Building an add-in for Microsoft Office

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!
TNP Winking smile

Turn on (or off) sound when an email arrives in Outlook 2007

Are you really annoyed by the sound that Outlook makes when an email arrives in your (or more likely your colleagues) inbox.  Or do you need to know instantly when there is a new message addressed to you?

Whichever side of the fence you sit on, the chime or sound email notification is a configurable feature of Outlook 2007.

To turn on or turn of audible email notifications in Outlook 2007:

1) Click on “Tools” in the menu”

2) Click on “Options”

3) Make sure you are on the “Preferences” tab

4) Click on “E-mail Options…”

5) Click on “Advanced E-Mail Options…”

6) About 1/3 of the way down the “Advanced E-mail Options” windows, there is a section called “When new items arrive in my Inbox”.  Check (or uncheck) “Play a sound”

7) Click “OK” three times to close all the windows

‘till next time!

Change the auto-save time for draft emails in Outlook 2007

Did you know that Outlook 2007 saves drafts of your emails as you type them?  This is great if you accidentally close the email window before sending, or start an email and then the power goes out.

By default Outlook will save a draft every three minutes.  But if you are paranoid about losing your work… or don’t care that much… you can change the timeframes in which the auto-save occurs.

To increase or decrease the auto-save time for draft emails in Outlook 2007:

1) Click “Options” from the menu

2) Make sure you are on the “Preferences” tab”

3) Click the “E-mail Options…” button

4) Click the “Advanced E-Mail Options…” button (about half way down the window)

5) Beside the first checkbox (“AutoSave items every:”) change the number to the number of minutes you would like the interval to be

6) Click OK 3 times to close all the windows


To find the drafts that Outlook saves, just take a look in your drafts folder

‘till next time!

Only spell check your email, and not the forward or reply in Outlook 2007

Have you noticed when you spell check an email where you are replying to or forwarding another email, that sometimes spell check decides it needs to highlight the poor spelling of your friend or colleague?

Well if you get annoyed by that as much as I do, you will be glad to know there is a setting in Outlook 2007 to ensure that the spelling and grammar checker only checks the content you wrote.

To ignore the original message text in reply or forward:

1) Click “Tools”

2) Click “Options”

3) Click on the “Spelling” tab

4) Check the box “Ignore original message text in reply or forward”


‘till next time!

Increase the number of upcoming appointments in the Outlook 2007 To-Do Bar

The To-Do bar in Outlook 2007 is a great time saver – a quick way to understand your current workload, and upcoming appointments.

By default there should be three upcoming appointments shown in the to-do bar – but did you know that you can customise it so you can show more, or less appointments?

To increase or decrease the number of upcoming appointments shown in the Outlook 2007 to-do bar:

1) Right click on the To-Do Bar

2) Click “Options…” from the menu that appears

3) In the “To-Do Bar Options” box that appears, change the number of appointments to your preferred number.

Whilst you can have more appointments visible than that can fit on your screen, don’t go to overboard… 5 or 7 would be the upper limit for it to be useful.

‘till next time!

Set Junk Mail to automatically delete in Outlook 2007

Does your Junk Mail folder in Outlook 2007 seem to continually build up with… well… junk mail?  If you are confident that no important mail ever ends up in your junk mail folder, you can set Outlook to automatically delete junk mail instead.

To automatically delete junk mail in Outlook 2007:

1) Click on “Tools”

2) Click on “Options”

3) Make sure you are on the “Preferences” tab”

4) In the “E-mail” section, click on the “Junk E-mail…” button

5) On the “Options” tab, look half way down for a checkbox that says “Permanently delete suspected junk e-mail instead of moving it to the Junk E-mail folder”.  Check that check box.

To stop the automatic deletion of junk mail, repeat the process, and just uncheck the checkbox in step 5

‘till next time!

Mastering Office 2007 Workshops

I have had a lot of feedback from readers of, and those that subscribe to the Office 2007 tips newsletter.  People are screaming out for short, concise courses that will help them do overcome annoying challenges, and do amazing things with Office 2007. 

These people – maybe you – have had thoughts like “How do I get Outlook to do this?…”, “How can I get my document to look as great as Jenny’s?…”.  “How come everyone says how good Brad’s PowerPoint slides are?”

There are plenty of different ways to answer those questions – maybe you have tried some of them, like courses or books.  But they are not for everyone:

  • Maybe you live in a remote area and can’t get to an instructor lead class because the closest one is 1, 2, 3, or even 6 hours away by car.
  • Maybe you think that reading a bland text book that is 600 pages long is not fun (I AGREE!)
  • Maybe you just want to interact with someone who will be able to give you the answers you need?

If you answered yes to just one of the above – then it sounds like the Office 2007 workshops I will be delivering during the next few months will be exactly what you need.

Are you like many of your fellow readers and want to improve your capability and confidence with Office 2007?

If so – these four 2 hour workshops are designed just for you. 

  • Overcome Email Overload with Outlook 2007
    Get to know the key features of Outlook 2007 to help you mange your mail – plus time saving techniques that will enable you to conquer your inbox
  • Crunch Numbers Faster with Excel 2007
    Confidently apply formulas, create charts, and communicate complex data with meaning using Excel 2007
  • Create Better Looking Documents with Word 2007
    Build documents for your workplace, club or school that you can be proud of using Word 2007
  • Deliver Better Presentations with PowerPoint 2007
    Forget boring bullet points – learn the techniques professional speakers (and their designers) use to build compelling slide decks using PowerPoint 2007


The workshops will be delivered online, will be interactive, and attendance will be strictly limited to ensure everyone in the workshop gets the results they are after.

For more information as it becomes available over the next few weeks – including dates, times, and workshop prices – and to be one of the first to find out when bookings for each of the workshops have opened – register your details here:


By the way… if you pre register you will have access to a multiple workshop discount as well!

So if you are ready to get the most out of Office 2007 – make sure you register for more information, and then book into one of the workshops… coming soon.

‘til next time!

Auto Preview in Outlook 2007

Do you find it hard to prioritise emails when all you are looking at is a long list of who the email is from, and what the email subject is?

Well using the “Auto Preview” feature in Outlook 2007, you can now view the first couple of lines of an email – giving you all the information you need to triage and prioritise the long list of emails in your inbox.

To turn on (or off) Auto Preview in Outlook 2007:

1) Click on “View”

2) Click on “AutoPreview”


Simple as that!

‘till next time!

Change your default reply font colour in Outlook 2007

Have you ever noticed whenever you reply to an email the font colour isn’t black, but a dark blue?

Well like most things in Outlook 2007, if you want you are able to change the default reply font color.

To do so:

1) Click on “Tools”

2) Click on “Options”

3) Click on the “Mail Format” tab

4) Click on “Stationery and Fonts” – about half way down the “Options” dialog box

5) About half way down the “Signatures and Stationery” dialog box that appears, you will find  a section called “Replying or forwarding messages”.  Click on the “Font” button directly below that, and then select the font colour you would like to use. 

6) Click “OK” three times to close all the boxes.


You can also change your default reply font and size using this technique

‘till next time!