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Microsoft opens app store for Office 2013

Web-based add-ons

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With the next version of its business productivity suite already in public preview, Microsoft has launched a beta version of the Office Store, a marketplace for developers to distribute web-based add-ons for Office and SharePoint.

"We know our users spend an incredible amount of time using the Microsoft Office suite," writes Microsoft's Vivek Narasimhan, SharePoint product manager, in a blog post announcing the store. "We also know that many critical tools and many critical information sources live on the web or in applications outside of Office. We've built the store so you could integrate the very best of the web with the powerful features of Office and SharePoint."

To take advantage of the new store, users must have the Office 2013 Preview installed and be logged in to a Microsoft account.

Unlike traditional Office plug-ins, apps for the Office Store are web-based, but they integrate with the client Office applications. In essence, they are web applications that are hosted within Word, Excel, and the other Office components, according to Redmond's developer documentation.

Because of this, IT departments will not need to preload Office apps onto individual users' computers. Users can purchase apps themselves, and as long as they are logged in with their Microsoft accounts, their Office apps will follow them.

When it launched on Monday, the Office Store wasn't exactly bursting at the seams with apps, but it offered a few add-on dictionaries for Word, data connectors for Excel, and plug-ins that integrate Outlook with social websites, among others.

Somewhat confusingly, all of the apps bore a message reading, "This app can't be purchased during the Office Preview. Check back later."

When asked for clarification, a Microsoft spokesperson told El Reg that everything in the Office Store will be free during the preview period, but that it would be open for commerce with the general availability of Office 2013.

Developers who are interested in building apps for the forthcoming Office version can find more information on Microsoft's new blog describing the Office app ecosystem and how to get involved. ®

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