Outlook 2016 Extensibility
The Office 2016 release is upon us and it is time we start having a closer look at the new features and changes in Outlook as well as what new extensibility the new Office 2016 platform offers to Outlook developers.
Outlook 2016 UI / usability changes
The most noticeable changes in the Microsoft Outlook 2016 user interface are as follows.
The most obvious change you’ll notice in Outlook 2016 is the new color scheme. The default theme is called “Colorful” and changes the title bar/header of Outlook to a blue color to fit in with the new modern apps for Windows.
Tell Me is an interesting new feature in Outlook 2016 that saves the user time by allowing them to search for something directly from either the Explorer or Inspector ribbons. For example, in the following screenshot, I wanted to show the BCC Field and all I had to do was type “bcc” in the Tell Me search box. It would be interesting to see if Microsoft will provide some sort of extensibility for the search box in order for Outlook developers to add their own search terms and functionality to Tell Me.
Attaching files to emails now presents the user with a list of recently used items instead of the traditional “Browse for file” dialog window we’ve come to know over the years. You’ll notice the list also contains a “Browse Web Locations” option which provides you with the ability to attach files from services like OneDrive directly to your email – a nice idea!
The Clutter folder
Although not entirely new to Outlook 2016, I’ve also noticed the Clutter folder that was added to my Outlook 2013 (this is probably because I use Office 365 Exchange). The Clutter folder’s aim is to help you focus on important messages by automatically moving low priority messages to the Clutter folder. In a way it reminds me of the Gmail tabs that automatically sort similar mails.
The Clutter functionality examines what you’ve done in the past to determine which messages to move. It is a nice touch and something I’m sure Microsoft will build upon in the future.
Outlook 2016 extensibility changes
Both these technologies are now referred to as “Office Add-ins”, although we’ll still refer to the traditional COM based add-ins as “COM / Managed Add-ins”.
COM / Managed add-ins
The new object model, although improved significantly, still does not provide most of the features and abilities that traditional COM/Managed Add-ins offer developers, such as advanced regions and events.
As always, Add-in Express still has you covered with regard to COM/Managed Add-ins, as our latest version supports all versions and editions of Microsoft Outlook stretching from 2000 right up to 2016. That’s right, Add-in Express for Office is the only toolset that allows you to support 15 years of MS Office with one codebase!
Napa Cloud App
In the past when you wanted to create an Office Add-in using the Office Napa tools you needed to have a SharePoint site collection tied to your Napa account.
This requirement has been removed, meaning even if you do not have a SharePoint site collection on Office 365, you can still create Office Add-ins using the web based editor provided by Napa, by simply signing into Napa using your Microsoft account. This is intended to get developers involved in developing Office add-ins without the need for any additional services such as SharePoint.
Add-in commands are a new feature added to the OfficeJS library. It allows developers to add ribbon buttons to the Outlook 2016 ribbon that can:
- Show a task pane
- Show a dropdown with additional options
This is a big step from the previous version of OfficeJS, as it was a little trickier to show your Add-in task pane since your Add-in was hidden behind the Office Apps button that showed the user a list of available apps to run.
Add-in commands are supported for the following:
- Mail Message Read
- Mail Message Compose
- Calendar Event Organizer
- Calendar Event Attendee
Office UI Fabric
It is intended to help you create native looking Office apps since Fabric embodies the Microsoft Design Language. It provides ready to use components, styled to fix in perfectly with Office, such as a Dialogs, callouts and buttons.
You can read more about Office UI Fabric and get the latest source code on GitHub.
Earlier this year, Microsoft announced at their BUILD conference that Office for Mac will support Office Add-ins in the future. They’ve also announced the same support for their Office version for Android and iOS.
Another exciting result of this is you can now also built Office Add-in for Office on the iPad!
As you can see Microsoft is actively enhancing and improving their Office platform for developers, be it via OfficeJS or their Office 365 APIs. Things are changing fast and new and grand opportunities are available for Office developers on a regular basis. It is an exciting time to be an Office developer.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, keep coding!