Feeds

Microsoft's Office 2013 app-maker cloud drenches developers

Visual Basic macros are dead! Long live JavaScript macros!

Intelligent flash storage arrays

There are a few annoyances in the current preview. Launch Excel 2013, for example, and it shows an “Enable editing” button thanks to Microsoft’s cautious attitude to potentially booby-trapped web-sourced documents, and then displays a sign-in prompt even though you have already signed into Office with your account.

Still, it works. Unfortunately the ease of use, in the current preview at least, soon falls apart. There is an “Open in Visual Studio” button that works nicely, once it has grabbed a ton of dependencies from the web. Once these are downloaded, the app is opened in Visual Studio 2012, the project is disconnected from cloud-based Napa, and changes are saved locally. It is also not obvious how to get an app from development in Napa through to deployment in the Office 365 app catalogue without using a full installation of Visual Studio.

Editing Excel: building a spreadsheet for Office 2013

It would make sense for Napa to link to a hosted Team Foundation Server, Microsoft’s source code control system, but there is no sign of this in the preview, which means Napa lacks features developers take for granted such as version control. Currently Napa is no more than an interesting experiment, and there are much better cloud IDEs out there from the likes of Cloud9, but with its Office 365 integration Napa has the potential to become useful.

Apps for Office themselves also show promise. The application model avoids traditional Microsoft technologies including ActiveX and even .NET: all the code is JavaScript, although you can call web services written on any platform. Possible uses include Mail apps that look up customer details and order history; Excel apps that create charts or analyse data; or apps that validate form data in Word or Excel. You can deploy apps privately or offer them publicly in the forthcoming Office Store.

There are a few limitations:

  • Apps for Office require XML-based file formats such as .docx and .xlsx
  • Web service calls are subject to same-domain security restrictions, so you may need to use a proxy
  • There is no access to the Office COM object model and apps run in their own individual sand boxes, which limits capabilities compared to other Office development techniques
  • The range of Apps for Office types is small. Only Excel lets you embed apps in a document
  • Email apps only work with Exchange 2013

SharePoint 2013 is not required for deployment, though clients need to access an XML manifest hosted either on a SharePoint 2013 app catalogue or on a network file share, so it appears that SharePoint is a requirement for internet-accessible deployment.

Microsoft Office 2013 is beyond mature, but Apps for Office is completely new and the tools and documentation reflect that. Although it does bring Office development into the world of cloud-with-device, it feels unfinished in places, and is a difficult transition for developers used to richer technologies such as Visual Studio Tools for Office.

It is worth persevering, since the prospect of Office apps that work seamlessly locally or on the web is compelling. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Be real, Apple: In-app goodie grab games AREN'T FREE – EU
Cupertino stands down after Euro legal threats
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Microsoft: Your Linux Docker containers are now OURS to command
New tool lets admins wrangle Linux apps from Windows
Bada-Bing! Mozilla flips Firefox to YAHOO! for search
Microsoft system will be the default for browser in US until 2020
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.