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Overview of apps for Office 2013

Office 2013
 

Applies to: Office 365 ProPlus, Office 2013

Topic Last Modified: 2014-02-23

Summary: Learn about apps for Office and how to obtain and manage apps for Office for users in your organization.

Audience: IT Professionals

The new apps for Office enable users to run the same solutions across applications, platforms, and devices, and provide an improved experience within Office applications by integrating rich content and services from the web. In this article, you can learn more about the types of apps for Office and the applications that support them. You can also learn how to make apps for Office available to users, how to manage them by using Group Policy settings or the registry, and how to monitor them by using Telemetry Dashboard.

ImportantImportant:
This article provides content for administrators who configure and deploy Office 2013 for their organizations. Are you looking for how to use apps for Office? Search office.com for apps for Office.

In this article:

Developers use apps for Office to create engaging new consumer and enterprise experiences that run within supported Office 2013 applications by using the power of the web and standard web technologies such as HTML5, XML, CSS3, JavaScript, and REST APIs.

An app for Office is basically a webpage that is hosted inside an Office client application. You can use apps to extend the functionality of a document, email message, meeting request, or appointment. Apps can run in multiple environments and clients. These include rich Office desktop clients, Office Online, mobile browsers, and also on-premises and in the cloud. Developers can publish apps to the Office Store or to an onsite catalog, where they can be available to users from their Office 2013 applications. As the IT Administrator of your organization, you can control how the apps for Office become available to users.

The basic components of an app for Office are an XML manifest file and a webpage. The manifest defines various settings and points to the webpage that implements the app UI and custom logic, as shown in the following figure.

Manifest + webpage = an app for Office

Manifest plus webpage equals app for Office

The manifest specifies settings and capabilities of the app, such as the following:

  • The URL of the webpage that implements the app UI and programming logic.

  • The app display name, description, ID, version, and default locale.

  • Whether the app can be shown as a task pane, in line with document content, or started contextually in an email message, meeting request, or appointment.

  • The kinds of client applications (including rich clients and Office Online) that an app supports.

  • The permission level and data access requirements for the app.

The three basic types of apps for Office are task pane, content, and mail apps for Outlook.

Task pane apps enable users to see the app for Office side-by-side with an Office document, and provide app for Office developers with the opportunity to supply contextual information and functionality to enhance the document viewing and authoring experience. For example, a task pane app can look up and retrieve product information from a web service, based on the product name or part number that a user selects in a document. An example of a task pane app for Word 2013 that uses the Bing Translator service is shown in the following figure.

Task pane app

Task Pane apps

Content apps integrate web-based features as content that can be shown in line with the document. Content apps enable users to integrate rich, web-based data visualizations, embedded media such as integrating a YouTube video player or a picture gallery as part of a document, and also other external content. The following figure shows an example of a content app for Excel 2013 that uses a web service to generate a geographical sales heat map.

Content app

Content app

Mail apps are displayed next to the currently viewed Outlook items: email message, meeting request, meeting response, meeting cancellation, or appointment. They can access contextual information from the item and use that data to access additional information about the server and from web services to create compelling user experiences. In most cases, a mail app runs without modification on the Outlook 2013 rich client and Outlook Web App for Exchange Server 2013. This user experience is seamless, whether on the desktop, the web, or on tablet and mobile devices.

NoteNote:
The mail apps require Exchange Server 2013. POP and IMAP email accounts are not supported.

The following figure shows an example of a mail app that uses the Bing Maps service.

Mail app

app for Outlook

One big benefit of apps for Office is that they can be supported both on Office 2013 rich clients and some corresponding Office Online programs. To the developer, this means that, in many scenarios, they do not have to create separate apps for different environments or applications. To the user, it means a consistent user experience across the desktop and web browser. And for the IT Professional, it means that it’s easy to manage apps for Office across environments and applications.

For task pane apps, this means the same app can run on Excel 2013, Excel Online, Word 2013, and Project 2013. For apps for Outlook, it means that the same app can work for Outlook 2013 on the desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.

Supported app types

Application Supported types

Excel 2013

  • Task pane

  • Content

Excel Online

  • Content

Word 2013

  • Task pane

Outlook 2013

  • Mail

Outlook Web App

  • Mail

Project Professional 2013

  • Task pane

PowerPoint 2013

  • Task pane

Privacy and security for apps for Office are covered in the following two MSDN topics:

See Using Group Policy to manage how users can install and use apps for Office to learn more about the Group Policy settings that can help you manage privacy and security for apps for Office.

