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Office 365 is being completely rewritten in JavaScript (twitter.com)
393 points by mhoad on June 13, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 437 comments

As a side note, Microsoft login echo system sucks big time in the context of office. You have no idea which URL to use to login to office 365. Between login/logout/timeout/other office apps/personal accounts/business accounts/forgot password workflows browser redirects to various URLs at least a dozen times. And you keep seeing new URLs I am wondering how less tech savvy people are coping with their authentication workflow.

Depending on how you are authenticating you will see URLs with various words in them.

loginlive office.com outlook.office.com office365 outlook.com account.live products.office.com login.microsoftonline.com

and this list goes on and on... I am wondering if they made an announcement that they are fixing their messy authentication workflow instead spending resources in rewriting office in JavaScript, that would have gotten this much attention on hacker news.

When you have multiple accounts it's even worse - especially if you've got a work account with domain authentication, a private one with 2-factor, a sub-account email under another...

I'm usually pretty savvy about typing information into a rando web form, but with windows logins it's a major chore to figure out what exactly I'm looking at.

I hope they staff up to meet the 18-month rewrite cycle for modern JS apps. I'll stick with my 2003 version on the desktop for now.

This reality bit me when my Skype account was rolled into Microsoft's Live/Outlook/something system. Both accounts had the same email address, and suddenly my Skype account was no longer accessible. I finally figured out how to delete the non-Skype account, but it was a major pain and I had to wait 60 days for it to finally go away.

I often go to outlook 365 to view mail and it logs me out. No reason. I didn't go to the logout url. Just logs me out. Happens almost every day now. Sometimes I get a content corrupted error. I have no idea what that even means and I've been doing web development for over a decade. There are at least two ways to reset your password and they each have different, incompatible password requirements with each other. And finally, I'm asked to change my password constantly and to follow stupid password rules as if my random 32 character string needs rotating. If this is the new Microsoft, it's just like the old Microsoft: absolute fucking shit. Garbage that now spies on us. We switched to MS email from zoho, a system that looks like it was last updated in the 90's and it's an absolute total disaster in comparison. I guess they're too busy rewriting everything badly in Javascript to care about actual, real user and UI issues, however. That's another stupid idea in of itself, but since I'm using a version of Office that no longer even gets security updates, it's irrelevant as I will likely never upgrade. If this is the changed Microsoft, I prefer 90's Microsoft. At least they didn't pretend they were something they were not, nor pretend like they actually care about users or developers, something they clearly don't.

All public facing URLs should go through Marketing. On macOS, when an Apple app contacts an Apple service and my firewall shows me the domain/host, it almost always looks very thoughtful and pretty. Compare that to MS Office on macOS. So many different requested domains with no thought and coherence behind them.

Have you ever looked at a WebObjects/iTunes URL?

My favorite thing I noticed recently; if you buy a book on the Microsoft Store and open it in a web browser, the url is hosted on zune.net. What year is this?!

Oh it gets better. If you look at the appx package names for "Groove music" and a couple others they're still Microsoft.Zune prefixed

Thats because the team that wrote Groove Music (and Movies & TV) originated from the Zune desktop player and Windows Media Center. In fact it still used a lot of core code from the Zune days for things like library management and DRM.

Source: former dev on the team.

The Zune desktop app has to be the best music player I've ever used, it was awesome. I continued to use it long after I moved on from my Zune HD. Sad to see something so awesome abandoned.

The UWP music player is slowly but surely shaping up into something just as good, if it weren't for the comical UI density.

Appx package names seem almost entirely uninteresting and most consumers will never look at them. Why would anyone bother changing them?

Disclosure: Microsoft employee, but not on Groove (or anything related to appx packages for that matter)

The thing is, they created the name when Zune was already dead lol

Doubt it. Even if the app wasn’t published previously, it likely descended from existing code that already carried the name.

I work on a codebase that still carries product names that stopped being meaningful almost a decade ago. No value in renaming across the codebase and it’d be expensive because of how much code has to be touched.

It's a huge problem for MS login flows and Google's login flows. As they absorbed various disparate products with various logins and tried to force a unified login flow on all of them they end up with a mess.

For Google, see the very many failings here: https://grumpy.website/post/0PU1U2r3v. Someone (me?) should do the same for MS.

Everybody I support at my office gets super confused about this. Add on top of that local vs web versions of every app, plus UWP vs standard desktop applications (OneNote, OneDrive). Plus naming conventions that change, and applications that have 70% overlap. Just use the classic portal for this, and the new portal for that...

Heaven help you if you have multiple accounts. Logging in and out remains dicey after all these years.

Recently got caught in a loop of trying to create an Office 365 account and being told that my email is already in use, then trying to say that I forgot my password and was told that my email is not associated with an account.

I wonder at what point the number of domains and subdomains that you can log into becomes its own phishing vector. At least with most services, you can look in the URL and pretty quickly know whether or not you're in the right place!

Some login servers that you go through, like Skype's, share the same IP address that many "anti-telemetry tools for Windows (10)" are blocking.

That has to be a deliberate choice on the part of Microsoft.

They recently improved this to make it easier. I think they realize that it can get pretty complicated.

When will that be rolling out? Hopefully soon since as of this morning it is still a nightmare.

Hi there, original tweeter here. Just to clarify: no one said when this work would land, simply that we are working on it! Sorry to disappoint XD, but I guess blame the OP.

Does this mean that VBA will finally die?

Please tell me that VBA will finally die.

As much as I can imagine MS would love to kill VBA it would be a major loss of business if they did. Oil and Gas lives in the stuff and would probably even sue MS if VBA died. That said could it be getting a much needed fixup... probably. I suspect the same is true of COM plugins.

I rewrote a 3000 line VBA function into C# earlier this year for a Oil/Gas company. It was surprisingly easy. Sometimes tedious, but easy. It runs faster, it's easier to maintain and now they can slap whatever front-end they want on it.

