Pieter van der Westhuizen

Build an Outlook Northwind Connector with Add-in Express 2010

The Microsoft Outlook Social Connector did not always play nicely together with Add-in Express Advanced regions, however, Add-in Express rose to the occasion and it is working since Version 6.2.3049. Although we are able to build our own provider for the standard Outlook Social Connector; Northwind Traders needed something that would work perfectly alongside their existing Add-in Express solutions.

So in this week’s post we will build a very lightweight Northwind Business Connector and add a couple of extra features that is only possible with Add-in Express 2010.

Let’s start by creating a new Visual Studio 2010 ADX COM Add-in project.

Creating a new ADX COM Add-in Project in Visual Studio 2010

C# will be our language of choice in this example, and Microsoft 2010 for the Minimum supported Office version and Microsoft Outlook as the Supported Office Application. Once the wizard has completed, add two new ADX Outlook Forms to your project.

Adding Add-in Express Outlook Forms

One of these forms will display the customers’ order history and the other a list of their favourite products, providing Northwind with business intelligence about their clients within seconds.

Switch to the AddinModule designer and add a new ADXOutlookFormsManager. Click on the ellipses (…) button next to the ADXOutlookFormsManager‘s Items property. Add a new item to the forms collection by clicking the Add button. Select the following items in the ExplorerAllowedDropRegions property:

  • BottomNavigationPane
  • BottomReadingPane
  • BottomTodoBar
  • LeftReadingPane
  • RightReadingPane
  • TopReadingPane

Next, set the ExplorerLayout Property to BottomReadingPane and the FormClassName to the Order History ADX Outlook Form that you have added earlier. Add another item to the forms collection and set its ExplorerAllowedDropRegion property to:

  • BottomReadingPane
  • BottomSubpane
  • LeftSubpane
  • RightSubpane
  • TopSubpane

As with the previous item, set the ExplorerLayout property to BottomReadingPane, set the FormClassName to the other ADX Outlook Form. In this scenario it will be the Favourite Products ADX Outlook form we have added earlier.

Set both of the items’ AlwaysShowHeader property and the IsDragDropAllowed property to True.

Build and register your project and start up MS Outlook. You will notice in the Outlook reading pane that our two forms are visible.

Custom forms built into the Outlook Reading pane

Clicking on the arrows button will show or collapse the two forms. When the forms are visible the user would have the option of switching between them by either using the two arrow buttons or selecting the form from the dropdown menu.

Switching between custom forms

Another nice feature from Add-in Express is the ability to dock our forms. To do this, click and hold the mouse on the menu header and drag the form to where you want it docked. Add-in Express will automatically display an image that shows you the available positions to dock your form, the image will be familiar to users of Visual Studio.

 Docking custom forms

I’ve docked the form to the Right Reading Pane and the result will look like this:

Custom form docked to the Right Reading Pane

And there you go, you’ve given your users the ability to dock and switch between forms without writing a single line of code, all due to the awesome functionality of Add-in Express!

Thanks for reading. Until next time, keep coding!

Post a comment

Have any questions? Ask us right now!