As the IT Administrator of your organization, you can control how the apps for Office become available to users. You can choose the type of hosting option that's appropriate for your organization. For example, if you don’t want users to access apps for Office from the Office Store, you can disable that capability by using Group Policy. Then, you can make apps for Office available to users by hosting them internally in a SharePoint App Catalog, an Exchange catalog, or a file catalog share. These distribution methods are described in the following sections.

After an app for Office is created by a developer, the developer can decide how to publish it so that it is available to the users within your organization. In Office 2013, the following distribution points are supported for publishing apps for Office:

  • Office Store Hosted and regulated by Microsoft, the Office Store is where developers around the world can publish and sell their custom Office solutions. End users and IT professionals can download these custom Office solutions for personal or corporate use. Office Store handles the consumer download experience from discovery to purchase, upgrades, and updates.

  • SharePoint App Catalog   For task pane and content apps, IT departments can deploy private app catalogs to provide the same app acquisition experience that the Office Store provides. This new catalog and development platform enables IT departments to use a streamlined method to distribute apps for Office and SharePoint to managed users from a central location.

    App Catalog is available to all SharePoint customers (including Office 365 and SharePoint on-premises). App Catalog enables publishing and administration of both internally created apps and apps that are available in the Office Store and licensed for corporate use. For more information, see Manage the App Catalog in SharePoint 2013.

  • Exchange catalog   This is a private catalog that is managed by an Exchange administrator for mail apps that are available to users of the Exchange Server on which it resides. It enables publication and administration of corporate mail apps, such as internally created apps and apps that are available in the Office Store and licensed for corporate use.

  • File-based app catalog   IT departments and developers can deploy task pane and content apps to a central file share, where the manifest files will be stored and managed. Users can then obtain apps by specifying this file share as a trusted catalog, or an IT administrator can configure this file share as a trusted catalog by using Group Policy.

You can manage and enforce apps for Office settings by using Group Policy settings that are available in the Office 2013 Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML) and Office Customization Tool. The settings are found under User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Microsoft Office 2013\Security Settings\Trust Center\Trusted Catalogs. The OCT settings are in corresponding locations on the Modify user settings page of the OCT.

The following table describes the Group Policy settings that manage apps for Office.

Group Policy settings for apps for Office

Setting name Description

Allow Unsecure Apps and Catalogs

Allows users to run nonsecure apps for Office, which are apps that have webpage or catalog locations that are not SSL-secured (https://), and are not in users' Internet zones.

Default Shared Folder Location

Allows you to set the URL for the Shared Folder from which users can insert apps into their Office documents.

Default SharePoint Catalog Location

Allows you to set the location of the SharePoint Catalog that is designated as Default. The apps for Office that are contained in the Default Catalog can be inserted into Office documents by users.

Block Apps for Office

Allows you to prevent users from using apps for Office.

Block the Office Store

Allows you to prevent users from using or inserting apps that come from the Office Store.

Trusted Catalog Location (#1-#10)

Sets the URL location of a Trusted SharePoint Catalog or Shared Folder Catalog. All apps for Office at this location are trusted so that users can work with these apps in their documents. However, the user cannot insert these apps into an Office document.

Telemetry Dashboard helps IT professionals monitor client computers to learn what Office solutions, add-ins, and documents are being used in an organization. You can use Telemetry Dashboard to monitor loads and load failures for apps for Office in Word, Excel, and Outlook. This information will tell you which apps for Office are frequently used in your organization and which apps for Office are experiencing errors. For more information, see Deploy Telemetry Dashboard.

You can control the performance of apps for Office by adding or changing performance-related threshold registry settings.

There are three ways for an administrator to set these registry keys, listed in the following tables. The following is the order that a host application checks for the existence of these keys:

  1. If the host application supports group policy for app resource usage, the host application first looks for a group policy key.

  2. In the absence of a group policy key, the host application looks for an application-specific registry key.

  3. If an application-specific key is absent, the host application looks for a global registry key.

  4. If the host application does not find a global registry key, the host application uses the corresponding default value.

