized the next time connectivity is restored. This allows your users to be productive using OWA even when they have no network connectivity. It also makes OWA faster and a better experience from remote locations with slow or intermittently connected networks.

Our goal for OWA offline is to support the most common user actions, as far as HTML5 offline capabilities allows. This does not take us to the complete offline support of Outlook on the Windows or Mac desktop, but it matches or exceeds the offline capabilities offered by most Exchange ActiveSync phone clients. Most email triage and calendar management actions work in OWA while offline. You can send email and calendar invites, delete email, get reminders, decline meetings, flag and categorize messages, etc. If you access a folder often, its contents will automatically be made available offline. An example of something not yet possible with OWA offline, or HTM5 offline in general, is full-text indexed search. Over time as the offline capabilities of browsers mature, so will OWA’s offline capabilities. Users must enable OWA offline functionality on each computer where they want to be able to use OWA without network connectivity. Administrators have the ability to control which users can use OWA offline.

You can enjoy OWA offline in IE10+ (using HTML5’s IndexedDB for storage), Chrome 17+ (with WebSQL) or Safari 5 (also using WebSQL).

 

Outlook Apps

Past extensibility models for OWA have all relied on installing 3rd party code on Exchange servers. That model doesn’t work well for customers who rely on Microsoft to run Exchange servers for them through Office 365 and even on premises this model often meets with resistance from Exchange administrators who don’t want to risk the stability and security of their servers. As part of the new Office cloud app model, the new Exchange includes a platform for what we call “Outlook Apps”. These are web apps which a 3rd party can host somewhere on the Internet, and which Exchange end users and administrators can easily and safely integrate into the Outlook experience. The apps can show up in email and calendaring forms and are either always present, or more commonly, activate for a given email or calendar item when there is something special about that email or calendar item. For example, the Bing Maps Outlook App activates when there are one or more addresses present in the email or calendar item body text. Another example is the Groupon by PowerInbox Outlook App which shows up only for emails sent from Groupon. LinkedIn’s Outlook App activates on all email, showing information from the LinkedIn social network about the people on the email thread.

You can go see what Outlook Apps are currently available for use with the Office Customer Preview in the Office Store. Administrators have a lot of control over what Outlook Apps they allow their users to use, or promote to their user populations. Outlook Apps work in Outlook 2013 for the Windows desktop and in the new Outlook Web App on desktop, tablets and phones. The exact same Outlook App code runs in both Outlook and OWA, so developers can quickly and easily target users of the two clients with the same extension.

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The LinkedIn app for Outlook activated in OWA, showing information about all the people included in an email conversation

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In addition to enabling developers to extend Outlook without putting code on Exchange servers, this new extensibility model also overcomes the challenge of Office plug-ins that worked with only one version of Office. We overcome that challenge by offering very simple version and platform-agnostic JavaScript APIs for the applications to use for all integration with the Outlook/OWA UI, avoiding scenarios where developers, on purpose or by accident, might hook into any version-specific aspects of the Outlook experience.

 

New in Email

Managing and sending email in OWA is more efficient than it has ever been. Inline compose, mentioned above, allows users to quickly compose and send messages without popping out a window. Inline compose also comes with an improvement in draft management. It’s now easier to see in the inbox which conversations have unsent drafts, helping you remember to finish and send that email you started working on yesterday before leaving work. Once you’re composing an email, the Forgotten Attachment Detector notices if you just composed an email which looks like it probably intended to include an attachment. When you press send without having added an attachment, it warns you that you might have forgotten to add one.

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Improved draft indicators

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Forgotten Attachment Detector in action

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Drag-and-drop of files from the desktop to the compose form helps users of IE10, Safari, Firefox and Chrome easily attach files to emails they’re composing. For email triage, OWA, just like Outlook 2013, includes a quick delete button directly on items in the email list view. The ability to filter email according to whether they’re unread, flagged, or have your name in the to-line has been promoted to the top level of the UI for easier discoverability.

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Quick delete buttons inline on items and all/unread/toMe/flagged filters above email list view

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More efficient calendaring

Although some OWA users have dense calendars which are best viewed in day or week view, most of our users only have one or a few meetings or appointments entered for each day, making their calendar most suitable for viewing through a monthly or agenda view. To give a great default calendar experience to this majority of users, we have added the new “MOGENDA” calendar view to OWA, combining MOnthly and aGENDA view.

