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Writing Code in Office Solutions

There are some aspects of writing code in Office projects that are different from other types of projects in Visual Studio. Many of these differences are related to the way the Office object models are exposed to managed code. Other differences are related to the design of Office projects.

Applies to: The information in this topic applies to document-level projects and application-level projects for Office 2013 and Office 2010. See Features Available by Office Application and Project Type.

The key technology that makes creating an integrated Microsoft Office solution possible is Automation, which is part of the Component Object Model (COM) technology. Automation enables you to use code to create and control software objects exposed by any application, DLL, or ActiveX control that supports the appropriate programmatic interfaces.

Microsoft Office applications expose much of their functionality to Automation. However, you cannot use managed code (such as Visual Basic or C#) directly to automate Office applications. To automate Office applications by using managed code, you must use the Office primary interop assemblies (PIAs). The primary interop assemblies enable managed code to interact with the COM-based object model of the Office applications.

Every Microsoft Office application has a PIA. When you create an Office project in Visual Studio, a reference to the appropriate PIA is automatically added to the project. To automate the features of other Office applications from the project, you must add a reference to the appropriate PIA manually. For more information, see How to: Target Office Applications Through Primary Interop Assemblies.

You must have the Office PIAs installed and registered in the global assembly cache on your development computer to perform most development tasks. For more information, see Configuring a Computer to Develop Office Solutions.

The Office PIAs are not required on end-user computers to run Office solutions that target the .NET Framework 4 or the .NET Framework 4.5. For more information, see Designing and Creating Office Solutions.

The Office PIAs contain a combination of types that expose the object model of the Office applications and additional infrastructure types that are not intended to be used directly in your code. For an overview of the types in the Office PIAs, see Overview of Classes and Interfaces in the Office Primary Interop Assemblies.

Because the types in the Office PIAs correspond to types in the COM-based object models, the way you use these types is often different from other managed types. For example, the way you call methods that have optional parameters in an Office primary interop assembly depends on the programming language you are using in your project. For more information, see the following topics:

All Office projects include one or more generated classes that provide the entry point for your code. These classes also provide access to the object model of the host application and access to features like actions panes and custom task panes.

In document-level projects for Excel and Word, the generated class resembles a top-level object in the application's object model. For example, the generated ThisDocument class in a Word document project provides the same members as the Microsoft.Office.Interop.Word.Document class in the Word object model. For more information about the generated classes in document-level projects, see Programming Document-Level Customizations.

Application-level projects provide a generated class called ThisAddIn. This class does not resemble a class in the host application's object model. Instead, this class represents the add-in itself, and it provides members you can use to access the object model of the host application and access other features available to add-ins. For more information, see Programming Application-Level Add-Ins.

All generated classes in Office projects include Startup and Shutdown event handlers. To get started writing code, you typically add code to these event handlers. To initialize your add-in, you can add code to the Startup event handler. To clean up resources used by your add-in, you can add code to the Shutdown event handler. For more information, see Events in Office Projects.

When an Office solution is loaded, the Visual Studio Tools for Office runtime instantiates each of the generated classes in your project. You can access these objects from any code in your project by using the Globals class. For example, you can use the Globals class to call code in the ThisAddIn class from an event handler of a Ribbon button in an application-level add-in.

For more information, see Global Access to Objects in Office Projects.

You cannot change the default namespace (or root namespace in Visual Basic) of an Office project after you create the project. The default namespace will always match the project name you specified when you created the project. If you rename your project, the default namespace does not change. For more information about the default namespace in projects, see Application Page, Project Designer (C#) and Application Page, Project Designer (Visual Basic).

Host item classes (for example, the ThisAddIn, ThisWorkbook, or ThisDocument classes) have their own namespaces in Visual C# Office projects. By default, the namespace for host items in your project matches the project name you specified when you created the project.

To change the namespace of the host items in a Visual C# Office project, use the Namespace for Host Item property. For more information, see Properties in Office Projects.

The Office project templates in Visual Studio support only the Visual Basic and Visual C# programming languages. Therefore, these project templates are available only under the Visual Basic and Visual C# nodes of the New Project dialog box in Visual Studio. For more information, see How to: Create Office Projects in Visual Studio.

Microsoft Office and Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) were developed to work together to optimize the workflow of application customization. Visual Basic has inherited some of those developments. For example, Visual Basic supports optional parameters, which means that you can write less code when calling some methods in the Microsoft Office primary interop assemblies than when you use Visual C#.

You can create Office solutions by using either Visual Basic or Visual C#. Because the Microsoft Office object models were designed to be used with Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), Visual Basic developers can work comfortably with the objects exposed by the Microsoft Office applications. In Visual Studio 2013, Visual C# developers can use most of the same features as Visual Basic developers, but there are some cases where they must write additional code to use the Office object models. There are also some differences between basic programming features in Office development and managed code written in Visual Basic and C#.

The following table shows key differences between Visual Basic and Visual C# in Office development.

Feature

Description

Visual Basic support

Visual C# support

Optional parameters

Many Microsoft Office methods have parameters that are not required when you call the method. If no value is passed for the parameter, a default value is used.

Visual Basic supports optional parameters.

Visual C# supports optional parameters in most cases. For more information, see Optional Parameters in Office Solutions.

Passing parameters by reference

Optional parameters in most of the Microsoft Office primary interop assemblies can be passed by value. However, in some primary interop assemblies, optional parameters that accept reference types must be passed by reference.

For more information about value and reference type parameters, see Passing Arguments by Value and by Reference (Visual Basic) (for Visual Basic) and Passing Parameters (C# Programming Guide).

No additional work is needed to pass parameters by reference. The Visual Basic compiler automatically passes the parameters by reference when necessary.

In most cases, the Visual C# compiler automatically passes the parameters by reference when necessary. For more information, see Optional Parameters in Office Solutions.

Parameterized properties

Some properties accept parameters, and act as read-only functions.

Visual Basic supports properties that accept parameters.

Visual C# supports properties that accept parameters.

Late binding

Late binding involves determining the properties of objects at run time, instead of casting variables to the object type at design time.

Visual Basic performs late binding when Option Strict is off. When Option Strict is on, you must explicitly convert objects and use types in the System.Reflection namespace to access late-bound members. For more information, see Late Binding in Office Solutions.

Visual C# performs late binding in projects that target the .NET Framework 4. For more information, see Late Binding in Office Solutions.

The following table shows key differences between Office development and managed code written in Visual Basic or Visual C#.

Feature

Description

Visual Basic and Visual C# support

Array indexes

The lower array bound of collections in Microsoft Office applications begins with 1. Visual Basic and Visual C# use 0-based arrays. For more information, see Arrays (C# Programming Guide) and Arrays in Visual Basic.

To access the first item of a collection in the object model of a Microsoft Office application, use the index 1 instead of 0.

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