Apps for Office, specifically Office 2013

Those who have been looking for new features in Microsoft Office 2013 have probably found the new Insert->Apps for Office button on the Ribbon. I have played around with these a little bit and have a few things to report.

To get an idea of what Apps for Office are available, please check out this link. I was a little confused after I looked at the app selection the first time, so I did some digging around to understand what exactly an App for Office is. At the high level one can define an App for Office as a piece of JavaScript/HTML logic that is rendered inside an office document and can interact with the content of the document. So, for example, a Gauge App can be configured to take input from an Excel cell and to show that value in a gauge, which is pretty cool since Excel does not natively support gauges.

In and of itself, this new feature maybe cool but not truly remarkable, what makes it remarkable, however, is ability now post this visualization as a part of the overall dashboard to SharePoint. SharePoint 2013 can now be configured to support applications so that if an end user embeds a gauge or a map in his or her Excel workbook, SharePoint will be able to render it in Excel Services just as a regular chart or control. I have actually been able to configure that feature in SharePoint 2013, post an Excel spreadsheet with a gauge in it and see it render as a web page – very impressive!

So far, I have played around with the Gauge, Heat Map and Bing map Apps for Office and for the most parts found them to be very promising. I am having a bit of an issue with stability as for some reason the Gauge control for example does not always “Start” when I try to insert it in my Excel worksheet. My gut feeling is that the issue is related to the way these Apps are linked to my Windows accounts, and I have several that I use for different purposes, so this is something I will be chasing down in the next few days.

This is a pretty promising new feature as it now allows us to extend the existing office functionality using a pretty standard set of web technologies. Please follow this link for additional information.

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