Create Office add-in /plugin in C#, VB.NET, C++:
build custom menu, task pane, ribbon tab

Add-in Express™
for Microsoft® Office and .net

Creating Office COM add-ins

Toolsets and frameworks, when done well, make your life as an Office developer easier. Done with excellence, they require little-to-no learning curve because they work similarly to tools you already know and love. We hope you will find Add-in Express for Office and .net to be in the excellent category.

The feature-rich technology of Add-in Express allows you to make "quick-and-easy" work of your Office add-in development projects. We make it possible by providing:

  • The "plumbing" that installs everything required to load, execute, and deploy your Office plug-ins.

  • Visual designers and components that help you easily customize the Microsoft Office user interface with custom toolbars, ribbons, menus, task panes, and more.

All you need to do is concentrate on your applied code

Add-in Express provides the tools you need to create Office customizations with comfort and ease. It allows for true RAD development by delivering designers and easy-to-use controls for:

  • Office Ribbon customizations
  • Command bars (Traditional toolbars)
  • Backstage View
  • Advanced task panes for Excel, Word and PowerPoint
  • Advanced regions for Outlook
  • Office main menu
  • Context menus
  • Quick Access Toolbar
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • And more!

With Add-in Express tools, all you need to do is concentrate on your applied code - the code required to support your business rules.

Single code base to support multiple Office versions and apps

A key pain point in Office development is the lack of multi-version support. By multi-version we mean both Office and Visual Studio. Traditionally, if you want to build a plug-in that works with different Office versions and bits, you are required to build a separate add-in for each Office version. And, traditionally, to build a separate plugin for each, requires you to make use of several versions of Visual Studio.

Add-in Express solves this problem and allows you to support all Microsoft Office versions of 2000 through 2021 and all applications with a single code base. It gets better because you utilize whichever version of Visual Studio you like, as long as it's within the range of Visual Studio 2022 - 2012, VB.NET, C# and C++. Find more about Creating version-independent Office plug-in.

Create a COM Add-in project with Add-in Express Wizard

After you install Add-in Express, you can create an Office plug-in with a few clicks (and a little typing). With Visual Studio open, click "New | Project" from the main menu and select the ADX COM Add-in project template. This template resides in the Other Project Types node under Extensibility.

Creating a new COM Add-in project

Give the Add-in a name and specify a location then, when you're ready, click the Okay button. Add-in Express presents you with a wizard that streamlines the setup of the Office addin project within Visual Studio. Just choose your preferred programming language then select the host applications and you are well on your way! For this sample project let's choose Microsoft Excel and Word.

Selecting Microsoft Excel and Word as supported applications

When you complete the wizard, Add-in Express generates a new solution and opens it within Visual Studio. This is where the fun begins.

Key Benefits:

  • You can use any programming language, VB.NET, C#, C++, to develop plug-ins for any combinations of Office applications from all Office suites / editions.
  • You can use the oldest possible PIAs (Primary Interop Assemblies) available for the host application without installing the oldest version on your PC.
  • The project wizard creates a new Office add-in project automatically.

The Add-in Module is the core of your Office solution

After you create your project, Add-in Express opens the AddInModule file and displays it in design view. Here, you place components and use visual designers to design your customizations. For example you can use the designer's toolbar to quickly create a custom Office ribbon tab, add a context menu, keyboard shortcut, and more.

Backstage View visual designer

With our special components and designers, all you need to do is place them on the Add-in Module, define their settings, and write your code.

Key Benefits:

  • All Office applications, versions, and editions are supported.
  • One place for your Office addin's UI related code.
  • Rapid Application Development approach is applied to creating all Office plug-ins.
  • Several add-ins in one assembly.

Customizing the Office Ribbon user interface is painless

The Ribbon is popular target for add-in customizations. Add-in Express includes a powerful visual designer for customizing the Office Ribbon UI. With this Ribbon designer you can quickly build a custom ribbon and define its properties.

Creating a custom ribbon tab with a ribbon group, a button and other controls

In addition, Add-in Express designers allow you to achieve "advanced" strategies like re-purposing standard Office Ribbon control events to behave as you need them to behave, without the need to create Ribbon XML on your own. Again, you design and write your business logic, Add-in Express takes care of the rest!

