- Add new functionality to Office clients – For example, augment Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook by interacting with Office documents and mail items, bringing external data into Office, processing Office documents, exposing third-party functionality into Office clients, and much more.
- Create new rich, interactive objects that can be embedded into Office documents – For example, maps, charts, and interactive visualizations that users can add to their own Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.
Office Add-ins are able to run across a variety of platforms including Office for Windows 10, Office Online, Office 2016 for Windows, Office 2016 for Mac, and Office for the iPad. Office Add-ins are not yet available for Windows 10 Mobile or Android, but the Office team is working on it (see the Office Add-in host and platform availability for more details). In order to run Office Add-ins, there are certain system requirements needed for your device, and you can find those requirements here.
How can an Office Add-in help me?
Office Add-ins can help you be doing almost anything a website can do within a browser. Office Add-in capabilities include:
- Extend Office native UI by creating custom ribbon buttons and tabs.
- Connect to REST endpoints and web services via HTTP and AJAX.
- Run server-side code or logic, if the page is implemented using a server-side scripting language such as ASP or PHP.
Types of Office Add-ins
At the moment, there are a few types of Office Add-ins currently available:
- Word, Excel, and PowerPoint add-ins that extend functionality
- Excel and PowerPoint add-ins that create new objects
- Outlook add-ins that extend functionality
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint add-ins that extend functionality
Adding new functionality to Word, Excel, or PowerPoint is relatively simple. All you need to do is register your add-in by using the task pane add-in manifest. This add-in manifest allows for two integration modes; add-in commands and insertable task panes.
You can also define your commands in your add-in command manifest by using VersionOverrides. To get started, take a look at these examples on GitHub, or you can also check out the Add-in commands for Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.
Additionally, there is a Channel 9 video that goes into more depth on add-in commands, called “Add-in Commands in the Office Ribbon.”
Insertable Task Panes
In case you have a client that does not yet support add-in commands (Office 2013, Office for Mac, and Office for iPad), you will need to run your add-in commands as an insertable task pane using the DefaultURL provided in the manifest. From there, you can launch your add-in from the “My Add-ins” menu from the Insert tab.
Excel and PowerPoint add-ins that create new objects
You can also insert add-ins to Excel or PowerPoint to create new web-based objects or content that can be embedded within documents or presentations. Content add-in commands allow for embedded media, such as a picture gallery or YouTube video, as well as web-based data visualizations and other external content.
To test out this content add-in with Excel 2013 or Excel Online, install the Bing Maps add-in.
Outlook add-ins that extend functionality
Outlook add-ins present an opportunity to extend the Office Ribbon and provide additional display content next to an Outlook item when you are creating or viewing an email message. Add-ins can work with an email message, meeting request, response, or cancellation, as well as appointments.
Outlook add-ins can use the contextual information from an item, such as an address or package tracking ID, and then use that data to access additional information from web services to create complete user interactions. For the most part, Outlook add-ins can run without any problems with Outlook, Outlook for Mac, Outlook Web App, and OWA for Devices, to provide a unified experience on the desktop, online, tablets, or mobile devices.
What makes up an Office Add-in?
An Office Add-in is composed of an XML manifest file and your own web application. The XML manifest file creates rules for various settings, including how your add-in integrates with your Office clients. On the other hand, your web application needs to be hosted on a web server or you can use a web-hosting service, like Azure.
The XML Manifest file indicates specific settings and capabilities of the Office add-in, specifically:
- The add-in’s display name, description, ID, version, and default locale.
- How the add-in integrates with Office:
- For add-ins that extend Word/Excel/PowerPoint/Outlook: The native extension points the add-in uses to expose functionality, such as buttons on the ribbon.
- For add-ins that create new embedable objects: The URL of the default page that is loaded for the object.
- The permission level and data access requirements for the add-in.
If you need more information, take a look at Office Add-ins XML manifest.
The most basic version of a web app is a static HTML page that is displayed within an Office application, but the page doesn’t interact with the Office document or the Internet. The page needs to be hosted on a web server, or a web hosting service, such as Azure; it is up what service you feel suits you best.