Mail apps for Outlook
See a mail app from the end-user's perspective, and watch videos of sample mail apps, including Bing Map, YouTube, and Phone dialer. Learn the course of events that takes place beginning with Outlook starting up and the user selecting or authoring an item, and how a mail app interacts with the user, Outlook, an Exchange server, and web servers. Follow up with more technical topics that will help you get on your way to creating mail apps for Outlook, Outlook Web App and OWA for Devices.
Last modified: May 23, 2014
Applies to: Exchange Online | Exchange Server 2013 | Exchange Server 2013 SP1 | Outlook 2013 | Outlook 2013 RT | Outlook 2013 SP1 | Outlook Web App | OWA for Devices
Office.js: v1.0, v1.1
Apps for Office manifests schema: v1.0, v1.1
"Outlook" in this article refers to the Outlook rich client, Outlook RT, Outlook Web App, and OWA for Devices.
A mail app is a webpage that is hosted inside Outlook. Outlook activates it and makes it available to the user contextually with respect to the item that the user is currently viewing, creating or replying to. The user controls starting any available mail app. Mail apps enhance the browsing or authoring experience. They can run seamlessly across the Outlook rich client, Outlook Web App and OWA for Devices, such that you need to install a mail app only once for a mailbox and it will work on the devices and Outlook clients that it is designed to.
The Outlook items that support mail apps include email messages, meeting requests, responses and cancellations, and appointments. Each mail app defines the appropriate context for its activation - a context which occurs when the user is either reading or composing an item.
Mail apps can be activated when the user is viewing a message or appointment. As an example, the Bing Maps mail app can activate when the user is in a read form viewing a message that contains an address. The app enhances the browsing experience by conveniently providing a map of the address in the app pane, without requiring the user to leave Outlook.
See the Bing Maps mail app in Outlook.
As seen in the preceding video, when the end user is viewing a message that contains an address in the Reading Pane (or inspector), Outlook activates the Bing Maps mail app for the message. The user sees a Bing Maps app button in the app bar. The user can select the app button to start the app. The mail app then displays a map of the address in the app pane. Figure 2 shows a message in the Reading Pane that contains a highlighted address, the Bing Maps app button chosen in the app bar, and the app displaying a map for the address in the app pane.
To close the app pane, the user can choose the app button again, move on to another message, or do something else in Outlook.
Starting in the second release of the apps for Office platform, in addition to read scenarios, mail apps can be activated when the user is composing a message or appointment as well. As an example, the My Templates mail app can activate in a message or appointment compose form and provide the convenience of inserting common responses. When the user is composing or replying to a message, Outlook activates the relevant mail apps for that message, including the My Templates mail app. The user chooses the Apps for Office button in the ribbon to open the app selection pane and see the activated mail apps, as shown in figure 3.
The user then chooses the My Templates icon to start the app. The app pane on the right opens, and the user can conveniently insert commonly used text in the compose form. Figure 4 shows a message reply in a compose form and the app pane on the right with the My Templates mail app started. The app lists a few templates that are ready for insertion in the message.
The following are two other sample mail apps that activate when the user is viewing a message.
YouTube mail app
See the YouTube mail app in Outlook.
If you're interested in installing the YouTube mail app, follow the instructions in How to: Install sample mail apps in Outlook to install it. See Sample: Create a mail app to view YouTube videos in Outlook for a description of the code.
To try the YouTube mail app, choose an email you have already received that has a URL to a YouTube video, or, create an email message, add one or more URLs to YouTube videos in the body, and send the message to yourself. When you display the message in the Reading Pane or an inspector, Outlook activates the app in the app bar. You can then choose the YouTube app button. In the app pane, choose a video thumbnail to select a video, or the YouTube embedded player to play a video.
The next figure shows the YouTube mail app activated and selected for a message in the Reading Pane. The message contains a URL to a YouTube video.
Phone dialer mail app
See the Phone Dialer mail app in Outlook.
If you're interested in installing the phone dialer mail app, follow the instructions in How to: Install sample mail apps in Outlook to install it. See Sample: Create a mail app for Voice Over IP dialing in Outlook for a description of the code.
To try the phone dialer mail app, create an email message, add one or more telephone numbers to the body and send it to yourself. When you display the message in the Reading Pane or in an inspector, Outlook activates the app in the app bar. You can then choose the Phone Dialer app button, and select a telephone number in the app pane to use VOIP to dial that number.
This app uses Lync as the VOIP service to dial calls. To run this mail app, you must have access to Lync Server, and have installed the Lync client on the client computer and used it at least once to set it up. You can adapt the code to another VOIP service that supports the same callto: and tel: protocols.
The next figure shows the phone dialer mail app activated and selected for a message in the Reading Pane. The message contains a US phone number.
The typical components involved in running a mail app include the following:
An Exchange Server: the user’s mailbox and app manifests reside here.
An Outlook client: the user views or composes a message or appointment in the Outlook rich client, Outlook Web App or OWA for Devices, on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
Figure 7 shows how the typical components interact with one another when the user starts Outlook and views or composes a message or appointment.
There are a few topics in which requirements or behavior differs among these client programs. For example, Set up a mail app for Outlook on tablets and mobile devices (schema v1.1). Such topics would specifically call out the "Outlook rich client", "Outlook Web App", "OWA for Devices" or specific members of the OWA for Devices collection.
The following is a complete list of documentation about developing mail apps for Outlook.
Depending on your purposes, the following tracks suggest topics to help you get on your way.
Seeing mail apps the first time in Outlook
The following topics answer the basic question "What is a mail app?" from both the end user and developer perspectives. They point you to videos of sample mail apps running in Outlook, and also explain the sample code.
Stepping through simple mail apps
The following topics provide step-by-step examples to create simple mail apps, using a text editor and using Visual Studio.
Upgrading from a previous release
Find out from the following topics what is new or changed in this release.
Learning the basics
The following topics cover fundamental information for developing apps for Office in general:
The following topics cover fundamental information for developing mail apps:
Sample code for common tasks
The following topics provide sample code to achieve common tasks of mail apps in Outlook.
FAQ, best practices, known issues
Depending on the development tool you use, web development can entail behavior that is difficult to track. The following topics suggest issues that you should be aware of.
The following topics may help in debugging and troubleshooting mail apps:
Ready for more breadth and depth
Refer to the following topics when you are ready for more details about various features.