Key Benefits:

  • You use .net components to create Office Ribbon XML markup and see the resulting UI immediately at design-time.
  • You add your custom Ribbon tabs or Ribbon Office menu items to any context of the Ribbon-enabled Office application window.
  • You can add your own tabs, buttons and other controls to the Office Backstage View.

Custom Office task panes

Customizing the Office Ribbon and traditional toolbars garners lots of attention. But perhaps one of the most powerful customization options is with task panes. Add-in Express makes creating custom Office task pane really easy. All that is required is to add a UserControl to your project, design it to requirements, write your code, and add it to the Add-in Module's TaskPanes collection. The only real trick is to assign your user control the collection item's ControlProdID. You can learn more about task panes by reading the article from our Developer Guide covering custom Office task panes.

Two custom Office task panes in Excel 2010

Key Benefits:

  • You use familiar technologies to create custom Office task panes.
  • You can create custom UIs that aid the user while completing the task at-hand.

Advanced task panes are even better

Task panes are good but our Advances task panes for Excel, Word, PowerPoint are even better. Advanced task panes use native .NET forms instead of user controls. Your advanced task panes can contain multiple forms controlled by one or more plugins. In addition, they provide you with important features that allow you and your user to do the following to your custom Office task panes:

  • Resize
  • Hide
  • Minimize (similar to the Outlook ToDo Bar)
  • Move to other task pane dock regions (e.g. left, right, top, bottom)

Advanced task panes in Word 2010

With something as common as a Windows.Forms.Form, you can build a custom user interface that extends your targeted host application in ways previously unimagined and limited only by your creativity!

Advanced Task Panes are the best option if version neutrality is key to your Office add-in. They support all versions of Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint from 2000 to 2021/365.

Key Benefits:

  • More features than traditional Office task panes.
  • Version neutrality for Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Traditional Office command bars and command bar controls

The Office Ribbon is nice. It might even be elegant. But the truth is a significant amount of your potential user population is still using older versions of Office that utilize the traditional toolbar. You will be glad to know Add-in Express has an elegant solution. As is possible with the ribbon, you can quickly build custom toolbars for your Office COM add-ins.

Creating a custom Office toolbar using a visual designer

You only need to add a CommandBar component to the Add-in Module and then use the visual designer to complete your design. Of course, attaching code to the events of your toolbar buttons and items works like any other Windows-based application.

Attaching code to the events of your toolbar buttons

The best part is you can include a custom ribbon and a custom toolbar in the same code base. Add-in Express will take care of recognizing which version of the host application the user is running and display the appropriate "toolbar" (ribbon or traditional toolbar) for you. This capability is not only elegant, we think it's nice too!

Key Benefits:

  • Create your own or connect to any custom and built-in Office toolbars, menus, and context menus.
  • Use visual designers to add menu items in Office 2000 - 2007 and customize context menus in Office 2000 - 2021.
  • Add any custom .net controls to Office toolbars.

Add-in deployment is made easy

With all these tools, would be remiss if Add-in Express didn't properly address deployment. The truth, deployment is another of our strongest features. Using Add-in Express, you can quickly build deployment using any of three supported deployment packages:

  • Windows Installer
  • ClickOnce
  • ClickTwice (Msi-based web-deployment)
  • InstallShield
  • WiX

Building a deployment packages using ClickOnce deployment model

Add-in Express based add-ons utilize the Add-in Express loader, which acts as a shim that loads the addin into the host Microsoft Office application. More about Office add-in deployment.

Key Benefits:

  • Restricted user installations (e.g. non-admin users) are supported.
  • Both per-user and per-machine deployments.
  • Add-in updates are supported even while loaded into Microsoft Office application.
  • Provides ready-to-use custom actions for your deployment/setup project.

You can find a step-by-step sample showing how to build Office plug-ins in the Developer Tutorial: Creating COM add-in for Office.

You may also want to have a look at a free sample Excel add-in in .NET and Word add-in in NET.