Onboarding to Office 365

New Features Make Developing Microsoft Office Add-Ins Easier in 2021

Microsoft Office is an extremely widely used set of software that has become the standard for word processing, ...


Microsoft Office is an extremely widely used set of software that has become the standard for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and more across the world. Adding to the already substantial base feature set are Microsoft Office add-ins, tools made primarily by third-party developers. In early 2021, Microsoft announced a number of upcoming changes to add-ins to make developing them easier than ever. This spells good news for developers and Office users alike.

How Microsoft Office Add-Ins Work in Office 365

andrew-m-ynVYoNqnCys-unsplash-1When Microsoft released Office 365 in 2011, they also announced big changes to how add-ins would work going forward. They deprecated the old COM plugins that were operating system dependent and moved developers to a new cross-platform model based on JavaScript. This change was partially driven by the upcoming releases of Office 365 for iOS and web browsers.

Developers add their add-ins to Office 365 applications with manifest files. These instruct the Office app to create a separate, secure sandbox for the add-in, meaning that add-ins can provide an enormous variety of functionality for Office without compromising security. The add-ins can interact with Office apps using JavaScript APIs.

Microsoft Office add-ins are shared through the Microsoft AppSource store. The upshot of this model is that there are numerous secure and reliable add-ins for Office 365, many of which are actively supported and continue to evolve as Microsoft adds new features to their APIs.

2021 Updates to Office and Add-Ins Development

Profile of concentrated young software developer eating pizza and coding at homeThe announcement from Microsoft makes it clear that 2021 will be an exciting year for both developers and users of add-ins. The changes range from new capabilities to performance improvements to a simplified deployment pipeline. These are some of the most noteworthy changes:

  • Event-Based Activation in Outlook:Traditionally, add-ins have required button presses in the ribbon or a menu to activate functionality. However, developers can now trigger functions based on events in Outlook. For example, events such as starting a new message, creating an appointment, or adding an attachment can serve as triggers. This creates an opportunity for a wide range of productivity enhancements for Outlook users.
  • PowerPoint Automation:PowerPoint is getting a richer API that will offer a number of new opportunities to developers. Perhaps most notably, this includes automation of both designing and presenting PowerPoint documents. In the future, Microsoft Office add-ins could help you to create and show more engaging and effective presentations.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts in Excel:Many Excel power users prefer to use keyboard shortcuts to control the program. However, there has always been limited support for add-in shortcuts. The 2021 updates include new options for developers to tie shortcuts with functionality. This is also great news for many users with disabilities who may prefer keystrokes to mouse clicks.
  • UI Improvements:There are several UI improvements that let developers create awesome functionality with the native Office interface. Notable, Microsoft Office add-ins can now use contextual ribbon capabilities. This means they can create ribbon buttons when certain trigger conditions are met, helping to better organize their interfaces.
  • Better Add-In Deployment:Organization administrations are getting more tools for add-in deployment. This includes automatically deploying add-ins for their users, helping to ensure that the right users have the right software. They will also be getting a revamping Admin Center experience.

What This Means for Add-Ins Developers

For developers that create Microsoft Office add-ins, these changes are great news. There are new opportunities to create valuable functionality for users. Greater automation and better UI features mean that developers can design more intuitive and effective user experiences.

Plus, Microsoft has committed to faster fixes for API issues. This means that developers will get to work with more robust APIs, helping to avoid performance issues that may result in negative impressions and reviews from users.

What This Means for Microsoft Office Add-Ins Users

Maths against smiling friends students talking togetherIndividuals and teams using Office 365 will also benefit significantly from these changes. They can expect their Microsoft Office add-ins to perform better and offer more features. Plus, companies can more easily deploy add-ins for their users.

For companies that haven’t yet migrated to Office 365, these changes should serve as a motivator. Microsoft is committed to offering the best possible experience for organizations with both their native feature set and third-party add-ins.

Move Your Business Smoothly to the Microsoft Cloud

Whether your company is full of power users with endless Microsoft Office add-ins and integrations, or more casual users that just want simple, familiar productivity apps, Office 365 has a lot to offer. Moving from legacy systems to the Microsoft Cloud could help your business to improve efficiency and leverage a new world of functionality. Cloudficient is here to help you migrate to the cloud smoothly. 

With unmatched next generation migration technology, Cloudficient is revolutionizing the way businesses retire legacy systems and transform their organization into the cloud. Our business constantly remains focused on servicing client needs and creating product offerings that match them.

If you would like to learn more about how to bring Cloudficiency to your migration project, visit our website, or contact us.

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