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Office Add-ins development lifecycle

Office Add-ins

Plan the end-to-end process for developing task pane, content, and Outlook add-ins to extend Office applications.

Last modified: November 06, 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.

Some useful tools for developing an Office add-in are Visual Studio and the Microsoft Developer Tools or Napa Office 365 Development Tools. For more details, see Requirements for running Office Add-ins.

The typical development lifecycle of an Office Add-in includes the following steps:

  1. Decide on the purpose of the add-in.

    Ask the following questions:

    • How is the add-in useful?

    • How does it help your customers be more productive?

    • What scenarios does your add-in'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 add-in.

    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 add-in and Office host applications that best support the purpose of the add-in.

    Consider the following to identify the scenarios:

    • Will customers use the add-in to enrich the content of a document or Access browser-based database? If so, you may want to consider creating a content add-in. Currently, you can create content add-ins for Access, Excel, Excel Online, PowerPoint, or PowerPoint Online.

    • Will customers use the add-in while viewing or composing an email message or appointment? Is being able to expose the add-in according to the current context important? Is making the add-in 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 an Outlook add-in. Currently, you can create Outlook add-ins 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 add-in (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 Activation rules for Outlook add-ins to find out how you can contextually activate the Outlook add-in.

    • Will customers use the add-in to enhance the viewing or authoring experience of a document? If so, you may want to consider creating a task pane add-in. Currently, you can create task pane add-ins for Excel, Excel Online, PowerPoint, PowerPoint Online, Project, and Word.

  4. Design and implement the user experience and user interface for the add-in.

    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 add-in, 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 Office Add-ins manifest schema.

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

    For Outlook add-ins, you can specify the context, based on the current message or appointment, under which your add-in is relevant and you would like Outlook to make it available in the UI. You can also decide which devices you want the add-in to support. In the manifest, specify the context as activation rules and the supported devices.

  6. Install and test the add-in.

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

    For Outlook add-ins, install it in an Exchange mailbox, and specify the location of the add-in manifest file in the Exchange Admin Center (EAC). For more information, see Deploy and install Outlook add-ins for testing.

  7. Publish the add-in.

    You can submit the add-in to the Office Store, from which customers can install the add-in. In addition, you can publish task pane and content add-ins to a private folder add-in catalog on SharePoint or to a shared network folder, and you can deploy an Outlook add-in directly on an for your organization. For details, see Publish your Office Add-in.

  8. Updating the add-in

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

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