Office Development–How to reach the Office Extensibility Platform team

StackOverflow

A long time ago, I answered a lot of questions in the so called Microsoft Forums assisting the community with VSTO issues. The forums still exist (https://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/vstudio/en-US/home?forum=vsto), but are not the main access point anymore if you want to reach the Office Extensibility Platform team with your questions or issues.

These days https://www.stackoverflow.com is the center of the Universe (well… not really but if you have developer related questions it is … sort of …).

StackOverflow is a huge knowledge base of information formed out of an even bigger stack of questions from the community answered by not only the community but also from many of the ‘real’ product groups. If you are building your Add-ins using OfficeJS your can go to:

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/office-js

This “office-js” tagged group of questions is actively monitored by the Office Extensibility Platform team and you might recognize many of the team members as being the ones answering your questions (or apologizing if you reached an issue). By asking your questions in there the information around it is automatically functioning as future reference item.

You’ll notice, if you Google for a specific issue or question, that you’ll hit StackOverflow simply because you often won’t be the only one with that question. Big chance that the answer is already available and that will save you the time to submit the question.

Remember, that by submitting your question, you are not only helping yourself but you’ll help many others arriving at a later time with the same question.

And … while you are at it, try to answer some of the open questions if you know the answer. It will provide you ‘reputation’ points that may help you even more. The more reputation points you get the more you are ‘credited’ with features. If your reputation is high enough you’ll be able to moderate questions with a group of peer moderators, and if it is really high you can moderate without confirmation of other moderators. You basically build trust by doing good.

BTW, the office-js tag is not the only tag where the team lives, other examples and my favorite tags:

image

Note that VSTO is also in there:
https://stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/vsto
so if you have questions on the good old VSTO tools this is your go to place Winking smile

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Office Development – Word Add-in in Visual Studio ‘in action’

Yesterday in my blogpost I showed you the instructions to perform to create your first Word Add-in not by command line tools like I showed earlier, but by using Visual Studio 2017. So here it is:

Boot up your Visual Studio IDE and select File, new Project. In the New Project Dialog select on the left hand of the dialog the tree item Add-ins under the Office/SharePoint node. On the right hand you get options to build Add-ins for Excel, Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and SharePoint.

 FirstVSAddin01

They still call it Web Add-in, if you ask me this name is a bit outdated. I believe the Add-ins are called just Office Add-ins (with the capital A). There was a time these things were called “Apps for Office”. The name used today on the http://dev.office.com website is:

Apps for Office

Where were we? …. Oh, yes … Creating a new project. Name your new project any name you would like to give it, I opted for MyFirstWordAddin. Change the folder if you want to store it somewhere else other than the default project output path and click OK to start creating your project. If all goes well you’ll see the following ‘progress’ bar appearing on your screen.

FirstVSAddin02

It takes a couple of minutes to finish, but when it does it will open a code window like this:

FirstVSAddin03

And another tab was created to show you some helpful links to continue:

FirstVSAddin04

Now it is time to hit F5, the “Visual Studio Compile-Run-Debug Experience”. As we have seen ancient times ago the Office Dev team really tried to hide all the difficult stuff for you and it will create for you the security context to be able to actually run the Word Add-in without going through the hassle I described in other posts creating the Add-in using the command line tools like Yeomen.

The only dialog might get to see in between is this one:

Cert1

A one time only trust entry for your self-signed Localhost certificate. You’ll notice if you create a second project this dialog won’t show again as you already trusted it for your first project. Click Yes otherwise your Add-in won’t be trusted to run. It will create the security context and an instance of Word is created and installed the just created Add-in.

On the top right hand in the Ribbon in the Home Tab a button appears in the Commands Group with some easy instructions. You’ve seen as similar button and instructions on the command line Add-in we created a while ago.

FirstVSAddin05

Click the button to have the Task pane appearing on the right hand. The sample Task pane wants you to select a couple of words in the document and if you press the Highlight button it will calculate the word with the most characters and highlights the word.

FirstVSAddin06

That is all there is to it … no fancy pansy difficult stuff to get around creating certificates and trusting the certificates. It is all done for you by the Visual Studio tooling. Impressive!

