Office Web Apps Server Explained

by Jamie Schwinn on November 11, 2012

If you’re like me, you may have seen the new Office Web Apps Server mentioned in the new Lync 2013 documentation and wondered what it was all about.

Office Web Apps for Lync Server 2013

Office Web Apps Server allows your Lync 2013 users to present PowerPoint content in Lync 2013 conferences. The advantage over Lync 2010 is that conference clients can render this content without a dependency on Silverlight, a great new feature in Lync 2013.

From TechNet:

Lync Server 2013 now uses Office Web Apps and the Office Web Apps Server (formerly known as WAC Server) to handle PowerPoint presentations. The use of Office Web Apps Server allows for higher-resolution displays and better support for PowerPoint capabilities, access to more types of mobile devices (Lync Server 2013 uses standard DHTML and JavaScript to broadcast PowerPoint presentations), and the ability for users with the appropriate privileges to scroll through a PowerPoint presentation independent of the presentation itself.

Initially, I had mixed feelings about this new server role. On one hand, we’re enhancing Lync conference capabilities. On the other hand, we’re adding another server requirement. However, the Office Web Apps Server is not just for Lync…

Office Web Apps for SharePoint Server 2013

Office Web Apps started out a supplemental add-on to SharePoint Server 2010 that enabled a web based version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote to allow SharePoint users to access documents through a web browser. The Wave 15 Office refresh brought with it an updated Office Web Apps with a new architecture. Office Web Apps was separated from SharePoint to create an independent server role that can be scaled and leveraged by additional server platforms such as Lync and Exchange.

From TechNet:

When used with SharePoint 2013 on-premises, Office Web Apps provides updated versions of Word Web App, Excel Web App, PowerPoint Web App, and OneNote Web App. Users can view and optionally edit Office documents by using a supported web browser on computers and on different mobile devices, such as Windows Phones, iPhones, and iPads. In addition to new features in Office Web Apps, the architecture and deployment methods have also changed, which allow Office Web Apps to provide viewing functionality for Exchange Server 2013 and Lync Server 2013.

Office Web Apps for Exchange Server 2013

From TechNet:

Outlook Web App in Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 provides rich attachment preview functionality. All attachments in an email message are displayed in a filmstrip that includes a thumbnail of each attachment. Users are able to preview attachments online in full fidelity. For Office attachments, this means users can use a rich user interface to preview and modify the attachment online. This functionality is made possible by the integration of Microsoft Office Web Apps Server.

By default, the following file types are displayed using Office Web Apps Server:

  • Word documents (doc, docx, dotx, dot, dotm extensions)
  • Excel documents (xls, xlsx, xlsm, xlm, xlsb extensions)
  • PowerPoint documents (ppt, pptx, pps, ppsx, potx, pot, pptm, potm, ppsm extensions)

The introduction of Office Web Apps Server into the Lync 2013 topology does represent a new server requirement, but it can be shared by Lync, SharePoint, and Exchange to provide compelling new features for all three products. If an Office Web Apps Server is not associated with a Lync pool, users on that pool will not have the ability to present PowerPoint files during Lync meetings as shown by this warning message in the Lync 2013 Topology Builder.


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