Microsoft Releases Office Online Server, Readies Smarter OneDrive

Microsoft enables real-time co-authoring Office Web Apps Server 2013's successor. Meanwhile, OneDrive for Business is branching out beyond its cloud file storage roots.


Along with the May 4 release of SharePoint Server 2016, Microsoft announced that both Office Web Apps and OneDrive for Business are taking a cloudier, more collaborative path.

SharePoint Server 2016 was the star of the show during The Future of SharePoint event on May 4, and understandably so. The latest version of the cloud-inspired team collaboration and enterprise document management software signifies a new cloud-first direction for the venerable platform, even for organizations that opt to run SharePoint on their on-premises systems.

Coinciding with SharePoint 2016's launch, Microsoft announced the availability of Office Online Server, the successor to Office Web Apps Server 2013.

The software essentially allows businesses to host their Web-based Office experience to their end users, similar to the one offered to Office 365 customers on Microsoft's public cloud. Instead of launching a Word or Excel client on their devices, users can fire up a browser instead to create, edit and share Office content.

With Office Online Server, businesses can now use their on-premises servers to deliver one of Office 365's hallmark capabilities: real-time co-authoring.

By integrating Office Online Server with SharePoint Server 2016, businesses can "create, share and collaborate on Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote files in your browser," said Microsoft in a May 4 announcement. "Most notably, [Office Online Server] with SharePoint lets multiple people work in a document at the same time and see everyone's changes as they happen."

When coupled with Exchange Server 2016, Office Online Server allows users to view and edit file attachments using Outlook on the Web without leaving the browser. Adding Skype for Business Server 2016 to the mix permits "high fidelity viewing of PowerPoint Online" during virtual meetings, according to Microsoft.

SharePoint is also drawing OneDrive for Business closer into its web.

The OneDrive app for iOS now offers access to files stored in SharePoint sites, allowing users to edit and share Office content or take it offline. Microsoft is working on bringing the feature to OneDrive for Android and Windows Mobile later this year.

OneDrive on Android and on the Web gains a new Discover view, a new intelligent search capability that mimics Delve's ability to surface trending files and suggest content that pertains to a user's projects, connections and role within an organization. The feature will also be coming to the iOS and Windows Mobile versions of the app this year.

Looking ahead, Microsoft is working on allowing users to copy OneDrive files to SharePoint document libraries. Taking a cue from social networks, the software giant also plans to release features that enable users to the judge the impact of their Office-based activities.

"We're currently working on a means for you to measure the reach of your files with embedded analytics that show over time how many people have discovered and viewed your files," wrote Reuben Krippner, director of product management for Microsoft OneDrive, in a blog post. Over time, the company will add likes, comments and mention counts, he added.

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...