Developers can continue to build Office extensions using existing tools and platforms such as Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) and Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), both for older and current versions of Office. However, these apps won’t leverage the Web technologies in apps for Office, and aren’t eligible for distribution via the Office Store. On the flip side, don’t expect to deploy your new apps for Office to older versions of the suite. The new apps are currently compatible with Office 2013 and Office 365 ( bit.ly/WRbKkb).
We’re already seeing the first apps for Office in the wild. At the end of January Microsoft released Bing Apps for Office ( binged.it/XVCGPT), a collection of five free apps powered by the Bing search engine: Bing Finance for Office, Bing Maps for Office, Bing Image Search for Office, Bing News Search for Office and Bing Dictionary for Office. The apps work with Office 2013 and Office 365.
“I also have a special fondness for bindings,” Schmidt adds. “Since task pane and content apps travel with the files that they’re inserted into, we needed a way for an app to retain a reference to a specific region in the document. Bindings allow us to do that.”
So what advice do the authors have for developers intrigued by the new opportunities presented with Office 2013?
“I’d say, jump in and start playing with the API,” says Oliver. “While the spectrum of apps you can develop is fairly wide—from the relatively simple app that just grabs some data out of the document to a more-sophisticated app that pushes/pulls data to/from a back-end system—I think it’s super easy for a developer new to the platform to get in and explore the API and get a feel for what they might be able to do with it.”
He suggests that developers check out the “Napa” Office 365 Development Tools Web site ( bit.ly/Pn2JNr), which makes it easy to start exploring the API. Oh, and one more thing:
“Hey, I’m a doc guy,” Oliver says, “so I encourage those getting started to take a look at our documentation ( msdn.microsoft.com/library/jj220060) and give us feedback on where we can improve it.”
Michael Desmond is the Editor-in-Chief of MSDN Magazine.