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Develop Office Add-ins

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.

Note Note

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.

In this article
Typical development lifecycle of an app for Office
In this section
Additional resources

The typical development lifecycle of a content, mail, or task pane app project involves the following processes:

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    You can choose from a variety of web development tools and use HTML and JavaScript to implement the user interface.

  5. Create an XML manifest file based on the apps for Office manifest schema.

    Create an XML manifest to identify the app and its requirements, specify the locations of the HTML and any JavaScript and CSS files that the app uses and, depending on the type of the app, the default size and permissions.

    Icon for mail apps for Office

    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.

  6. Install and test the app.

    Place the HTML files and any JavaScript and CSS files on the web servers that are specified in the app manifest file. The process to install an app depends on the type of the app.

    Icon for mail apps for Office

    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:

  7. 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.

  8. Updating the app

    If your app calls a web service, and if you make updates to the web service after publishing the app, you do not have to republish the app. However, if you change any items or data you submitted for your app, such as the app manifest, screenshots, icons, HTML or JavaScript files, you will need to republish the app. In particular, if you have published the app to the Office Store, you’ll need to resubmit your app so that the Office Store can implement those changes. You must resubmit your app with an updated app manifest that includes a new version number. You must also make sure to update the app version number in the submission form to match the new manifest's version number. For mail apps, you should make sure the Id element contains a different UUID in the app manifest.

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