Develop Office Add-ins
Develop task pane, content, and mail apps to extend Office applications.
Last modified: June 15, 2015
Applies to: Access apps for SharePoint | apps for Office | Excel | Office Add-ins | Outlook | PowerPoint | Project | Word
Learn more about supported hosts and other requirements.
The name "apps for Office" is changing to "Office Add-ins". During the transition, the documentation and the UI of some Office host applications and Visual Studio tools might still use the term "apps for Office". For details, see New name for apps for Office and SharePoint.
The typical development lifecycle of a content, mail, or task pane app project involves the following processes:
Decide on the purpose of the app.
Ask the following questions:
How is the app useful?
How does it help your customers be more productive?
What scenarios does your app's features support?
Decide the most important features and scenarios and focus your design around them.
Identify the data and data source for the app.
Is the data in a document, workbook, presentation, project, or an Access browser-based database, or about an item or items in an Exchange Server or Exchange Online mailbox? Is the data from an external source such as a web service?
Identify the type of app and Office host applications that best support the purpose of the app.
Consider the following to identify the scenarios:
Will customers use the app to enrich the content of a document or Access browser-based database? If so, you may want to consider creating a content app. Currently, you can create content apps for Access, Excel, Excel Online, PowerPoint, or PowerPoint Online.
Will customers use the app while viewing or composing an email message or appointment? Is being able to expose the app according to the current context important? Is making the app available on not just the desktop, but also on tablets and smartphones a priority?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, consider creating a mail app. Currently, you can create mail apps for the Outlook rich clients, Outlook Web App and OWA for Devices, if your mailbox resides on an Exchange Server. Then identify the context that will trigger your app (for example, the user being in a compose form, specific message types, the presence of an attachment, address, task suggestion, or meeting suggestion, or certain string patterns in the contents of an email or appointment). See Activate mail add-ins in Outlook clients to find out how you can contextually activate the mail app.
Will customers use the app to enhance the viewing or authoring experience of a document? If so, you may want to consider creating a task pane app. Currently, you can create task pane apps for Excel, Excel Online, PowerPoint, PowerPoint Online, Project, and Word.
Design and implement the user experience and user interface for the app.
Design a fast and fluid user experience that is consistent, easy to learn, with primary scenarios that require only a few steps to complete. Depending on the purpose of the app, make use of third party APIs or web services.
Create an XML manifest file based on the apps for Office manifest schema.
You can specify the context, based on the current message or appointment, under which your app is relevant and you would like Outlook to make it available for use in the user interface. You should also decide the devices that you want the app to support. In the manifest, specify the context as activation rules and the supported devices.
Install and test the app.
Install the mail app into an Exchange mailbox, and specify the location of the app manifest file in the Exchange Admin Center (EAC). For more information about installing mail apps, see the examples in Install sample mail add-ins in Outlook and Deploy and install mail add-ins for testing in Outlook.
See the following topics for more information about testing and debugging mail apps:
Publish the app.
You can submit the app to the Office Store, from which customers can install the app. In addition, you can publish task pane and content apps to a private folder app catalog on SharePoint or to a shared network folder, and you can deploy a mail app directly on an for your organization. For details, see Publish your Office Add-in.
Updating the app
Contextual activation for mail apps
Designing the user interface
Creating a manifest
Installing and testing
Publishing and licensing