Anyone with a paying Office 2013 subscription can access streamed versions of several popular Office applications from any PC, even those over which they have no control. This feature, called Office on Demand, lets you temporarily use a cloud-based version of an Office application without installing anything on the local PC.

Office on Demand is based on the Click-to-Run technologies that Microsoft has been evolving over the past few Office versions. I’ll examine Click-to-Run in a future Feature Focus article, but this feature uses Microsoft’s application virtualization technologies to dramatically simplify the process of installing Office on a PC. Office on Demand, meanwhile, takes Click-to-Run to a logical conclusion where licensed users can simply run an Office application as quickly as possible—in as little as 15 seconds, according to Microsoft—without installing it in the first place.

To see Office on Demand in action now, you will need to have created an Office 2013 Customer Preview account (of any kind: home, small business, or enterprise). Then, on a Windows-based PC on which you have not installed Office 2013, sign in to the Office Preview web site and navigate to My Office. The Office site will load collections of recent documents, recently accessed folders, and a set of Create New applications. Those latter links represent the individual Office on Demand applications you can stream to the PC.

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When you click one of these links-Word document, Excel spreadsheet, PowerPoint presentation, and so on—the site will prompt you to use a streaming version of the application you chose.

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Then, if this is the first time you’ve used this solution on the current PC, you’ll need to run a small executable that will prepare the PC for Office on Demand.

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Then, the application will begin streaming. 

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Within 15 or 30 seconds or so, the application should be up and running on the PC, and you’re able to get work done.

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When you close the application, it disappears from the PC and nothing is left behind.

Office on Demand is a fairly impressive capability, and a neat benefit of an Office 2013 subscription. It works quickly, provides the full feature set of each supported application—Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, Visio, and Project—and doesn’t require administrative rights on the PC you’re using. According to Microsoft, this feature will also be integrated into the next version of Office Web Apps so that the “open in [application]” links will trigger Office on Demand streams if the application isn’t installed locally.