Office Web Apps – Configuration Notes

For those of you who have thought about or are interested in working with Office Web Applications in SharePoint 2010, you might be wondering a little bit about what the configuration is like, and what the impact is for your end users.

I’m going to share some notes and some testing I’ve done with the various settings, this should give everyone a basic idea of how it works and what to expect.

  1. Before OWA is installed, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote applications will always prompt to open in the client. If the user does not have the client installed, they won’t be able to make any edits or open the document. I haven’t included Excel in this mix because depending on wether or not Excel Services is configured, this may or may not be true. Remember, we’ve had Excel Services long before 2010 and OWA came along.
  2. Whenever I do this type of installation in a client environment, this is the guide I follow: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff431687.aspx. It’s well written and includes just above everything I need.
  3. There’s an important bit of information in that guide and something you must take note of. Office Web Applications tightly integrates with SharePoint. Once you do the installation, the default behaviour for opening documents will be changed. I’m going to outline these defaults below, but as a general rule of thumb, you should consider enabling the OpenInClient feature at the Site Collection level BEFORE installation. This will ensure that files default to opening in the client, and not the browser, until you can get it all configured. I’ll explain why this is important in my screenshots below. See more details here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee837425.aspx.

When Office Web Apps is first installed, services are started, service applications are created – however, feature is yet not activated.

Now what you’ll notice is that, instead of opening in the client, as was the case prior to the installation of Office Web Apps, the document will open in the browser as you can see in the below screenshot.

If we attempt to click on Edit in Browser, we’ll be presented with an error message like the one below because the Office Web Apps feature has not yet been activated on this Site Collection.

After activating the OpenInClient default.

Now that we’ve activated this feature, our default will be to open all files in the client. In other words, we’ve set OpenInClient to true. This will prevent errors like the one we saw above. This is why it’s recommended that this setting be enabled before OWA is installed, so that you don’t impact your users until you are ready to start the services, create the service applications and activate the necessary features.

After activating the Office Web Apps feature.

If we activate the Office Web Apps feature, then we can edit our Word documents inside of the browser.

Changing the behaviour for a specialized document library.

Now that we’ve enabled Office Web Apps at the Site Collection level, we may want to enforce that some libraries only OpenInClient by default. The default is usually Use the server default (Open in the browser).

This will force documents, by default, to open in the client as opposed to the browser, regardless of what the setting is at the Site Collection level.

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