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Soon I will be publishing a series of articles on The New Paperclip which dive a bit deeper into extending the functionality of Microsoft Office. Probably a scary thought for most of you, but I have found that if we want to extract that extra 10-50% more out of Office there comes a time where you need to start coding.
In particular I am going to focus on building high value add-ins for Microsoft Office.
Now when it comes to writing an add-in, there are a couple of ways to go about it.
1) Roll your own
If you are confident C# or VB coder there is nothing stopping you from cracking open Visual Studio, downloading Visual Studio Tools for Office and giving it your best shot. I must admit I tried this at first, and had some success.
But that success was time consuming, and when I wanted to build an add-in that was backwards compatible with Outlook 2007 (which has that horrible combination of ribbon and command bar), Office 2003/XP and beyond it became VERY time consuming.
So I decided to use an alternative.
2) Use Add-in-Express
Before I share my experience with Add-in-Express… here is what the brochure says!
“Add-in Express for Office and .NET is the only all-in-one platform that includes all the features you may expect for your Microsoft Office extensions such as Office COM add-ins, smart tags, Excel XLLs, RTD servers and Automation add-ins (UDFs). It fully supports Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, 2008 and 2005 and makes it very comfortable for developing application-level extensions for all available Office versions from 2000 to 2010.”
What that means for people new to Office Development is that Add-in-Express makes it easy to quickly extend the functionality of Microsoft Office, irrespective of what version you are running. And after spending about a month using the tool to build some add-ins myself, I have to agree. For someone who is exploring Office Development for the first time, taking the painful parts of COM out of the picture meant that I could focus on the features and functionality I wanted to build, and not spend hours pulling my hair out!
For example, being able to access all the key events in Office without having to write event handlers accelerated development time. Sure, it may only seem like a small thing, but as any developer knows, anything that saves you time, and takes the pain of troubleshooting away is a good thing!
Anyways – if you are interested in developing your own Office Add-in, make sure you subscribe and check back in the next few weeks for more content about my development experiences – and some examples that will get your Office Development journey started.
‘till next time!