Is it money, fear or gatekeeping that keeps these VBA programs untouchable?

Probably all three.

I used to be in the Medical Devices field. A couple years ago, I was told to add a feature to a massive VBA app hosted in Excel that we (S/W development) inherited from another department. It was hands down the worst code I have ever seen. Everything was a global variable. I flat out told my boss that it barely worked, didn't come close to meeting the weakest of our development standards, and since it was used to disposition product (determine whether or not it was acceptable to be used on Patients) it was an FDA audit nightmare waiting to happen. I added the features, but made some pretty unpleasant commit comments since I didn't want to have my fingerprints all over it.

In all fairness, it was originally developed by a scientist with no SW dev training (I knew him well) for his own use, and just grew over the years as he was told to add more features to it. I have no idea how a company with that level of process strictness ever allowed this fiasco to happen.

[rant over]

I estimated the rewrite at 6-12 months. It was really not a very complex program and since we already had the Validation tests written and documented, we at least knew what tests its replacement would need to pass. The problem was all the stuff that we knew it was doing that wasn't in any of the tests. That would have been the majority of time spent to replace it.

Since I left, I heard ownership of it was transferred to Corporate IT and they were making it into a web app to run on their intranet. Heaven help those guys.

> Since I left, I heard ownership of it was transferred to Corporate IT and they were making it into a web app to run on their intranet. Heaven help those guys.

At my last job, I developed automated processes. Some software companies sell tools to automate clicks and keypresses. The idea is then to reuse that Excel macro no one understands inside a VM on a server, and adding a friendly webservice on top of it. Users of the web services don't know an actual screen is running and and an Excel file is being clicked for them.

It's simply that the people doing the development only get to use VBA. Not that having a chemical engineer teach themself C# over their lunch break is going to turn out great software...

Having worked at a big company as a mechanical engineer and produced a few crappy VBA apps, I did it because it would take significantly more time and effort to get approval for an IT project, than to learn VBA and do it myself.

Most of them aren't maintained by technical people. Someone wrote some excel file years ago and every month it's copy pasted and the new data put in place of the old and it usually works until it doesn't.

For me it's time, but I guess that's just money...

> Is it money, fear or gatekeeping that keeps these VBA programs untouchable?

I was involved in work with a regional financial institution. They had a suite of line-of-business apps written in Access and VBA.[0] This was in a pure support and maintenance mode. This series of apps was written over the course of a decade by one developer nee business user. It represented a literal Great Wall of Chesterton.[1] There was so much process and institutional knowledge tied into this suite and the original developer left after being absorbed into the IT organization.

Some fun observations from work that was done on this suite of applications:

- "We can tell where the original developer learned various programming techniques and when something was written based on that."

- There was a source control and deployment app written entirely in Access DBs and VBA

- There were two scheduling applications, one designed to replace the other, but the first never fully retired. These launched jobs based on dependencies and timings.

- The applications ran in Access 2010. No upgrade was possible due to observed breakages when attempting to change.

- A Windows security update caused an outage for a day.

- Some data was centralized into a SQL Server instance and Access was a thin app layer on these tables. Others held data in the Access database.

- Different apps could reach into and run arbitrary queries on data of other apps. This was sort of RPC. Huge spooky action at a distance.

- There is a ticking time bomb based on Access database size limits. They run compaction jobs on a regular basis, with increasing frequency. One of the core apps will simply stop working one day in the not so distant future when its database cannot be compacted to be smaller than the Jet engine limit of 2GB.

I mentioned that this thing was in perennial support and maintenance mode. There were several assessments over the years for a migration to .Net. All were eventually scuttled due to cost and fear of functionality shifts. No one knew if what was there was correct, and some of the bugs we fixed demonstrated that there was plenty that was incorrect, though scope and impact were difficult to measure. No one wanted to own a migration due to the likely fallout. Different would be wrong, even in the face of huge evidence to the contrary. A C-suite executive was ousted largely over this suite of applications. The Access lives on.

Eventually a migration, in part or whole, will be necessary. It will be expensive. It will be painful. Each day increases the expense and pain. But every day, it is cheaper and easier to run and maintain.

[0] This thing hit commercial and customer facing processes, internal things like HR, letter generation, asset management, and basic reporting, among other things.

[1] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Chesterton%27s_fence

Note: Throwaway because of the level of detail

I'm in Oil and Gas app dev, we are .net with no VBA. I guess I'm lucky.

Don't count yourself so sure - A lot of shadow IT gets done by that excel expert in finance or the engineer who took a programming elective. If anyone ever gave them a database login password, odds are they're pulling into excel or access and writing VBA!

I dealt with it peripherally in my last job. Apparently the only reason Office has a 64bit version at all is Oil and Gas was causing Excel to run out of ram and demanded it. We were developing a COM addin, and we had clients complain that we broke some of their VBA they were using (turned out it was another VBA addin they were using that wasn't doing proper error handling). But it was definitely common for us to see clients that were deep into VBA.

Dev in finance here, VBA gets used more than I care to think about.

My last job in finance(still am in finance fwiw) used much more VBA to price out billion-dollar swaps and swaptions than I was comfortable admitting to...

Killing VBA would be a business error, deprecating it with proper transition (language analysis, translation) would be a business hygiene.

There are COBOL programs still running. I wouldn't get your hopes up.

VBA is really useful and it's not like there is something to replace it, so I hope it does not die.

Lua, Python, Ruby, ...?

Can you embed any of those in Office documents? No.

If it has a library that provides interop with the Common Language Runtime, then it's the next best thing.

And by the next "best" thing, I actually mean the next worst thing, because I've written apps that interop with VBA macros and no man or woman should ever suffer such an experience.

Writing apps to interop with VBA may be terrible, but embedding VBA in documents is a really useful feature that doesn't require your users to have a bunch of runtimes installed.

when you say rewritten in JavaScript, you mean acutally rewritten or just cross compiled to Javascript ? Or a bit of both ?

