30th August 2012

What does Microsoft Office 13 mean for web developers?

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Office 13 Web Development You may, or may not, have heard that with Microsoft’s latest instalment of the popular Office suite, Microsoft Office 13, they are embracing web development technologies to build add-on apps with. Technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript will all be available to developers seeking to build custom apps for their Office applications. The reason for this, states Richard Riley, a Microsoft director in the Office division, is to “modernize the way the platform is accessed by developers”. The mobile web and apps have already been embracing the use of HTML5 & CSS3 for some time, you only have to look at the FaceBook website on a smartphone and their Android app, to realise there isn’t much difference between the two. Many website in fact have been following this trend for some time, using new HTML and CSS technologies to make web apps which replace their usual websites when viewed on a smartphone or tablet. Microsoft have always given the option to build additional functions into the Office suite, however until now, this was only really accessible to users of Microsoft’s Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). They are hoping with this update, a lot more people will have access to build their own add-on apps to make life easier for themselves. Microsoft showed off a few examples of  apps built with web technologies at the unveiling, one such app for Outlook could find an address embedded in an email and then provide a map for the location. Another app built for Excel could download Olympic data, visualise it, then allow the user to parse the data by country. Another feature of the new add-on apps was that they would be stored on companies’ servers. The advantages of this include; ease of updates, so instead of each user of the app having to update it individually on their own computer, the app could simply be updated on the server and the next time the user called the app, they would get the updated version. Another advantage of this is that it can take advantage of server side technologies / languages such as .Net, PHP and SQL. So what does this mean to web developers and agencies? I believe there is a good chance a whole new industry / sector will be created; devoted to building custom app add-ons for Office applications or building third party apps for the newly introduced Office App Centre. Freelancers and agencies alike will have the option to boost their income by creating these apps specifically for companies in need or sell their apps to the masses. What do you think this will bring to our industry?