New Office 2013 features can help IT pros as much as end users

New features in Microsoft Office 2013 make desktop management more efficient. See what Office Web Apps Server, Office Telemetry and more can do.

Microsoft has updated and added a lot of Office 2013 features, which should make users happy. Word now supports PDF editing. Applications are integrated with SkyDrive and SharePoint. The interface has inherited the Windows 8 Metro look, working with a touchscreen is easier than ever. But IT professionals also benefit from the latest makeover, with plenty of new features to keep them busy. Some of these features are particularly likely to put smiles on their faces -- and keep them smiling till the next release of Office.

Office Web Apps Server

With the release of Office 2013, Microsoft introduced a new product that delivers Office Web Apps via SharePoint Server 2013, Exchange Server 2013 and Lync Server 2013. No longer does IT need to manage Office Web Apps merely as an add-on to these other servers.

Office Web Apps Server is a dedicated service that runs on its own farm, so it can be scaled out and updated independently of the other products, making Office Web Apps easier than ever to manage and deploy.

Yet the features that Office Web Apps Server delivers depend on the other servers. When used with SharePoint, Office Web App Server lets users view and edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents through their browsers without needing a client application installed on their computers. In Excel Server, users can preview Word, Excel and PowerPoint file attachments, and in Lync Server, users can view PowerPoint presentations.

Office Web Apps Server also enables users to view Office files in shared folders and websites without needing to access the files through the other Office servers. In addition, they can access documents from devices such as Windows Phones and Apple iPads.

Office Deployment Tool for Click-to-Run

More about Office 2013 features:

Office in the cloud may appeal to some IT shops more than Office 2013

Comparing Office 2013 vs. Office 365 in terms of features and pricing

Microsoft hopes Windows 8 will be familiar to users of Office 2013 collaboration tools

Click-to-Run is a streaming and virtualization technology that lets customers download and install Microsoft Office 2013 components from the Internet. Click-to-Run leverages the Office 365 Web-based installer to facilitate the download and installation process. By default, the installation includes the full user interface, with automatic updates enabled. In many enterprises, however, IT needs greater control over Click-and-Run installations than is offered out of the box. That’s where the new Office Deployment Tool comes in.

The tool lets administrators customize Click-to-Run deployments to control how users install Office 2013 products. Administrators can download Office source files to a network share so users don’t have to download the product over the Internet. They can also configure which products and languages can be installed, how installations should be logged, whether Office components should be regularly updated and numerous other settings.

The Office Deployment Tool supports three deployment modes: a download mode to set up a local installation source, a configure mode to configure the Office clients and a packager mode to convert an Office 2013 Click-to-Run package into an App-V package.

Office Telemetry

New to Office 2013 features is Office Telemetry, a compatibility monitoring framework that tracks information about an organization’s Office documents and registered add-ins. Office Telemetry collects inventory and usage data, such as when a document or add-in is loaded or used, as well as other system and user information.

Although Office Telemetry is built into Office 2013, a Telemetry agent is available for Office 2010, Office 2007 and Office 2003. However, only in Office 2013 can Office Telemetry also track application events and add-in performance.

When Office Telemetry is enabled, the system collects data from across the enterprise and stores it in a SQL Server database (2005 or later). To access and analyze the Office Telemetry data, IT pros can use the Telemetry Dashboard. The Dashboard is an Excel 2013 workbook that provides a consolidated view of the compatibility and inventory data available about Office documents and add-ins.

For example, the Dashboard can display the number of people who use a particular add-in, the number of critical errors the add-in encounters and the average amount of time it takes the add-in to load. If the add-in crashes often or takes too long to run, it can be disabled for all Office 2013 clients.

But that's not all the Office 2013 features there are for admins. In my next tip, I'll look at Active Directory-based activation, administrative template files and Office Customization Tool files.

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