Happy to take the blame :) It was too interesting a tidbit not to share though.

not your blame to take, perhaps its the guy who is vaguely tweeting without official capacity to do so...

No harm done <3

Why not Typescript, btw?

I'd almost guarantee that it's Typescript. But being a superset of Javascript, it's still correct to call it Javascript.

It's really not. YAML is a superset of JSON, but you wouldn't call a YAML document a JSON document. The set of all colors is a superset of the set containing only orange, but calling every color orange makes no sense.

I don't think it's exactly right to call it a superset either..

It adds types and constraints that have no effect on the resulting transpiled code besides an insurance that said type constraints are being met.

To better illustrate what I mean, in the start of a Unix script you sometimes have them augmented with #!interpreter. But this extra contextual information is not a superset of the scripting language itself. Likewise Typescript is also an augmentation that lives within the code that provides contextual information to the Typescript transpiler itself, but does not necessarily effect the actuall produced JavaScript.

I see your point and not necessarily disagreeing, but noting the creators of typescript refer to it as a superset.

All colours don't boil down to "orange" in Human eyes, so calling all colours orange really would be pointless. Typescript does compile down to JS, without which it can't even run. So yeah, when you're talking about the runtime or performance, Typescript === Javascript.

> Typescript does compile down to JS, without which it can't even run. So yeah, when you're talking about the runtime or performance, Typescript === Javascript.

By this kind of logic, C++ === machine code. It compiles down to it, right?

It's really kinda both, but context sensitive.

It's the other way around - if A is a superset of B, it's correct to call B as A, but not to call A as B.

Does that mean full, desktop version of Office 365 or only the web browser versions of Excel, etc?

> blame the OP

What did he write that you did not?

I know the architecture too good, more than I need as I was leaving MS recently. This tweet is not likely to happen. Talking about desktop apps, this doesn't make any sense. Office apps have millions of lines in code and many years of lost knowledge between the classes. Just too many screens, checkboxes and features. A complete bloatware. Buy MS doesn't take any feature off the app- if you have 1B users, most likely that any minor feature cut will hurt some of them, hundred of thousand of them, and they are probably paying, not free riders. Any new office version only hides features, letting this small users group to get them back, never deleting lines of code. MS doesn't want to get billions fined as happend when they moved to docx/pptx/xlsx and didn't support backwards.

Talking about the online versions of office, it is a mess. For Word and PPT they tried to replicate the desktop to the web, rewriting the code, so their current online versions are already using (mostly) new code dedicated for the web. Saying that, they also have a huge number of legacy components and features that they need to support for backward compatibility.So for word and ppt this is a mix in code, not a total re-write. They also have a substantial subset of the features that appear only in their older desktop brothers. Even the PMs don't dare to dream on features parity between the versions.

Excel is a different world and a big-big elephant that won't likely be rewritten any years soon. Think of a code that is maintained over 30 years. Literally, developers are still maintaining code written in the 90s. Trying to bring Excel to the online world made MS create an architecture of html frontend which communicates with a dll session behind the scenes. As weird as it sounds, this dll lives as long as the browser has the spreadsheet opened. Think of it as MS raising VM for every excel file that is opened over the internet. While this is not very cost effective (saying the least) and not very performance friendly (hey ma! I made an understatement) this allowed them to move forward with Excel online very quickly by having a UI communicating with the bloatware dll that runs on the background in Azure. Summarizing Excel, it probably won't also be rewritten in js.

So this PM might be talking about the new apps - Teams or flow or something similar. Not the office cash cows. Personally I really hope he is talking about Skype which became a total garbage in the past versions.

Anyone from Google here? I'm looking for a job :-) ping me (chengmau) in the blind app

The way I see it, even saying that this is the goal is bad news. It's basically an official admission that Microsoft intends to abandon the Desktop OS entirely. Windows 10's bullshit isn't just some bump in the road that would eventually be recognized as the bad idea that it is, it's a deliberate move to push people off of Windows Desktop and on to Windows tablets, smartphones, and a desktop web kiosk. Windows as a personal computing Desktop OS would be completely dead, and given the state of the alternatives that means that personal computing desktops are also dead. Everything will be a web kiosk or a console.

It's pretty much exactly the scenario of my nightmares.

> Windows as a personal computing Desktop OS would be completely dead, and given the state of the alternatives that means that personal computing desktops are also dead.

Maybe, or maybe it would open up an opportunity for more competition. Who knows? Maybe the year of the Linux desktop is still coming :)

Sure, if a comet takes out pretty much the entirety of the current Linux Desktop community at OverengineeringCon 2020 or something and some reasonable people take it over.

Microsoft already has one extremely successful JS/Electron-based desktop app in VS Code.

Is it possible there will simply be "Office 365" standalone apps that are basically just baked-down versions of the web apps (like typical Electron style apps), but distinct from the official desktop apps? I could see there being some utility to this such as speed vs running in the browser, large-scale enterprise deployment, convenience reasons (why I always run the standalone Slack app myself), etc..

I've always been curious... are the Word and Excel layout engines more complex than HTML+CSS+SVG?

Not in terms of code bloat/complexity (these exist in both, as you've just described), but in terms of engine size, drive-ability, edge-case handling, etc.

It's probably a hard question to answer; it's (for some reason) hard for me to articulate exactly what I mean too.

And regarding Excel-literally-in-the-cloud... is that why Microsoft needed to make Azure? :P

holy cow, I created an email for that - chengmauchengmau@gmail.com

Why not C#? Seems a bit of a missed opportunity to feed some of the APIs undoubtedly created for this into the new .net core stuff. I guess i'll just keep dreaming of the day when i can reliably convert a docx into a pdf without using office interop.

Reading this thread, with all the Javascript talk, makes me feel like I should be scared of continuing to be a C# developer..

I had to like really think 10 times over, to comment or not, being a PHP dev....

Don't think that'll be an issue. Just sad to not see .NET Core finally get a UI layer added on. They're investing in ASP .NET Core its a nice back-end ecosystem.