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Mogenda calendar view

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Meeting scheduling has gotten a significant makeover, making it easier to find times when all attendees can attend. Like Outlook, OWA now supports simple entry of calendar items and to-do’s by typing right on the calendar. Users get quick, glance-able day and item “peeks”.

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Calendar item “peek”

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All information about people in one place

The new OWA helps you get a clear view of all the information you have about people by linking all data about a given person to get combined views from a corporation’s Global Address List (GAL) and the contact folders in the mailbox. In Office 365, you also get LinkedIn integration. This makes the linking extend to LinkedIn contacts, enhancing the combined views of information about people even more. We aim to extend this linking to other networks in the future.

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All information about a person from contacts, Global Address List and LinkedIn in one place

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All this information compiled about people is also put to good use as you try to find the right people to communicate with. Search for people spans across all of your people – personal contacts, GAL and connected social networks. Search results are relevance based and contain photos, phone number, location, etc.

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Accessibility

As we announced a little while ago, we have been excited about the Accessible Rich Internet Application (ARIA) standard for a while. In the new OWA, we use ARIA to make the OWA Premium desktop UI mode accessible through screenreaders, for high contrast needs, keyboard-only navigation needs, etc. We have focused on ensuring the experience with IE10 and JAWS or Win8 Narrator will be great for people with accessibility needs. Just as for people without accessibility needs, OWA Light is still available for interoperability with accessibility technologies we have not yet verified work great with OWA Premium.

A common challenge for complex web applications and accessibility, even when using ARIA, is how to provide convenient navigation within the application given that the browsers use the top level F6 key for navigation, making it impossible for the web application to also use the convenient F6 top level navigation mechanism. As a solution to this problem OWA and the other Office Web Access Companions are introducing the Ctrl+F6 shortcut for top level navigation within the web application. We hope others in the industry will follow along and make this a de-facto standard as more complex web applications add ARIA support.

 

Server Architecture

Managing OWA is very similar in Exchange Server 2013 to what it was like in Exchange Server 2010 and Exchange Server 2007, with OWA settings being set on the Internet Information Server (IIS) virtual directories on the Client Access Server (CAS) and in OWA mailbox policies. Internally there has been a big change in architecture for OWA though. OWA rendering logic runs on Mailbox (MBX) servers, whereas in the past this rendering logic ran on the CAS. The Exchange Server 2013 CAS only does user authentication, redirection and proxying. This architecture change results in a significant simplification in how load balancing needs to be deployed for OWA and all the other Exchange protocols. You can find more information on the changes for the CAS role in Exchange Server 2013 Preview documentation here.

Monitoring to ensure OWA service continues undisrupted has also changed significantly in Exchange Server 2013. We have made the monitoring and auto-recovery mechanisms we use in Office 365 datacenters also run on premises, giving all Exchange customers the most robust and feature rich monitoring and self-healing system we have ever had for Exchange.

 

Browser and Operating System support

Just like in the last release of OWA, the new OWA comes in two flavors:

  • OWA Premium is what serves up the new desktop, tablet and phone optimized UI. You can get to this UI from desktops using Internet Explorer (IE) 8+, and newer versions of Safari, Chrome and Firefox. To get to the tablet and phone OWA UI, we are starting out with support for Windows 8 tablets, and iOS6 on iPad2 and iPhone 4 or newer in our initial release. In the preview releases of OWA, you can use iOS5 since iOS6 isn’t released yet, but this will change since iOS6 includes several bug fixes necessary for the OWA experience to be great.
  • OWA Light, which largely remains the same as with the last release of OWA, is what you get on any browser not supported with OWA Premium or OWA Mini. It uses a very simple HTML4 based UI which works in pretty much any browser in existence. The most significant addition to the list of browsers which get OWA Light with OWA 2013 is IE7.

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So what do you think we should do next?

We’re very excited to finally share the new OWA, its updated Windows 8 style UI and added tablet and phone support. We can’t wait to hear your feedback on where to go from here!

Kristian Andaker on behalf of the OWA team

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PS.. Earlier you have probably seen the announcements around “Outlook.com”. This is a new consumer email service from Microsoft, offering a free Outlook experience for consumers. The Outlook.com UI will be familiar to users of the other Outlook clients, but is optimized exclusively for consumer use. It is a different web UI than OWA. You may have questions about what “Outlook” means since many different Microsoft products carry that brand.

