Office Web Apps and SharePoint 2013

In this article we can learn how to configure SharePoint 2013 with Office Web Apps Server.

Office Web Apps Server overview

Office Web Apps is the online companion to Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote applications. It enables users, regardless of location, to view and edit documents. Office Web Apps gives users a browser-based viewing and editing experience by providing a representation of an Office document in the browser. When a user selects an Office document that is stored in a SharePoint document library or on SkyDrive, the document opens directly in the browser. The document appears in the browser similar to how it appears in the Office client application and provides many of the same editing features. When an Office Web App user selects the Edit in Word, Edit in Excel, Edit in PowerPoint, or Edit in OneNote button on the toolbar, the document opens in the associated Office client application if it is installed on the client computer.

Office Web Apps Server is an Office server product that provides browser-based file viewing and editing services for Office files. Office Web Apps Server works with products and services that support WOPI, the Web app Open Platform Interface protocol. These products, known as hosts, include SharePoint 2013, Lync Server 2013, and Exchange Server 2013. An Office Web Apps Server farm can provide Office services to multiple on-premises hosts, and you can scale out the farm from one server to multiple servers as your organization's needs grow. Although Office Web Apps Server requires dedicated servers that run no other server applications, you can install Office Web Apps Server on virtual machine instances instead.

It is easier to deploy and manage Office Web Apps within your organization now that it is a stand-alone product. If you deploy SharePoint 2013, for example, you no longer must optimize the SharePoint infrastructure to support Office Web Apps, which in earlier versions was tightly integrated with SharePoint Server 2010. You can also apply updates to the Office Web Apps Server farm separately and at a different frequency than you update SharePoint, Exchange, or Lync Server. Having a stand-alone Office Web Apps Server farm also means that users can view or edit Office files that are stored outside SharePoint Server, such as those in shared folders or other websites. This functionality is provided by a feature known as Online Viewers.

The following illustration shows the new stand-alone deployment model for Office Web Apps.


SharePoint 2013 uses Office Web Apps Server for viewing and editing Office documents

When used with SharePoint Server 2013, Office Web Apps Server provides updated versions of Word Web App, Excel Web App, PowerPoint Web App, and OneNote Web App. Users can view and, in some cases, edit Office documents in SharePoint libraries by using a supported web browser on computers and on many mobile devices, such as Windows Phones, iPhones, iPads, and Windows 8 tablets. Among the many new features in Office Web Apps, improved touch support and editing capabilities enable users of iPads and Windows 8 tablets to enjoy editing and viewing Office documents directly from their devices. The following illustration summarizes the viewing and editing capabilities of Office Web Apps on SharePoint 2013.


What is new in Office Web Apps?



Change tracking

Enables users to open Word files that contain revision marks in a Word Web App.


Users can view, add, and reply to comments in a Word Web App and PowerPoint Web App.


Co-authoring support is new in Word Web App and PowerPoint Web App. It continues to be supported in Excel Web App and OneNote Web App.


Support for embedding Web Apps in websites is new in Word Web App, Excel Web App, and PowerPoint Web App.

Ink support

Enables users to view Word Web App and OneNote Web App files that contain ink.


Office Web Apps is not installed on the same servers that run SharePoint 2013. Instead, you deploy one or more physical or virtual servers that run Office Web Apps Server. Then you configure the SharePoint 2013 farm to use the Office Web Apps Server farm to provide Office Web Apps functionality to users who create or open Office files from SharePoint libraries..


SharePoint 2013 provides new license enforcement that works with Office Web Apps. If you enable SharePoint licensing and then enable Office Web Apps editing, only the users who have the appropriate license can actually edit Office files in a browser. If no Office Web Apps editing licenses are applied for users, only viewing is supported.

Quick Preview

Displays a preview of item content when a user rests over a search result in SharePoint.

Share by link

Allows users to send a link to a document to another user and allow the recipient to use Office Web Apps to view the document.

Differences between Excel Web App and Excel Services

Excel Services is technology that enables you to view and interact with a workbook in a browser window similar to how you would use Excel on your computer. Excel uses a built-in calculation engine to connect to external data and render the results of formulas and queries. Excel Services uses server technology to provide similar functionality in a browser window. Excel Services was introduced in Office SharePoint Server 2007. In SharePoint Server 2013, Excel Services is available only in the Enterprise edition.

Excel Services technology is available in Office Web Apps Server as Excel Web App, and in SharePoint as Excel Services. Excel Web App and Excel Services in SharePoint have a lot in common, but they are not the same. Both applications enable you to view workbooks in a browser window, and both enable you to interact with and explore data. However, there are certain differences between Excel Web App and Excel Services in SharePoint. Excel Services supports external data connections, data models, and the ability to interact with items that use data models (such as PivotChart reports, PivotTable reports and timeline controls). Excel Web App enables users to view and interact with workbooks, but Excel Web App does not support external data connections or the ability to interact with reports and timeline controls that use data models. Excel Services provides more business intelligence functionality than Excel Web App, but Excel Services does not enable users to create or edit workbooks in a browser window. Excel Services is available only in the Enterprise edition of SharePoint Server 2013. Excel Web App is available in SharePoint Server 2013 and SharePoint Foundation 2013.