Beware however, you are not ready for production – just like the command line Add-in tools, the certificate is self signed, you are not running the ‘ web app’ in a shared (public) location to be able to access from anywhere and anytime. It is still ‘demo-ware’. Hopefully over time we will reach the golden moment of creating ‘production-ware’ Smile

To be continued …

 

 

 

Office Development – Word Add-in – Using Visual Studio

Office Development - Visual Studio

A while ago, not too long, I showed you how to start developing your Word Add-in from scratch using nothing but command line tools. Check my blog archives for the last couple of weeks if you missed that. Today we are looking at the same process but now using Visual Studio.

Where to begin? According to the page: https://dev.office.com/getting-started/addins going through the process of steps you select Word as Add-in host, and Visual Studio as tools to build your Add-in will finally show you the following screen:

image

It is already hopelessly outdated, mentioning to install the Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2013 or 2015 while Visual Studio 2017 has been around for quite some time.

The process however is still unchanged for the most part, I will show it in practice in a later blog, but if you follow the three steps you are basically already there, where without Visual Studio and just using the command line tools we had to go through a large series of requirements and certificate fixes to make that work.

Apparently Visual Studio takes a lot of this out of your hands and is doing all that for you. Not completely fair, because with Visual Studio you also need to go through the installation process. I want to find out what this all is and put that in a blog post as well

To be continued …

Office Development – Book: Building Office Add-ins using Office.js

clip_image002

While looking for references and/or resources to support my research on the ‘new’ Office Add-ins I repeatedly stumbled over the sample chapters of one book in particular:

Building Office Add-ins using Office.js

https://leanpub.com/buildingofficeaddins

The book is published on LeanPub and this means that it is work in progress. The author is continuously working on the manuscript and is potentially never finished. Even the pricing is flexible, the author specified a minimum and a recommended fee. You can decide if you want to pay the minimum, recommended or even a higher amount for the book. At this time, the minimum is set to $15.99 and the suggested price is set to $19.99 but as said you can up the price to $500 if you like Smile

clip_image004

You don’t have to worry the information provided is legit, the book is written by Michael Zlatkovsky who works at the Office Extensibility Platform team at Microsoft. The information is therefor right from the source, even better … Michael has been a key participant in the design of the new Office 2016 wave of Office.js APIs:

https://leanpub.com/u/Zlatkovsky

Michael and I go back quite some time already, I met Michael years ago, I thinks around 2012, when we were all still developing VSTO Add-ins. Michael always was very helpful and supporting when I needed information or struggled with issues.

Now get on over to LeanPub site and buy the book!

Did I mention already where to get it?
https://leanpub.com/buildingofficeaddins

I’m sure it will help you and me in learning the details of developing Office Add-ins using Office.js

Office Development – Word.RequestContext vs Word.run

MinimalCode 2

Yesterday we’ve seen the minimal code running to insert a bit of text at the selected Range using Word.RequestContext:

(() => {

   async function MinimalWordmethod() {

      // Create the client request context. You’ll do this for al Word add-ins.

      var ctx = new Word.RequestContext();

      // Do your things here, such as ..

      var range = ctx.document.getSelection();

      range.insertText("Test MinimalWordMethod", "After");

      await ctx.sync();

   }

   MinimalWordmethod();

})();

If you look however at the boilerplate code that is generated with a clean Yeoman project you find that RequestContext is never used, but instead of this you see Word.run(async (context) => { … });

Why is this and what is the difference? Well, I looked into this and found the answer on a piece of documentation from Michael Zlatkovsky, member of the Office Extensibility Platform team, here:

http://buildingofficeaddins.com/run

Michael explains it in his documentation but is written for Excel, however as you can read on the same page it is fully compliant with Word.run.

Here is a quote from the page:

You can think of the Excel.run as a boiler-plate preamble; it is the batch function that is the star of the show, but it needs a request context in order to start off the chain of OM calls. The Excel.run call is simply a means to that end, as it creates a new request context that it passes into the batch function.

Reading this quote explains that by using the <host>.run function you start a batch process, without the trouble of creating your context by yourself. The run function will take care of this for you. So instead of the code where you create your own context object as seen in the snippet above you should be able to run the following code:

(() => {

   async function MinimalWordmethod() {

      // Create the client request context. You’ll do this for al Word add-ins.

      await Word.run(async (context) => {

         // Do your things here, such as ..

         var range = context.document.getSelection();

         range.insertText("Test run MinimalWordMethod", "After");

         await context.sync();

      });

   }

   MinimalWordmethod();

})();

How to get the new minimal code running

Go back to the Yeoman project from yesterdays post, open the project folder and open the file app.ts in the src source folder.

