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Making Customer’s Lives Easier with Microsoft Office Preview

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Viewing a Microsoft Office document while on the go can sometimes be a frustrating experience-especially if you don’t have Office on your computer. Even with Office on your computer, you still need to download the document, then wait for it to open; which can be a hassle if you wanted to quickly view the document. A commonly requested feature was to enable users to preview a document in the browser on the iGrafx Platform without downloading the document first.

We first approached the problem trying various free libraries (Apache POI, Docx4J and JODConverter) but didn’t like the resolution, accuracy, format support and documentation, so we started trialing some paid libraries. Our first attempt to create document previews were in Word to get a baseline of implementation difficulty, and the document support we were looking for. Many of the libraries we tried didn’t have good documentation, and their API’s were confusing. The best one, and the one we decided to use, was the Apose Library which now enables us to preview Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. While the implementation for each format we now support wasn’t perfect, it was far better than the alternatives. We liked this library as it still allows the user to search for items in the preview rather than displaying the preview in an unsearchable image format. This feature, while subtle, is important when previewing long documents when time is of the essence. We can also support old office document formats making this feature incredibly useful. Now when you upload an external file; any text, PDF, Microsoft Word®, Microsoft Excel®, and Microsoft PowerPoint® documents can be previewed in browser, without downloading the file first!

We are excited to use this library as it gives us future feature support we can enable, such as better PDF integration, Microsoft Outlook® email, Microsoft Project®, and Microsoft OneNote® previews and much more.

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