Troubleshooting and Managing User Experience with Office Web Apps

Since our upgrade to SharePoint 2010 many looked at Office Web Apps being one of the big benefits. Here’s what we’ve been figuring out.

Common issues

  1. Binary legacy formats not supported in Office Web Apps – Most common reason office web apps isn’t working right on SharePoint is the file format isn’t what’s required. The file MUST be the 2007 or 2010 formats such as .XLSX, .DOCX, PPTX, etc… The .doc .xls .ppt, etc… isn’t supported, nor is .pdf, but that’s another story. If you’re looking for previewing capabilities outside of the newer open xml formats such as supporting the old binary formats.
  2. Site Collection feature not activated by default on upgraded sites – You’re not seeing view in browser or edit in browser, but sometimes when you click on the document it opens it up in the Office Web App. You’ll notice upgraded sites won’t have Office web apps on by default. You’ll need to activate the one that you want to use. You can change this by going into the Site Collection features and activating it.

Site Actions -> Site Settings -> Site Collection Features.

So what do you want to happen?

TechNet has some great resources for setting up Office Web Applications: Deploy Office Web Apps

Here’s a snippet from TechNet on configuring the default behavior for documents.

"Configure the default open behavior for documents

In SharePoint, you can configure whether browser-enabled documents are opened in a client application or in the browser. By default, when Office Web Apps is installed, Office documents will open in the browser. You can override this setting using the SharePoint OpenInClient feature. The OpenInClient feature can be configured in site collection administration or by using the SPFeature cmdlet in Windows PowerShell.

How documents open in SharePoint varies depending on whether the OpenInClient feature is present, and either enabled or disabled:

  • If the OpenInClient feature is not present and Office Web Apps is not installed, documents will open in the client application (SharePoint default).
  • If the OpenInClient feature is not present, Office Web Apps is installed and Office Web Apps service applications are activated, documents will open in the browser (Office Web Apps default).
  • If the OpenInClient Feature is present and enabled, and Office Web Apps service applications are activated, documents will open in the client application.
  • If the OpenInClient Feature is present and disabled, and Office Web Apps service applications are activated, documents in will open in the browser."

Figure: Example of dropdown on XLSX document where feature has been enabled

The other option is turning this feature on across all the upgraded site collections. Even visual upgrade will NOT activate the feature. You do not have to complete this procedure for new site collections that you create after you have installed Office Web Apps.

If a user has view items permissions instead of read, they only have the option of viewing in the browser. Previous experience before Office Web Apps was installed they could click on the file and it would open read only. The open items right should get around this. Use remote interfaces would provide explorer view.

You can activate it via powershell for one site collection, replace <SiteCollURL> with the URL of the Site collection(s). Add the code below with the variable added and save it as ActivateWAConSiteCollection.ps1 then run .ActivateWAConSiteCollection.ps1 as administrator.

$webAppsFeatureId = $(Get-SPFeature -limit all | where {$_.displayname -eq "OfficeWebApps"}).ID

$singleSiteCollection = Get-SPSite -Identity <SiteCollURL>

Enable-SPFeature $webAppsFeatureId -Url $singleSiteCollection.URL


Activate Office Web Apps on ALL Site Collections

If you decide you want the default behavior to NOT open in the client you can activate it across all site collections. Add the code below with the variable added and save it as ActivateWAConALLSiteCollections.ps1 then run .ActivateWAConALLSiteCollections.ps1 as administrator.

$webAppsFeatureId = $(Get-SPFeature -limit all | where {$_.displayname -eq "OfficeWebApps"}).ID

Get-SPSite -limit ALL | foreach {Enable-SPFeature $webAppsFeatureId -url $_.URL}


We will be running this powershell script even for sites yet not visually upgraded. We want people to start taking advantage of the great features. In fact I’m finding it comes down to the drop down. Users won’t even see the option to view in browser in the drop down, but if they click the document in the list it will open in the browser. This is happening for non visually upgraded sites.


  1. Make sure the Service App is started. Make sure the permissions are setup properly to the databases, Service App App Pool of the Office Web App App Pool needs DBO on all content databases. (Thanks Todd Klindt)


  1. Troubleshooting performance of Office Web Apps. Developer Dashboard doesn’t display on Screen.

You’ll notice that these Office Web Apps won’t render the developer dashboard, but to my surprise the performance data for the developer dashboard is on screen.

  • One Note
  • Word
  • Excel

Viewing the source you’ll find snippets of performance goodness:

proc_GetTpWebMetaDataAndListMetaData</a></td><td nowrap>

<span title="The SQL queries performed during this operation.">5.48 ms</span>

The PowerPoint Office Web App does displays the dev dashboard:

Additionally there are a few powershell commandlets that directly relate to the Office Web Apps. TechNet has a great list of powershell commandlets for Office Web Apps.


Other resources and topics around Troubleshooting for Office Web Apps:

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