Replace all the code from this file as seen in the top snippet with the code from the second, new snippet above. Save it and start your Add-in ‘server’ by running npm start in the root of your project.

Opening Word, with the installed Add-in will still show you the Add-in button:

addin7_thumb

By clicking the button the Taskpane is showing, just like we’ve seen before, but now you should see the words “Test run MinimalWordMethod” in your document:

MinimalCode3

Without creating your own context the Word.run function created its own context and the code still works. As you can see this helps you to take some effort out of your hand.

To be continued …

Office Development – Minimal Code in practice

MinimalCode

Returning on my last ‘minimal code’ blog post, I promised to get back on this to see how this works in practice. One of my question marks I added to the post was that I wondered why the Yeoman boilerplate was using run instead of RequestContext where run passed a context parameter as opposed to the RequestContext where actively a context is requested before accessing the Word object model.

I think I found an answer to that, but will save this to a later date as I first want to make sure the minimal code I provided would work and I found some issues in the original posted code that didn’t seem to be correct.

Here is the updated code that should work in real life:

(() => {

   async function MinimalWordmethod() {

      // Create the client request context. You’ll do this for al Word add-ins.

      var ctx = new Word.RequestContext();

      // Do your things here, such as ..

      var range = ctx.document.getSelection();

      range.insertText("Test MinimalWordMethod", "After");

      await ctx.sync();

   }

   MinimalWordmethod();

})();

How to get the minimal code running

If you go back to the Yeoman project instructions in this post (and fixed the certificate issues in post Office Development – Fixing Trusted Authority – Word Client and https://maartenvanstam.wordpress.com/2017/08/07/office-development-fixing-certificate-issue-with-openssl-certificate/) you should already have a working Word Add-in.

Open the project folder (or if you already deleted it quickly create a new one following my instructions from my earlier blogposts) and open the file app.ts in the src source folder.

Replace all the code from this file with the code above, save it and start your Add-in ‘server’ by running npm start in the root of your project.

Opening Word, with the installed Add-in (again, if you already dropped it follow my other blogposts earlier this month to install it) will show you the Add-in button:

addin7

By clicking the button the Taskpane is showing, just like we’ve seen before as we haven’t changed the Taskpane ‘web’ code, but now you should see the words “Test MinimalWordMethod” arriving in your document:

MinimalCode2

As you can see the code worked! Here is how:

MinimalWordmethod();

This line is automatically triggered when the code is running on startup of the Add-in. By doing so inside the MinimalWordmethod a context is requested in this line:

var ctx = new Word.RequestContext();

If the context is returned correctly you now can access the Word object model to access parts of the document. In this case we access the selected Range object and insert the text right after the Range:

var range = ctx.document.getSelection();
range.insertText("Test MinimalWordMethod", "After");

Instead of having this executed immediately like we’ve seen in VBA or VSTO, the text is only inserted after calling the sync method on the context. In the JavaScript APIs for Office calls to Office are handled asynchronously and to work with that the await and async keywords can be found in the code.

Very simple and basic code, but there are some drawbacks you need to keep in mind. For instance, because things are async, how do you know what the right order is how things are processed. And what about batch processing of boatloads of instructions? Will this all be handled correctly, and what if there are dependencies between the batched instructions? All of these questions arise when looking at this little piece of code, and we need to address all of that in later posts.

To be continued … It’s a never ending story Smile

Office Development – Word Add-in, minimal code

So far it has been fairly complex, installing lots of components and doing all sorts of things before you get things to work. But what do you need for code to do just the minimal thing in a Word Add-in?

Initially it is said that a context is required by requesting a new context:

var ctx = new Word.RequestContext();

With this context you can do things the things you’d like to do.

function MinimalWordmethod() {
  
// Create the client request context. You’ll do this for al Word add-ins.

   var ctx = new Word.RequestContext();

   // Do your things here, such as ..
   var range = ctx.document.getSelection();

   ctx.executeAsync()
     
.then(function () {})
     
.catch(function(error){
        
console.log("ERROR: " + JSON.stringify(error));
     
});
}

Interesting part is that this RequestContext is not to be found in the Yeoman boilerplate, so it looks like it is initialized by the framework these days …

I want to find out where this happened in the Yeoman boilerplate. As far as I can tell the documentation is not all too clear about this.

To be continued too Winking smile

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