Power up with Office Add-ins @ Build 2020

Office Add-ins team

We’re excited to announce new capabilities that let you create your own custom experiences in Microsoft365, and enable your users to achieve more in the Office products they already use every dayOutlook, Excel, Word and PowerPoint. Driven by feedback from the Office developer community, these capabilities and tooling make it easy for you to bring your experiences to over 235 Million Office365 commercial monthly active users! 

New capabilities across Office Add-ins 

The dialog is a heavily used command surface, allowing a greater surface area to display information. It is commonly used to provide users richer data selection/manipulation capabilities – for example when constructing arguments for complicated custom functions (Formula Builder) or drilling into data or trends.  

All these scenarios require a robust two-way communication between the dialog and taskpane. We’ve streamlined this channel with the new messageChild API, allowing the parent page to send data directly to the dialog box. Complementing the existing messageParent API (which allows messaging from the dialog to taskpane), this provides an easy, seamless way for your dialog and taskpane to interact. 

The messageChild API is generally available for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. In addition, we’re also announcing a preview for Outlook for Windows. For more information, read Passing data and messages to a dialog box from its host page. 

Create contextual experiences in Excel 

In addition to expanding on the dialog capabilities, we’re making the platform more powerful, as well as continuing to add requested API’s, all while simplifying your developer experience. 

Excel Generally Available features 

Enterprise-grade solutions need an enterprise-grade runtime model. We understand add-ins are an important part of your workbooks’ entire lifecycle rather than moments in time.  To better meet these needs, we’re making it possible to move from a short-lived execution model, to one that can be long running, allowing your add-ins to respond to events, even when it is closed by the user.  We also want to make it easy to deliver the information that you need in the relevant context that makes the most sense for the user, whether it’s within the worksheet via a custom function, a UX container like dialogs and task panes, or in the future, a keyboard shortcut customization.  

The Shared Runtime for Excel adds powerful new capabilities making it even easier to build holistic add-ins within a common context: 

  • Run code on document open
  • Easily share state between custom function, add-in commands, and taskpanes 
  • Trigger events even when a task pane is not visible
  • Hide or show task panes
  • Allows custom functions to work with your existing cookie-based authentication systems, and protect your IP by leveraging authenticated resources
  • Get details on how to Configure your Excel add-in to use a shared JavaScript runtime

Additionally, with release of the Excel 1.11 API set, there are now over 2000 API’s available to Excel! This latest update is focused on top requested API’s such as:  

  • Allowing you to build workflow solutions with new comment API’s
  • Providing you with a capability to build drill down experiences with a single click event
  • Ensuring your add-in can meet the needs of your users worldwide through new CultureInfo API’s.
  • Read the details in the What’s new in Excel JavaScript API 1.11 requirement set article

Both the Excel 1.11 API set and the Shared Runtime are now Generally Available, in the latest Monthly Office365 builds, and will be coming to the Semi-Annual Update in July 2020. 

It’s is exciting to see how our partners have picked up these capabilities to include in their add-ins. An example is from our partner, SAP. The SAP Analytics Cloud add-in uses the Shared runtime to respond to events when taskpane is not visible, the new Excel 1.11 API’s for drill down, and the messageChild API that is described previously to select data. Learn more from SAP’s announcement blog. 

SAP's Analytics Cloud add-in in Excel

Richer capabilities in Outlook 

The Outlook Add-ins team is continually adding features and API’s both to improve existing scenarios and to enable new ones. For Build 2020, we have the following announcements: 

Outlook Generally Available features 

The following features are generally available.  

  1. Try today our beloved Script Lab for Outlook and easily learn APIs, and write, run, and share your own Outlook JavaScript API snippets.

ScriptLab for Outlook

2. Online Meetings in Outlook Mobile improvements:

  • Composing an online meeting is now supported in Mobile! Check out the native integration in Mobile: if you have the add-in installed, you only need to turn on the toggle in the UI to create a meeting using your favorite online meeting provider.
  • Mobile recipients of your invite will be able to join easily by clicking the “Join” option, rather than finding and clicking a URL in the body of the email. 
  • Online Meeting providers like Zoom, BlueJeans, and GoToMeeting will soon release updates to their add-ins to support these new features!
  • Android is GA. iOS will follow shortly.
  • Read more information about this feature in Create an Outlook mobile add-in for an online meeting provider.

A screenshot of a cell phone


Outlook features in public preview 

We are also excited to share that the following features are available in public preview:  

  • Event-based add-in activation (Outlook on the web):This is a new Outlook add-in option that enables developers to activate add-ins in the background after the user triggers an event, instead of users clicking commands on the ribbon. Included is the OnCompose event—developers can integrate their experiences when users create new email messages or appointments. The feature is in preview by invitation only for Outlook on the web. Please request access here: https://aka.ms/OWAPreview. More events will be added in the future.  
  • Online Signature API’s (Windows and Outlook on the web): One scenario that takes full advantage of the event-based activation feature described previously, is inserting online email signatures. In preview, we provide API’s to set the signature of a message, based on the email type (new email, reply, or forward.) Users can insert different signatures in each case and override the native behavior. 
  • Append onSend (Windows and Outlook on the web): We now allow developers to append content (text or html) to the message as soon as the user clicks Send. This is useful for adding disclaimers if appropriate based on email content. 
  • New Calendar properties (Windows): We are adding API’s to manageall-day events as well as privacy on emails. 

For more info about Outlook features in preview please visit: https://aka.ms/PreviewBlog. 

Better debugging and testing capabilities 

Our Developer Experience team has been working hard to ensure that developers can be successful at all stages in their add-in development. For Build 2020, we are releasing two new tools to help you better debug and test your add-in:

Microsoft Office Add-in Debugger Extension for VS Code

The Microsoft Office Add-in Debugger extension for Visual Studio Code allows you to use F5 to debug your Office Add-in against the Edge runtime. This extension gives you dynamic debugging! In the same session, you can set breakpoints while code is running, see changes in your code immediately while the debugger is attached, and monitor results of multiple changes to your code.

Microsoft Office Add-in Debugger for Visual Studio Code

Check out the extension in the VS Code Marketplace for more information on how to install and use this extension for debugging.  

Webview Switcher for Office Add-ins

Image of edge to edge chromine icon

The Webview Switcher for Office Add-ins is a command-line tool that allows you to test your add-in in IE11 without downloading Windows 7 and installing Office 2013. This is great for add-in developers who support users on those older versions. Now, you can develop AND test your add-ins against all Office/Windows runtimes directly from your current version of Office! 

See Internet Explorer 11 testing for more information on how to switch your Office Webview from the command-line. (As this is meant for development purposes only, this feature will only be available on the Beta channel for Office, formerly known as “Office Insiders”) 

Connect with us

We continue to deliver new capabilities based on your needs, and the best way to stay up to date is to follow this blog, as well as join our monthly add-ins community call which takes place the 2nd Wednesday each month at 08:00 PST/PDT.  See you there! 


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