Microsoft Releases First Office Online Server Update

The company doles out new features and performance enhancements while pledging better forward update visibility.

Microsoft Office Online 2

Office Online Server, a version of the browser-based Office Online application suite that businesses can host out of their own data centers, is getting its first major update since Microsoft released the server edition six months ago.

Office Online Server essentially allows organizations to grant their users access to web-based versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote that are delivered from their own servers instead of Microsoft's Azure Cloud infrastructure.

The software can be coupled with Exchange Server 2016 and Skype for Business Server 2016 to practically enable advanced content sharing using the browser-based Outlook client and remote presentations.

The November update includes a performance bump to the software's co-authoring feature and picture resizing capabilities in Word. Now with improved drag-and-drop support, users should notice that creating tables in Word and PowerPoint is a less arduous affair. PowerPoint also gains improved inline spell check and copy/past operations.

Excel users can also now embed Power View sheets and see graphics in the software's viewer. Finally, the latest version of Office Online Server includes HTML markup that more closely adheres to the W3C's accessibility standards.

Administrators, meanwhile, will want to set some time aside to roll out the new features to their users.

Unlike the customary in-line upgrades the company typically releases, the Office team cautioned that customers "must uninstall the previous version of OOS [Office Online Server] to install the November release," in a blog post. "Moving forward, we have a release planned every four months to ensure that we can continuously deliver new value to OOS users. We will only support the latest version of OOS with bug fixes and security patches, available via the Microsoft Updates."

As for those future releases, Microsoft pledged to deliver most of the features present in the browser version's continuously-updated cloud counterpart on a regular basis. The company also said it would provide "a more detailed timeline" indicating when those updates will arrive by early December.

On Nov. 21 Microsoft announced it had enabled new business intelligence (BI) capabilities in Excel Online with updates to SharePoint Server 2016 BI.

In a separate blog post, the company explained that "Excel Services has evolved from an optional add-on application for SharePoint Server 2007 to an inherent part of Office Online Server for on-premises. In this newest 2016 release, Excel Services capabilities are moving to Office Online Server (which used to be called Office Web Apps Server) and as a result Excel Services is being replaced with Office Online Server."

By switching from Excel Services to Office Online Server, organizations can access Excel JavaScript (application programming interfaces) and users can tap more Excel features, including number formatting options and Pivot Table filter search.

Customers can also dole out access to basic Excel BI functionality, including access to external data, using standard SharePoint client access licenses. Finally, Excel's BI capabilities inherit many of same upgrades and enhancements made to their Office 365 equivalents, assured Microsoft.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...