For apps for Office, the settings in the following table can be added or changed in the registry. You can add these registry keys in the general Office hive UNDER HKLM:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\OSF

The global registry keys in the following table apply to all apps for Office, running on any Office rich client that supports apps for Office on the local computer.

These registry keys are not present by default in the Windows registry. Administrators create them initially if they want to fine-tune the performance of apps for Office Also, users must restart the corresponding host application for that application to recognize such settings.

NoteNote:
Only the Outlook 2013 rich client and mail apps support application-specific settings. You can create those in the Outlook hive:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\WEF\Outlook
However, it is better to use the Outlook 2013 group policy settings.

Performance-related registry settings for apps for Office

Value name Data type Value data

AlertInterval

DWORD

The number of seconds of the interval to check memory and CPU core usages. The default value is 5 seconds.

  • Maximum value = 600 seconds.

  • Minimum value = 5 seconds.

This setting governs how often a host application, like Word, checks memory and CPU core usage for a running app three times in a row. For example, if you use the default value of 5 seconds, the host application checks memory and CPU core usage 3 times, once every 5 seconds for a total duration of 15 seconds. The default threshold for CPU core usage is 90%.

If the app for Office requires more than the specified memory or CPU core usage when a memory or CPU core check occurs, the host application will:

  • Display a warning to the user if the app for Office is either a content app, or a task pane app.

  • Disable the app if the app for Office is a mail app.

MemoryAlertThreshold

DWORD

The physical memory usage limit, in MB, for an app for Office. Setting a key to 0 disables the check for that type of device.

  • Maximum value = 1,500 MB.

  • Minimum value = 0 MB.

By default, the host application determines the threshold based on the available physical memory on the device and does not use an absolute limit. When a host application detects that physical memory usage on a device exceeds 80% of the available memory, the client computer starts to monitor the memory usage of an app for Office. The memory usage is monitored at a document level for content and task pane apps, and at a mailbox level for mail apps. At an interval set by the AlertInterval setting, the client computer warns the user if physical memory usage for a set of apps for Office at the document or mailbox level exceeds 50%.

You can, however, explicitly use Group Policy to specify absolute MemoryAlertThreshold settings for client computers.

If the app for Office requires more than the specified memory alert threshold when a memory check occurs, the host application of a content or task pane app will display a warning to the user, and the host application of a mail app will automatically disable the app.

RestartManagerRetryLimit

DWORD

Tolerance for crashes. Specifies the maximum number of restart attempts for an app for Office that has crashed. The default is 4.

  • Maximum value= 11.

  • Minimum value = 2.

This setting governs the number of restarts that are used for a running app.

If the app requires more than the specified number of restarts during a session, the host application will automatically disable the app.

Outlook 2013 provides Group Policy settings to help you manage mail apps for Outlook. You can find them under User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Microsoft Outlook 2013\Security\Trust Center. If you are using the Windows based-installer (MSI) delivery format of Office 2013, you can use the OCT to set default settings that users can later change. OCT settings are in corresponding locations on the Modify user settings page of the OCT.

Performance-related Group Policy settings for mail apps

ImportantImportant:
These settings do not apply to Outlook Web App. However, if the activation limit causes a mail app for Outlook to be disabled in Outlook 2013, it will also be disabled in Outlook Web App.

The following table describes the Group Policy settings that manage mail apps for Outlook. The term "web extension" in the policy setting name refers to mail apps for Outlook.

Performance-related Group Policy settings for mail apps

Setting name Description

Specify activation disabling threshold for web extensions

Lets you specify the threshold that Outlook refers to before disabling a mail app for Outlook during activation.

Specify activation manager retry limit for web extensions

Lets you specify the retry limit Outlook uses before disabling a mail app for Outlook during activation.

Specify alert interval for web extensions

Lets you specify the alert interval Outlook uses before disabling a mail app for Outlook during initialization. The alert interval controls how often Office checks on memory and CPU usage for a running a mail app for Outlook.

Specify Outlook memory alert threshold for web extensions

Lets you specify the memory usage limit Outlook uses before disabling a mail app for Outlook during initialization. The memory alert threshold controls the maximum amount of virtual memory that can be used by a running mail app for Outlook.

Specify the number of restarts attempted for a running web extension.

Lets you specify the number of restart Outlook attempts for a running a mail app for Outlook.

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