Office Add-ins platform overview

Add-ins gives you enhanced productivity tailored to your custom business processes

What is an Office Add-in?

No more VSTO Add-ins! Welcome to the new world and the power of Office 365!

Office Add-ins enable you to extend Office clients such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook using web technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

You can use Office Add-ins to:

  • Add new functionality to Office clients - For example, augment Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook by interacting with Office documents and mail items, bringing external data into Office, processing Office documents, exposing third-party functionality into Office clients, and much more.
  • Create new rich, interactive objects that can be embedded into Office documents - For example, maps, charts, and interactive visualizations that users can add to their own Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.

The best part is: Office Add-ins run across multiple versions of Office including Office for Windows Desktop, Office Online, Office for the Mac, and Office for the iPad.

What can an Office Add-in do?

An Office Add-in can do almost anything a webpage can do inside the browser, such as the following:

  • Extend Office native UI by creating custom ribbon buttons and tabs.
  • Provide an interactive UI and custom logic through HTML and JavaScript.
  • Use JavaScript frameworks such as jQuery, Angular, and many others.
  • Connect to REST endpoints and web services via HTTP and AJAX.
  • Run server-side code or logic, if the page is implemented using a server-side scripting language such as ASP or PHP.

In addition, Office Add-ins can interact with the Office application and an add-in user's content through a JavaScript API that the Office Add-ins infrastructure provides.

At AskCody we do Outlook add-ins that extend functionality inside users Outlook

Outlook add-ins can extend the Office ribbon and also display contextually next to an Outlook item when you're viewing or composing it. They can work with an email message, meeting request, meeting response, meeting cancellation, or appointment in a read scenario - the user viewing a received item - or in a compose scenario - the user replying or creating a new item. 

Outlook add-ins can access contextual information from the item, such as address or tracking ID, and then use that data to access additional information on the server and from web services to create compelling user experiences. In most cases, an Outlook add-in runs without modification on the various supporting host applications, including Outlook, Outlook for Mac, Outlook Web App, and OWA for Devices, to provide a seamless experience on the desktop, web, and tablet and mobile devices.

Note Outlook add-ins require a minimum version of Exchange 2013 or Exchange Online to host the user's mailbox. POP and IMAP email accounts aren't supported.

Anatomy of an Office Add-in

The basic components of an Office Add-in are an XML manifest file and your own web application. The manifest defines various settings, including how your add-in integrates with Office clients.

Manifest + webpage = an Office Add-in


  • The manifest specifies settings and capabilities of the add-in, such as the following:
  • The add-in's display name, description, ID, version, and default locale.
  • How the add-in integrates with Office:
    • For add-ins that extend Word/Excel/PowerPoint/Outlook: The native extension points the add-in uses to expose functionality, such as buttons on the ribbon.
    • For add-ins that create new embeddable objects: The URL of the default page that is loaded for the object.
  • The permission level and data access requirements for the add-in.

 To learn more about the Manifest, see Office Add-ins XML manifest.

Summary – Why add-ins?

  • Native Experiences through web technologies
  • Runs everywhere Office runs
  • Login with organizational credentials which are management by IT department
  • Modern distribution and deployment through Exchange Admin Center - No more VSTO deployment!
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