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Microsoft's Office Online Server Hits Preview Stage

A preview version of Office Online Server, Microsoft's solution for running Office Web Apps via an organization's premises-based servers, is now available.

Office Web Apps are scaled-down versions of Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Word that run in a browser. Microsoft rebranded its free consumer Office Web Apps as Office Online apps a year ago, but it has also been possible to run these browser-based apps from a server housed on a company's premises, rather via Microsoft's cloud. That premises-based server product is called Office Web Apps Server, and Office Online Server is the successor product to the current premises-based product known as "Office Web Apps Server 2013."

Bill Baer, senior technical product manager on the Microsoft's SharePoint team, described Office Online Server, or "OOS," as a rebrand of Office Web Apps Server in an IT Unity talk on Friday. However, OOS is designed to work with SharePoint Server 2016 and Exchange Server 2016, according to Microsoft's announcement. Baer added during his talk that OOS can be used with SharePoint Server 2013 as it will be backward compatible to that extent.

OOS is a standalone server. Baer explained that Microsoft had actually separated its Office Web Server as a standalone product back in September 2012. Organizations deploying OOS have to put it in a separate server farm, although it also can be used in virtual machines, Baer added.

Microsoft's announcement promised better co-authoring support with OOS, as well as improved performance and stability. With regard to setup, Microsoft is working on making it "as simple as possible" to move from Office Web Server 2013 to OOS.

Baer noted during his talk that Microsoft has deprecated some content in Excel Services in favor of OOS. He explained that "deprecated doesn't mean obsolete," adding that "we just found a better alternative" with OOS. Excel Services are used to bring Excel workbooks into SharePoint portals and dashboards.

OOS works with products and services that support Microsoft's Web Application Open Platform Interface Protocol (WOPI). WOPI is a means to render files stored on a server in a browser.

The OOS preview can be downloaded at this page. It requires Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2, along with .NET Framework 4.5.2.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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