I made this change back in 2011 when the Windows 8 developer preview with WinRT single-handedly annihilated all the WPF & Silverlight consulting work. The writing was on the wall for months, but for me the last straw was the JavaScript WinRT apps.

There is still work for COBOL developers. I don't think C/++/#/etc. work will be going away any time soon.

Office client never used .net or C# to begin with

Actually at one point they went very close to replace VBA with .net. It was called VSTA and meant to be a mini visual studio in office apps. I believe one of the office apps shipped with it in Office 2007, then they killed it.

VSTO, right?

Nope. VSTO actually shipped and is used to create office addins. VSTA was an embedded IDE.

This is the confusing part for me, yes. Javascript is fine and well, but C# seems the better choice in general here.

What makes it the better choice in this situation? C# can't run in browsers whereas Office 365 can.

You mean JavaScript not Office 365 right? They are working on compiling C# to Web Assembly FYI.

IE11 will never support wasm, so I suspect wasm isn't their first choice eh

This is a good point. MS has agreed to support IE11 until 2025. I'm not sure if that means they have an internal mandate that Office 365 must work with IE11, but I wouldn't be surprised. Those poor poor MS developers.

I wouldn't call them "poor" in this case. WASM is super cool and has a hopeful future, but productionizing wasm apps is currently still quite difficult in practice - it's still missing a lot of relevant tooling (debugging is hard)

Well, blazor exists now, so that's not totally true.

They are actually using Typescript, and this will lead to less friction wrt hiring devs, supporting all those platforms and integrating web components. Still I would have hoped that MS would be a little more forward thinking, and put some of their MSR tech in good use, to encourage the use of better languages. Just like how Facebook is pushing ReasonML.

I think that the C# focus of .NET is a major mistake holding the platform back, especially when we have languages like F#, Scala, Swift, ReasonML and Rust these days.

How do you know they're doing that? Not that it doesn't make total sense to use TypeScript from any angle I can imagine.

> I think that the C# focus of .NET is a major mistake holding the platform back, especially when we have languages like F#, Scala, Swift, ReasonML and Rust these days.

Yeah F# is really nice, but the IDE support is kinda meh. Also .Net expects you to embrace nil at a lot of points which doesn't gel so nice with F#. But Swift has a worse problem with Objective-C-isms but being a first class citizen really helps as they make a lot of API's really better to use with Swift.

I wonder if it has anything to do with their being more JS developers than C# developers. Though, I imagine the average C# developer is a better programmer than the average JS programmer, but since quality is often a function of quantity, maybe there are going the later route. Or maybe it's something entirely different ;-)

> to do with their being more JS developers than C# developers.

My boss told me there was no future banging out C on small embedded processors. 25 years later there is always work because there are so few people who can still do it. When 80% of programmers can't do anything other than JavaScript they'll be more than plenty of work for the other 20%

I'm guessing that in this case they're only talking about the "office software running in the browser" version of Office 365, not the "subscription pricing model for the desktop suite" version.

Except they actually are talking about all the versions, including desktop apps.

Source? Edit: Never mind; the later tweets confirm they are using Electron and React-Native. Madness!

I'm guessing they're just going to ship an Electron app and they won't be different codebases any more.

On Windows 10, they will target WinRT on UWP, with Fluent Design UI. Not Electron.

Not wrong, see the Windows 10 OneNote app for example, which already uses Typescript on WinRT/UWP. An Electron target will only be for legacy platforms, like Windows 7 and 8.

Also see https://www.thurrott.com/cloud/office-365/161295/microsoft-r...

It's funny that the "new, simplified ribbon" in Thurott's screenshot looks a lot like the old interface in Office 2000.

It's interesting they're using Electron for Win7/Win8 when React Native for Windows has a WPF rendered that works nicely on Win7 and 8. Perhaps they just found that maintaining two slightly different RN office apps for Windows wasn't worth the effort given the declining market share of the older Windows versions.

So much for "learn once, write anywhere".

Why at all? I would expect, long term, the ideal solution for a “run in browser” solution would be WebAssembly, possibly with JavaScript glue to the DOM. If so, they probably can keep large paths of their existing code base.

Also, I expect the existing code base isn’t small, so a rewrite won’t be ready soon.

That makes cross-compiling from whatever they have now to WebAssembly or JavaScript seem even better options.

Well TFA is about a big-time rewrite of Office into JavaScript, so at least MS doesn't appear to see any perspective in WASM.

Considering they are uniquely positioned to make it happen given their C# buy-in and probably more than just a bit of existing software to leverage, I'd say this is as strong a signal of non-endorsement as it gets.

I don't think we can read that much into it. The tweet says the project is nearly finished, and this doesn't sound like a small effort — so it would have started either before WASM was really a thing or when WASM was still a very risky bet. I mean, I don't imagine they'll be jumping to WASM, but I don't think we can read it as "they're deliberately not endorsing WASM" so much as "WASM is still quite new."

C# doesn’t easily compile to the web. This is why they are rewriting office 365 in the first place right?

They just demoed running a winforms app in the browser using .NET CORE so maybe it would be less work/more successful to explore this path instead of trying to somehow re-implement the oxygen-sucking monster that is Excel using only the "new hotness (tm)".

I bet this is only the new stuff like Delve and the less functional, more social apps/components. I can't imagine how they could pull this off for a full version of Excel or even Word or PP..

They are doing some of those tricks now with the current office 365. I assume they just want to migrate away from those tricks because they have drawbacks.

Besides, office currently isn’t written. In .net, they would be migrating away from C++ code.

Really? Is there a link to this demo anywhere? Seems neat


DOM access?

Surprised they didn’t opt for Typescript. Then again, it’s a tweet - looking forward to a longer blog post with technical details when they’re willing to talk about it more.

> Surprised they didn’t opt for Typescript.

