Why Office Online Server is Essential

With the release of SharePoint Server 2016 will come SharePoint’s long-time companion, Office Online Server. Office Online Server (previously called Office Web Apps Server 2013) is a separate product, installs on separate servers and can be used by SharePoint, Exchange, Skype for Business, file shares and other web sites. Let’s discuss why it’s essential to your SharePoint Server 2016 deployment.

Previews and Online Viewing

This one is an old trick but still, so useful. When you integrate SharePoint Server 2016 and Office Online Server, you get rich online viewing and editing of your Office files. Browser-based viewing and editing is useful in situations where the Office client is not installed but also when you just don’t need to download the entire document. And the “Online” versions are powerful, you can do the most common tasks right there in the browser. Just as an example, with PowerPoint Online I can modify my font, its size, colors, insert shapes, insert pictures, create SmartArt, hyperlinks, insert video, apply a slide design, and even apply the most common transitions and animations.

In addition, you get previews inside document libraries and with your search results, as shown below.

Durable Links

Senior Product Marketing Manager, Bill Baer, wrote an excellent article on Durable Links several months ago. In summary, SharePoint provides an identifier for Office documents rather than using its name. This means you can rename your files and even move them around within your Site Collection, and the link will continue to work.

This is really useful. Consider you keep “draft” documents in a separate document library or subsite before they’re final. The file could undergo several name changes and versions but the link won’t change. Then, when you move it to a different site or to the “final” document library, the link still works.

Excel Services

Excel Services in SharePoint Server 2013 provided a way to interact with workbooks with data models in a browser, refresh them, work with Power View in a browser as well as PivotCharts, PivotTables and calculated fields. But, you could not create or edit a workbook from the browser or view it if it had rights management applied. For that, you needed Excel Web App and you had to make a choice of which to use.

With SharePoint Server 2016, some of the Excel Services functionality has been moved into Office Online Server. We now have a single service, through Office Online Server, which provides the ability to display and interact with Excel workbooks. So, if you intend on using Excel Services features, including the Excel Web Part, deploying Office Online Server is a must.

Wrap Up

Consider Office Online Server when planning for a SharePoint Server 2016 deployment. The previews, browser-based viewing and editing, Durable Links, and Excel Services capabilities offer users a richer experience. In addition, the same set of servers can be used by Exchange Server 2016, Skype for Business, file shares and other web sites to display Office documents.

We think Office Online Server is essential, that’s why the SharePoint 2016 Product Line Architecture (PLA) includes it as part of the architecture. The PLA takes the best of Microsoft’s learnings from the cloud, projects with customers, Premier and broad support and repeated consulting engagements to come up with a reference architecture. Find out more by contacting your Microsoft representative and by visiting the PLA blog.