Outlook is a family of products and services from Microsoft that are designed to help you manage your communications and calendar; all from one place. We think of it as a communications hub that can bring many of your different information sources together in one place. Our set of Outlook branded experiences are designed to help you easily stay in touch with those people you most care about, collaborate with those you need to get things done with, protect you from spam email, stay on top of the information that matters most, and manage your time more effectively.

We use the Outlook brand to refer to an experience which surfaces through several different products. Here’s an overview of the places where you can find an Outlook experience.

  • Outlook on the Windows desktop is what most people think of as “Outlook”. This is the workhorse of email and calendaring for most information workers around the world today.
  • Outlook on MacOS is the counterpart of Outlook on Windows and delivers a comparable experience that is optimized for the Mac user experience.
  • Outlook Web App (OWA) is the browser-based companion and look-a-like of Windows desktop Outlook. OWA is used by Office 365 and Live@EDU users, as well as the many users of Exchange Server.
  • Outlook Mobile is the mobile version for Windows Phone.
  • As I mentioned above, today we added Outlook.com. We are excited about the new Outlook.com email service and the consumer targeted web UI it offers. Now you can use “Outlook” for both your personal communications as well as business communications!

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Office and SkyDrive for Windows


Editor’s note:
In one of our initial posts we discussed our efforts to
connect Office more naturally to the cloud. This week we’ll elaborate on our services approach in the next Office, starting with today’s post about Office and SkyDrive integration. Daniel Fiordalis, Program Manager, and Arnab Bose, Senior Program Manager Lead join Office Next to discuss this area in detail.

imageHi everyone! By now folks have also been able to see that we’ve changed the default save location in Office to SkyDrive. We’re excited to talk about the change, and why it offers the best experience for storing, sharing and collaborating Office documents.

 

Saving to the Cloud

Going in we recognized that changing the default save location to SkyDrive was going to be critical to get right because it affects one of the most basic operations of our products. Saving to the cloud offers anywhere access to content through the new Office. This allows our users to move from device to device without having to worry where their content (or Office app) resides. Saving to the cloud also enables collaboration scenarios like coauthoring which aren’t possible when a file is just saved on your local machine.

However, there are things we take for granted every time we save to our local device. Things like easily being able to access the files while offline, or being able to use Windows Desktop search to find a file by name or content within. In fact, over 90% of all Office files are opened from File Explorer today. We knew that if we wanted to change where people saved, local file browse and search would still need to work, and saving to the cloud needed to be just as easy to understand as local file management is today.

If we look at current cloud based solutions, the answer seems simple. First, create an app to sync your files to the device you’re working on, then open those files locally. At first glance, this simplistic model seems to work. The major problem though, is opening these local files leaves you with just that—a local file. This approach doesn’t allow multiple people or devices to work on the file simultaneously and often causes conflicts. Syncing apps attempt to resolve these conflicts by making a duplicate of your content.

imageWith the next version of Office, we’ve created a no-compromise solution to these problems. Your documents will be saved to the cloud so you can easily share and collaborate with others. The integration between Office and SkyDrive for Windows mans your documents will sync locally and be cloud connected. Browsing your files on SkyDrive will not be affected by network latency or service availability.

You may have seen that SkyDrive for Windows is included in consumer editions of the next version of Office. In fact, if you’ve downloaded the Home Premium preview, SkyDrive is already on your computer! To get the app up and running, all you have to do is save a document to your personal SkyDrive. Once you have saved a document to SkyDrive or opened a document from the web site, the SkyDrive for Windows applications will automatically start syncing your content.

A Familiar Experience

Saving to SkyDrive enables many new advantages, but it does not require people to think differently about how to save or find their documents. The experience is very similar (almost identical) to what you are already used to – SkyDrive is offered as a choice in the Office application when selecting a save location. Like other default locations in File Explorer, such as the Documents Library, the SkyDrive experience is accessible from other Windows applications and available offline.

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Taking your cloud with you

Once synchronization is complete and you are saving files to SkyDrive, you’ll have an up-to-date version of your content synced right to your local machine and available on SkyDrive! Whether you are using Office 365 Home Premium Preview, Office on Demand applications, or even other applications to edit documents, saving to SkyDrive will keep the local copy on your computer and the copy in the cloud synchronized for as long as you need it.

If you want to edit your documents from a different computer, just log in to the SkyDrive website with your Microsoft account. From here you can view and edit the up-to-date version of your documents via the Office Web Apps, the Office 365 Home Premium Preview or even Office 2010. If you save your changes back to SkyDrive, these changes will be synchronized back down to your computer(s) which are running the SkyDrive for Windows client application.