I assume that they have. Typescript compiles down to Javascript so the tweet is technically correct (written in TS, executed in JS) and there are many out there who won't have a clue what TS is but have at least some grasp of what JS is so JS was probably stated instead of TS to avoid confusion amongst the unwashed masses.

The tweet mentions Visual Studio Code which uses Typescript.

Oh god please I hope they have. In my experience, dynamically typed scripting languages struggle to keep up with the rigorous structure enforced by statically typed languages once the project gets large enough.

Yes, in theory you _can_ write big projects well in dynamically typed languages, but in practice you get a mess of undocumented interfaces and unit tests that don't quite catch the plethora of errors not present when a static type system is in place.

I think Typescript is a great middle ground between the loose running JS hipsters and the Haskell loving Hindley-Milner type system CS researchers. You can enforce the type restraints that you want (I personally am strict about explicit "string | null" declarations) but you're still hip enough to draw the JS talent.

Typescript doesn’t have much Hindley Milner in it since it has way too much sub typing (even if it’s all structural).

Too bad they didn't go with row types instead of structural sub-typing. Though that might not have matched with their goals of being able to type existing JavaScript. Not sure.

Exactly. Going structural was purely to match JavaScript interop. Heck, even Dart went with nominal sub typing, it isn’t a very common choice fo an non-functional language.

Javascript can still mean that Typescript is used.

I'm willing to bet money that MS is actually using Typescript for almost all their Javascript.

I accept that bet! Let's discuss offline.

But if somebody writes in Objective C, the C parts don't make it C.

They do. Objective C is a superset of C.

C++ used to be a superset of C too before they diverged, but Objective C and C++ are/were viewed, correctly, as different languages from the same family.

Or most likely WebAssembler...

Office for Windows (WIN32) will be an Electron app? I have no words.

edit, since there seems to be some confusion: I am explicitly talking about the WIN32 variant, which he confirmed to be based on Electron.

    "No they are not electron apps. They are compiled to native code.
    It's now finally one toolchain(#webpack)
    It's one codebase and it compiles to:
    WIN32 (only one that uses electron)
    7:52 AM · Jun 13, 2018"

He says so in another tweet/reply.


See above (last line).

comment seems to be saying -- in modern windows (UWP) it'll be using native code, but microsoft is taking the easy path on win32. i guess some people are surprised that despite years of telling people that win32 is going away microsoft is finally making good. but I am not, I'm more excited than anything at another good sign that Microsoft is finally done with legacy windows.

> Microsoft is finally done with legacy windows.

It's kind of sad; all the good stuff I use is basically legacy Windows. None of what Microsoft has done since Windows 7 has appealed to me.

Yeah, it's all been less functional and slower. That's the future of computing now.

Hell, I hate all my old software just working too. I'd much rather get half-baked versions of everything that don't have all the same features.

I’m an engineer in Office. This is not the case. The desktop app’s are fully native, and will remain so. They utilize React Native for a few components, but otherwise are written in C & C++.

Thanks for clarifying this nonsense.

So, what the hell was this guy tweeting about?

In my experience most people in Microsoft have only a vague idea of what other teams are doing, even when none of it is really secret. If Office is starting to adopt React Native for some of its new UI components, and meanwhile there's a lot of work happening on the Office 365 web portal and Office web apps, internal telephone rumor circulation can morph that into "all of Office is being rewritten in javascript"

Nobody who truly participated in or contributed to the "complete" rewriting of Office in JS would be capable of expressing the positive emotions the subject of OP does...their soul would have been drained of the capacity to express joy long before the project would be completed. The tone smacks of the delusional cluelessness that MSFT's culture seems to uniquely foster.


Whoever makes the first neural model capable of returning interesting insights after being installed in the telephone switchboard/backbone is going to have a most unique life.

Edit: Just realized ISPs have probably been trying to do this for years. I'm talking about the first individual. It'll probably happen routinely in 20 years or so.

I was referring to the metaphorical game of "telephone", not literal telephones.

Office for Windows has components written in react-native? Really? Any examples?

The whole thread and all later clarifications just look like a guy spewing random stuff loosely related with what he's working on at Microsoft. There's not much meaningful information to take from there.

Nah it's fine, just upgrade to Win10 and buy your license through the windows store! UWP isn't using electron!

What's that? Win32 a second class citizen? Never!

UWP doesn't run on win7. If you think getting rid of WinXP was hard, wait to see the phasing out of Win7. If you write for the desktop, chances are you are writing an internal app. Lots of large enterprises (including my present employer) just switched to Win7. Win10 is a looong way ahead. A significant part of your userbase won't be able to touch a UWP app for a long time.

I wish Win10 never happened, but: How does your employer aquire hardware for win7? We have trouble buying Thinkpads that still run win7.

It was a very smart move of MS to kill newer chipsets :-(

If they hadn't done that, win10 would have completely tanked

Isn't it about time? The "32" ought to be a clue...

So? When were the POSIX APIs designed? Probably before 16 bit was common. By that logic we should migrate off that as well.

In all fairness there are a fair number of POSIX APIs that are dangerous and need to be deprecated and removed.

Yeah, probably.

From what I understand they are using React Native.

I too find it hard to believe they would drop the native Windows and OSX versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, for apps written in React Native. But Microsoft has offered many surprises lately...

We're talking 50M SLOC and 20+ years of development for native platforms. I highly doubt that they will let that go in favor of an JS app.

If they can charge for a subscription they will let all of that go in favor of an JS app.

Outlook on the web is certainly better than the application on windows... word won't be too hard. Now excel, that's the one I'd be surprised to see.

Try doing a mail merge in owa

Not totally true because:

> WIN32 (only one that uses electron)

which happens to be the version most people use.

This isn't Office for Windows the suite. WIN32 is a platform they're not really supporting any more, I think they're basically saying if you're on WIN32 then you're getting the web version in future, not the real deal.

I wonder how often NoScript maintainers just feel like throwing in the towel.

I often wish we could just fork off the modern web and redo things the right way.

