Microsoft is getting ready for next version of Office Web Apps preview for SkyDrive

Microsoft Office Web AppsOffice 15 had been a hot topic recently in the press, with a series of screenshots leaked from the Office 15 technical preview. As part of the Office productivity suite, there is also a cloud-counterpart called Office Web Apps, which is expected to be updated along with Office 15. LiveSide recently learnt that Microsoft is currently preparing a Office Web Apps preview program, in which users will be able to opt-in and use the “newest features” when they create, view or edit an Office document in SkyDrive and Hotmail:

Office Web Apps Preview

We’ve previously reported that Office Web Apps on SkyDrive will soon support OpenDocument Formats (.odt, .odp, .ods) in addition to Microsoft Office’s Open XML formats (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx). However, nothing has been officially confirmed by Microsoft. But according to The Verge, Microsoft is also currently readying a Office web extensions platform called “Agaves”. Web developers will be able to create an area within Office applications that lets webpages interact with documents and augment content with extra features. It is said that “Agaves” will work with Office applications such as Excel, Word, Outlook and Project, as well as Excel and Outlook Web Apps. Below is an excerpt from The Verge:

The software giant is creating three different ways that “Agaves” can be integrated into Office applications – Task Pane, Content, and Contextual:

  • Task Pane Agaves will enable Office users to see an extension side-by-side with an Office document, allowing users to look up information from a web service based on a product name highlighted in a document.
  • Content Agaves will allow webpages to become part of a document as embedded content that can be shown in line with documents. Developers could use this functionality to integrate a YouTube video clip or a picture gallery.
  • Contextual Agaves will work on the Outlook side of Office and allow developers to display content with a particular mail or calendar item.

Developers can use technologies like HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, and REST to build “Agaves”, and Microsoft is encouraging developers to use Metro style in their implementations, focusing on content, typography, and touch usage. Microsoft is expected to surface “Agaves” in Office Marketplace later this year, where developers can publish and sell their custom Office extensions.

We expect the new Office Web Apps preview should come around the Office 15 public beta timeframe, which is said to be “later this summer”. What are some of the features or improvements that you’d like to see in the next major update of Office Web Apps? Let us know in the comments below!