This is a major advantage of saving to your local hard drive because it gives you access to your documents wherever you sign into Office, and this approach is also a huge improvement over the cloud solutions that force you to stay online to do anything.

Managing local and cloud file synchronization

SkyDrive for Windows helps your Office files to stay current and cloud connected.

imageWhen you edit your documents in the next version of Office and save them on SkyDrive, they are stored in the SkyDrive folder on your device and in the cloud at the same time. File uploads to SkyDrive are enabled via a background process which works asynchronously. Therefore, if you are working on your document from a coffee shop with a weak WiFi signal, you will be able to continue making changes to the file while uploads are in progress. This ensures that the performance and latency associated with editing Office documents is not affected by the bandwidth, latency or even availability of your network connection. In addition, when you open a local SkyDrive file, Office recognizes the file is stored in SkyDrive and connects to the cloud immediately—which means you get the latest, up to date copy of the document and if it’s a shared document, you can instantly see who else is currently editing the file and where they are typing. Especially for Office applications that support co-authoring, this is a major advantage because you’ll be able to coauthor documents with both the Office Web Apps as well as Office 2010 client applications.

While offline, Office will be able to create, save and open your files from the local SkyDrive folder. You’ll see notifications within Office letting you know if you’re working offline. If needed, Office will alert you if there are changes to your file that are pending upload to the cloud. Your files are still being saved locally though, so you don’t need to worry about losing any data. In fact, you can exit your Office apps all together and whenever you get your connection back, Office will upload your changes to the cloud automatically!

Smart Sync

Using Office and SkyDrive to sync your files has great benefits for bandwidth utilization and battery life. For example, if you are working on a 50 MB PowerPoint presentation and decide to insert a new bullet point, Office will only upload that single bullet point. The same goes for downloading updates from the cloud. We call this partial file upload and partial file download and it’s enabled via the MS-FSSHTTP protocol.

SkyDrive will delegate all Office file types over to Office for syncing. This way all of your Office documents will benefit from partial file download and upload. You may notice the Upload Center balloon show up from time to time. The Upload center takes care of any uploads and downloads whenever there isn’t an Office app open. It has specialized UI to help do basic upload management tasks associated with Office files. The balloons show up to let you know if a file upload has gone pending due to lost connectivity or if it has failed and needs your attention.

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Wrapping up

Saving to the cloud has never been easier. You’ll get all the benefits of easy sharing and collaboration by having your work in SkyDrive without sacrificing offline access and the ability to search on all your devices. This means you can get to the content that matters most to you anytime and anywhere.

Thanks for reading this far, we’re really excited for you to try it out and let us know what you think.

 

Recommended Reading

Tara Roth
Editor’s note:
Tara Roth is the Corporate Vice President for Office Test. She joins Office Next today to recap the week that was and to tee up our calendar for next week’s posts.

We’re wrapping up another outstanding week of the Office Preview release. We are getting a lot of great feedback, and hope to get much more. Please continue to help us by sending us your smiles and frowns, and forums feedback on Microsoft Answers, TechNet and MSDN coming.

This week many teams across the division have begun blogging about their specific investments. There is a ton of great information out there for you to read and share. I wanted to highlight some of those early posts here.

One of the most interesting feedback areas in the preview release is the use of streaming technologies for Office. Based on early data on downloads, we have learned that a majority of our Office client suite downloads utilize our Click-to-Run streaming technology and the experience has been a positive one. Among the many reasons is the ability to use the new Office with your old version side-by-side. Customers have been asking for this for quite a while, and we are happy to deliver on that request. Perhaps the best part of the Click-to-Run experience is the time to first run. Because we are streaming the applications, you are able to use them within minutes of booting Office for the first time. It is a significant advance from years past. The Office IT Pro team has offered a lot of information and TechNet has many details on Click-to-Run administration and deployment.

There is so much more to share. Access, OneNote, Office 365, SharePoint, and many other posts at http://blogs.office.com are available today. Many more will be published in the coming weeks and months.

Next week, we’ll cover more on our investments in the cloud. We’ve outlined some of the high-level approaches and strategies, and next week we’ll dig in on topics like SkyDrive, the Server / Services side of our cloud investments and more.

Thank you for your continuing feedback in the Office Preview!

– Tara Roth, Corporate Vice President, Office Test