If you figure out how to build a cross-platform application distribution mechanism that is better than the modern web, please do let us know!

I sure will.

The challenge here is social. The Web has fist-mover advantage. Also, I fear that doing it the right way would be equivalent to forcing standardization on a single operating system (or a family of systems).

"Doing it the right way" is a fictitious concept in software development.

You will have built a beautiful language/Web for today's needs, 10 years too late. And as the needs mutate you'll try to mutate with it, and that's how we get JavaScript.

The Web has fist-mover advantage.

Typo reveals essential truth.

You would inevitably just end up re-implementing a shittier Web with less features and no adoption. A waste of time.

In the best case scenario you implement something almost identical to the current web which is only slightly better, and therefore not worth moving the entire world over to your stack just to get these minor improvements.


One Day Microsoft made VSCode and everyone loves them.

The Second day Microsoft decide to buy GitHub and everyone were flocking off to Gitlab, everyone hates them.

Now they are moving to the biblical end of computing era by making every Javascript.

May be they will even Open Source the Windows Kernel some day.

If, by "everyone", you mean "everyone as in everyone who's currently having strong enough feelings about this thing to make a bunch of noise about it on the Internet." Which is probably a much smaller and more variable set than "everyone as in every single person."

They've released DOS http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/microsoft-ms-dos-early-... Word 1.1 http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/microsoft-word-for-wind... and WinFile (an old version but updated to run on Win10) https://github.com/Microsoft/winfile I'm sure they'll get to the kernel eventually!

Integrating blockchain into MS paint is the final prophecy before the Microsoftcalypse

May be they will even Open Source the Windows Kernel some day.

Only after they have rewritten it in JavaScript.

Now they are moving to the biblical end of computing era by making every Javascript. Does that means the apocalypse is upon us?

Are they trying to give hardware sales a nudge by writing everything as inefficiently as possible?

The tweet that the OP is quoting/responding to is interesting:


> Tip of the day.

> Scripting languages as first programming language for CS bachelors are WRONG. You are not able to write an OS, a DBMS, or even an Office suite with an scripting language.

I honestly thought this was a satire tweet. I guess I just don't associate even a CS bachelor's degree with writing that kind of software. I mean, it can, but there are more theoretical tracks that don't involve writing a OS/DBMS.

I very much agree that this is a broken line of argumentation.

However, I find the opinion to be correct: Scripting languages might not be a good first programming language for a CS bachelor, where priority is deep learning of programming. I'd also argue that JavaScript would be a bad candidate, as it is a very "unclean" language, being a poor way to teach language/compiler theory.

As a first practical programming language for a non-CS bachelor, scripting languages are fine. Without CS courses to support you, other approaches might be too difficult, while scripting languages often let you get (terrible) programs up and running (ish) while ignoring basically all CS aspects during the learning phase (only while you're not making anything big, though—the "high level" illusion breaks down fast as things grow).

(Also, yes, you can write a DBMS or an Office suite in a scripting language. I can't possibly comprehend why you'd want to do something like that, but it's very much possible. Bringing OS's into things is cheating, as most compiled languages can't be used there either, and those that work often only work with a subset of the full language.)

You can't deeply learn programming in a language like assembly or even C. You don't have enough expressiveness to tackle large-scale problems (like office suites or DBs!) within the scope of what one person can work on in one semester; you'd be spending your time thinking about how to implement a hash table instead of how to use one.

One of the nice things about so-called scripting languages is the breadth of library support. If you want to put together a GUI that displays some word-wrapped text, you can do that within the first hour of using the language, if you have some homework instructions you're following. At that point you can think about the interesting parts of writing a word processor, and not just how to put a window on screen (which tends to be more about docs and APIs and not about actual computer science). Also, importantly, at that point you've successfully done something, which is pretty important for the learning process.

> for a CS bachelor, where priority is deep learning of programming

The priority is deep learning of computer science, not of programming.

I think JavaScript is a fine language for teaching a lot of CS basics. For example you could run a course based on SICP using JavaScript instead of Scheme, I believe.

I get the depressing feeling that a lot of Javascript programmers have no formal CS education at all.

At least here in the UK, all high-quality CS courses emphasise a functional language in the first year. The rigour and purity is important for teaching abstract concepts.

Most of the CS tracks I've seen recently (and even back in my days) have an "introduction to C/Linux" module which requires writing common command line tools, starting easy and gradually ramping up to a basic shell, a web proxy, etc.

Not exactly OS/DBMS but still pretty low-level.

I had to take a mandatory course where we wrote a simple flat-file db in x86 assembly, complete with a simple console-based interface. I’ve rarely needed to even look at assembly professionally, let alone write a real db, but I fully agree with the tweet.

Ugggh :( I miss my old Outlook 2013. Outlook 2016 is so slow it can’t keep up wirh my typing. I thought it already was javascript. Guess it will be even slower still. Super! (not)

Really the choice of language is unlikely to be the cause of any slowness you are experiencing in different versions. JS can be faster than a native experience, all depends on program architecture. The main JS engines are blazing fast and a low-latency UI is perfectly possible; sluggishness is not a sacrifice you must accept when coding in nearly any language in 2018. But bad practices in any language can lead to a poor user experience.

Maybe so, but I have never seen a fast Electron app.

VS Code, Discord, Slack, etc., all have awful performance on older hardware where native programs like the full Visual Studio fly.

It's my personal suspicion that people cheerleading JS all are working with fantastic developer hardware, where the performance impact is pretty muted.

Part of that is electron itself - I've heard it carries quite a bit of bloat - and part of that is the DOM. The DOM is very slow because of the guarantees it makes. You can edit any part of the HTML at any time - by hand or by API - and everything will resize and reflow implicitly. That's an incredibly powerful yet heavyweight feature. If they're using React Native, the only non-native thing is the raw JS logic itself, which is far, far less of a bottleneck.

Updating the DOM in Electron is like updating the DOM on the web -- you can do it fast or you can do it old. Most Electron apps I've worked on or looked at the source are using things like React for the DOM, which is much faster than what you describe.

But if an app does it "old school" then it can definitely be very slow.

Not true. The DOM in Electron is precisely the same as the one on the web, yes. But while React is faster than some of the other data-driven frameworks, it is not faster than "old school" DOM manipulation. The advantage of modern frameworks is developer experience, not performance. The DOM API is fundamentally slow because of how much work the browser has to do under the hood to respond to changes. Every framework, including React, goes through that API at the end of the day. This is why React has its own whole virtual DOM: so that it can touch the real one as little as possible.

My full-time job is writing tools in React that often have to handle datasets in the >10k items range.

My point stands if by “updating DOM” it is meant the developer approach to making DOM changes, which in React go implicitly through a virtual DOM first, yes, which is vastly faster than updating the DOM directly. And an Electron app doesn’t need to be slow just because it uses a browser DOM.

I work on a React project that has a faster UI than its native desktop counterpart.

An Electron app doesn't need to be slow just because it uses the browser DOM, but UI mutations will almost universally be slower than their native counterparts. Now, if the desktop app is poorly written and the Electron app is well-written, then of course the Electron one can be faster, because there can be sources of slowness other than UI mutations.

Let me illustrate the DOM question with an example.

Let's say you've got an "old style" jQuery to-do app. The user types something into the field, and clicks "Add".

- The input field will be cleared

- A new element will be added to the list, containing the string

- The counts for "total items" and "items remaining" will be updated

Now let's say you rewrite this app in React. The user types something into the field, and clicks "Add".

- The input field will be cleared

- A new element will be added to the list, containing the string

- The counts for "total items" and "items remaining" will be updated

Your code that accomplishes this will look completely different - much more readable and less fragile - but the exact same DOM API calls will be made, and it will perform exactly the same.

The "speed" we associate with React is not in comparison to "old school" libraries, but to the naiive way of achieving data-driven syntax. You could just nuke the page entirely and re-render everything from scratch each time your data changes. This would be the easiest way of achieving data-driven syntax, but it would indeed be extremely slow. React gives you (something approaching) the performance of jQuery-style mutation, with the developer experience of reconstructing the DOM from scratch every time data changes.

Technically true, but in practice, the culture matters. JS ecosystem is what it is - based on past and current experience, you can't expect efficiency coming from there.

Maybe not from the ecosystem at large, but from Microsoft, on something like Outlook, sure you can expect efficiency.

I am not aware of a single piece of software written by Microsoft that I would call efficient, apart from maybe Notepad or MSPaint.


Very efficient, though technically MS acquihired Mark Russinovich.

He still works on them even though he's Azure CTO.

2003 was the sweet spot, I always thought. I still have a usb stick with a portable copy of Word 2003 on it from somewhere, that I pull out when Word 2016 starts crashing and locking up.

2007 because of docx support.

If I'm typing a sentence that I am very familiar with, I can get up to 95 WPM and Outlook 2016 has no problems keeping up.

Perhaps it's your computer and not Outlook.

A Commodore 64 can keep up with even the best human typists. How is it even remotely acceptable that any application running on a GHz+ multicore CPU can't?

Yes but it's disappointing that it's slower than the 2013 version on the same hardware.

The issue seems to be down to your network connection. As Outlook is sending or receiving emails and making other service calls you experience a slowdown. Onsite our connection is very slow and everyone experiences this problem. Additional bandwidth was not considered for the O365 and if you monitor your service calls with fiddler for example you'll see constant traffic to the O365 servers.

We're talking about pressing keys on a keyboard and the corresponding letters appearing on the screen, maybe even with spellchecking. This has been computationally achievable for decades. It's not something where you need a state-of-the-art PC in order to be able to experience it.

JavaScript compiled to native code[1] so perhaps not because of that!

[1] https://twitter.com/TheLarkInn/status/1006761134395834368

Let's all have a minute silence for all those software developers at Microsoft. Much evil has been inflicted on them in the past, ... and now this.

Time to apply for a 20M dollar loan to buy a semi supercomputer in order to run skype, slack and office all together. Any remarks on cray supercomputers?

Err yeah, get your three phase power fitted now :)

Exactly. Microsoft won't tell their enterprise customers that their crypto now runs in a browser and is no longer compliant with the standards of their industries. They would lose almost all of their sales revenue if they did that.

I wonder, is it actually JS or they are using TypeScript? VSCode is written in TypeScript but it was mentioned there that it's JS, did somebody mixed things up?

Yeah, we can verify the validity of the statement since most of these project are open source. It's all Typescript, not JavaScript. according to the OP:

>> Those are one in the same thing (compiled) :-). But us TypeScript in majority at Microsoft in almost all the projects I've seen or been apart of.

Using the same logic, could we say that all windows is written in assembly ? When looking at JavaScript output of a Typescript program, it does really look like JavaScript is treated as assembly.

One almost never edits the JavaScript code when using Typescript, especially if the mapped ts files are available when debugging in F12.

Excel is already a dog in term of realculating large spreadsheets. I think we will need Intel's 28 cores at 5GHz monster!

Maybe they'll just make it as slow as Open/LibreOffice's recalculation to be competitive...

Do you have an example spreadsheet that shows the slowness in LibreOffice?

Try plotting a 2x10000 range in libreoffice. Takes > 2 Mon just to render the graph. I'd be happy to provide the CSV to anyone interested

I've found the speed relates to the fileformat it is saved in. Might well still be slower, but in terms of speed ods > xls > xlsx for some reason.

I had it slow with plain CSV...

Plain CSV is ‘slower’ for whatever reason in my experience.

(I have no idea how other formats are structured)

I know this is impertinent, but can you lodge a bug with the project?

Even just scrolling is laggy in Excel to the point where it makes it hard to scan through data. LibreOffice does not have this problem.

If you use Excel for large spreadsheets you are probably not using the right tool.

You and I know how to code. Most excel users do not. There is just simply not enough programmers in the world to do what all business users achieve and run on Excel.

Pandas is slow. Hadoop is slow. Spark is slow. R is slow. What else is there?

R is miles faster than Excel on large data tables.

data.table in R is blazing fast

Oh, just what Office needed: a rewrite that will almost certainly not even approach feature parity

Actually, I think the opposite is true. Instead of seeing new desktop versions without feature parity, we will finally see the iOS/Android/MacOS/Web versions of the Office Suite get feature parity with the Win32 versions because they will all be built from the same codebase.

I know that it's common for rewrites to not approach feature parity, but I think Microsoft is aware of how much people rely on Excel and Word and will make feature parity a high priority because of that.

I find it hard to believe they will ever duplicate all the edge cases. I mean in some cases it's literally impossible because IIRC VBA can actually hook into Win32 functions (I mean I guess you might argue that feature is a bad idea)

If VBA can hook into WIN32 functions, why do you think a VBA parser/interpreter written in JavaScript using a native module that exposes the same WIN32 functions couldn’t do the same

I suppose that's true; I just imagined it was going to be sandboxed to be browser-compatible.

Par for the course with everything else they've rewritten then.

It says that the the JavaScript is compiled to native code. That's not something you get from React Native today is it? Have they implemented a new native code compiler for JavaScript? I wonder what compiler technology it uses.

This is right, its more nativeish apis and webview for UI and friends. Worthy Snipe and misinformation on my part in thread.

wait.. so its using a webview for UI with native calls like cordova and pals?

I was wondering that after reading more of the tweets; React native doesn’t compile the JS to native, so not sure what they are using to do all of that? Bit worried about the far superior languages C# and F# if they are not even dogfooding anymore.

There has been a constant divide between the developer tools division (where C# comes from) of Microsoft and the OS/Office divisions. They both have worked very differently in the past and not at all in the same directions.

It is not a question of dogfooding, it is a question of re-use. Office also needs to run in the web browser (Sharepoint, OneDrive)

But C# can run on WebAssembly!

Which is fine if you don't need your app to run in IE. They probably do.

Office client never used .net or C# to begin with

I'll wait until it's done, released, and I have the opportunity to actually use it. Skype is already much worse than the original, so I really hope they don't go this way. I'm definitely not going to buy a 32GB notebook just to be able to use the most recent version of MS Office. (32 GB is nice BTW but a huge battery drain.)

Most of the comments seems to say "it's a bad idea" , keep in mind Microsoft is now using React very intensively for most of their projects as well as angular (VSCode , Windows Server etc... )

Meaning it's not the language the real issue , it's what you do with it.

Also Junior at school are less and less trained with Java and C# but straight up with JS or PHP , so it will be much easier to integrate juniors on this re-written version of office rather the pile of legacy C++ / COM / C# bridges mess they have right now.

Mail is one of the key parts of the internet no offence you don't want someone straight out some boot camp of dubious provenance having any input into what language or the spec of a MUA or MTA.

Any new developers on this need to have experience working with email standards and a good knowledge of C++ / C not some fracking scripting language!

And as some one who used to do international interconnect I think I have some valid input here - this has shades of the amusing project spitfire fiasco in the late 80's.

This is literally the same argument of the tweet's first poster (to which the linked tweet is a reply). This is just simply not true. I know many people who make mail apps for some big big companies. They have CS degrees and would admit they suck at C++ (I wouldn't even mention C) but they are great at Python

I was talking about outlook and exchange not writing some trivial script to send a registration email here.

> no offence you don't want someone straight out some boot camp of dubious provenance

None taken .

My point is Microsoft is shifting to make it easier to separate their apps into clear layers . Coders from bootcamps can deal with the UI and some logic , C++ Engineers will deal with back-end and the mess that office is, and expose some API in JavaScript for them.

> Coders from bootcamps can deal with the UI and some logic

Great, so the UIs will continue to get slower and more broken. What a glorious future we have to look forward to.

Other tweets in thread are interesting too:

  No they are not electron apps. They are compiled to native code. 

  It's now finally one toolchain(#webpack)
  It's one codebase and it compiles to:

  WIN32 (only one that uses electron)

another tweet on that thread:

> how is that even possible? there are tons of legacy features in there, COM/OLE APIs, SDKs, plugin architecture, macro system, VBA interpreter, VBA IDE, graphing components etc. Almost 30 years of development. No way MS is going to rewrite all of that. (Maybe the "mobile" version)

I think this is a strong indication that all these technologies are going away.

This would be suicide for Office. I struggle to believe that Microsoft is replacing the full Windows desktop version of Office with a version rewritten in JS. It makes no sense. Many, many, many businesses absolutely rely on the features you're mentioning, and many others that would be a tremendous undertaking to re-implement. There has to be something that's not being communicated right here. Maybe they mean the "lite" versions of the programs.

Strongly agree. Backwards compatibility has always been a strong suit for MS. Changing that stance is a major strategic shift, and IMHO would be a huge error, similar in scale to IBM's open PC architecture.

I also think it’s extremely unlikely MS is announcing an new native code compiler for JavaScript, something I’m not sure anyone knows how to do with reasonable performance, with a Tweet this casual.

Web Views with native API's. So not truly native compilation.

Has been said many many many times , it's not electron for Windows 10 , it's React Native .NET which bridges the built in Javascript VM with WPF. So it's not a web view for UWP, it's 100% native code.

> it's 100% native code

He's said it's not compiling the JavaScript to native code - it's running it in a normal JavaScript JIT. It's not 100% native code.

No mention of Linux despite how much they claim to "love" it.

If by "They" you mean me, someone who doesn't work on the project itself, but is advising over a toolchain for it.

Also, I do not know what the Linux plans are (but hey maybe a great time to voice that special love you have for Linus T. and his masterpiece)!

I don't understand what you are trying to say in this comment, can you elaborate? Where should gp voice their "special love" for Linux?

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