Introducing AddIn365

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Office 365 presents an opportunity to meet more business objectives than ever before with an ever expanding set of services. However, out-dated attitudes and practices towards implementation of the Office 365 platform make it difficult for many organisations to realise this potential.

AddIn365 offer a fresh partner perspective on how clients can maximise the return on their investment in Office 365 with a context driven approach to add-in development. This new approach takes advantage of the great new services Office 365 provides and focuses on attaining a high level of employee adoption.

Office 365 presents a unique opportunity to move beyond a fragmented digital estate; it is a platform that brings together email, enterprise search, intranet, collaboration, enterprise social network and instant messenger. Furthermore, Office 365 natively provides the tools to link to other systems with ease via features such as the app launcher. Read more about the app launcher here.

Last year Microsoft released 400+ new features to the Office 365 platform. Many of these new features are complex and make light work of providing organisation’s insights that would have cost clients millions to develop in years gone by. Delve is just one example of this high quality engineering that comes as part and parcel of the Office 365 experience; it uses machine learning to understand who you are, who your network is and to suggest content that might be useful to you that you have not engaged directly with.

Organisations have recognised the opportunity that Office 365 presents in moving away from a disjointed collection of systems to a more integrated one. According to Radicati, growth of the Office 365 market share is expected to be 20% year on year for the next four years.

In order to take advantage of the great new services available with Office 365, organisations are turning to the market which tends to offer custom development or products in response to their business requirements, both of which present challenges.

Custom development tends to be:

  • Very Sites (SharePoint) focused.
  • Bends towards developing capabilities rather than configuring what is already available. This means that organisations tend to face more cost and protracted timescales when trying to deploy Office 365 than they need to.
  • Employee adoption is a secondary consideration to development and is often glossed over altogether.

Organisations that go down the product route tend to suffer three challenges:

  • Adoption is still a problem; employees using the platform will never ‘learn’ what is available so only a portion of the product will be used.
  • Products tend to branch from the Office 365 platform; clients that have invested in off the shelf products end up on the vendor roadmap and inevitably fall behind what Office 365 natively has to offer because Office 365 is evolving at a faster pace. This limits the return on investment an organisation can get from Office 365.
  • Products also tend to be based primarily on the Sites (SharePoint) part of the platform and do not take advantage of the great new services – again limiting the return on investment an organisation can get from Office 365.

We have seen these product challenges materialise recently within the intranet space (not too long ago I counted more than 15 products). Microsoft plan to release Infopedia in early 2016 which will provide all the common requirements an organisation has of an intranet, as Chris O’Brien reports here. With a powerhouse of engineers behind it this Office 365 native intranet capability will quickly become superior to any off the shelf product or custom developed intranet in the market.

Organisations are faced with a conundrum; both custom code and many off the shelf products fail to maximise a return on what is already available in Office 365 and inherit the adoption challenge.

So, how should organisations approach rolling out Office 365, in order to take advantage of the platform’s great new services and take employees on the journey with them?

I took the decision recently to co-found AddIn365. AddIn365 is the first Microsoft partner globally to offer a range of mobile and tablet friendly Workforce Enablement add-ins, for Microsoft Office and Microsoft’s Office 365 platform.

The AddIn365 add-in approach is context driven; tailored to individual employee’s daily tasks to ensure a high level of adoption whilst making use of a cross section of Office 365’s new capabilities.

AddIn365 add-ins increase productivity around common daily tasks and in doing so improve the employee experience of work.

Our two launch add-ins are:

  • AddIn Work Hub for Office 365 which provides staff a fully personalised dashboard to facilitate individual and cross-functional coordination, whether that work is operational, customer facing or delivery orientated.
  • AddIn Document Builder which is a Microsoft Office app that enables the workforce to create high quality documents quickly, through the creation and reuse of assets.

AddIn Work Hub brings together Calendar, Outlook, Delve, Groups, SharePoint team sites, Stories and the Video Portal.

AddIn Document Builder makes the process of document creation fast and accurate in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

My ethos behind the designs of these new products has been:

  1. Make Office 365 intuitive for staff to use by providing context-led technology, so staff want to use the platform to get their work done faster and to a higher standard.
  2. Help organisations to get even more return on their investment in the Office 365 platform by using the new services Microsoft make available to support usage of the whole platform and not just SharePoint.
  3. Keep organisations on the Office 365 roadmap with a configure over customise development approach.

I’m really excited about the AddIn365 project and will be posting further on how I have led our engineering team to produce these add-ins over the next few months.

In the meanwhile, I would encourage you to check out the AddIn365 website and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for regular updates.

SPSNL 2013 Presentation

SPSNL

Saturday 29th June saw the 2013 SharePoint Saturday Holland. Another great event organised with so many quality speakers and companies in attendance. It was a privilege to be invited to speak Smile

I presented a session on Apps for Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013, the slides can be seen below. I hope everyone found the session useful Smile I certainly enjoyed presenting to such an interactive audience.

I think Apps for Office is one of the coolest new features of Office and SharePoint 2013 and my session gives a really quick overview of the Apps for Office solution space. Then the hook up between SharePoint and Office that is now possible through the demo solution.

Over the next few months I’ll be publishing a dedicated series for Apps for Office so stay tuned for more soon.

Thanks to everyone who helped organise the event.

SharePoint Evolution Conference 2013

SPEvo13

SPEvo13

For five years running Combined Knowledge have hosted the conference and this years looks to be the best yet.

So why should you attend this conference?

For me the key reasons would be:

  • It will provide you with access to the best SharePoint experts from around the globe
  • You can learn about the latest version of SharePoint 2013 and its key features and applications across the different tracks
  • Meeting up with friends from across the SharePoint community
  • Listen to real-life implementations from the community track speakers
  • You get all the sessions on the DVD
  • The party is always amazing Smile

So if you haven’t already done so make sure you register soon to be in with a shout at one of the many prizes up for grabs. Register here

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I’m lucky enough to be speaking at this years SharePoint Evolution Conference 2013 in London between the 15th and 17th of April 2013.

Bringing SharePoint information into Office through Office Apps

Audience: Developers

Office 2013 introduces new Apps for Office which allows developers to create apps which interact with Word, Excel and Outlook. Using an App for Office we can bring information from within the enterprises SharePoint platform and help users create documents and bring increased value form their SharePoint data. The session will explore some scenarios to bring SharePoint into the Office clients.

My Session is on from 9:45am – 10:45am on the Monday in the Pick and Mix track.

Hopefully I’ll see you there Smile

SPSUK Bring SharePoint into your Office with Apps for Office

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Saturday 8th December saw the 2012 SharePoint Saturday at Nottingham’s Conference Centre. Another great event organised with so many quality speakers and companies in attendance.

I presented a session on Apps for Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013, the slides can be seen below. I hope everyone found the session useful Smile I certainly enjoyed presenting to such an interactive audience.

I think Apps for Office is one of the coolest new features of Office and SharePoint 2013 and my session gives a really quick overview of the Apps for Office solution space. Then the hook up between SharePoint and Office that is now possible through the demo solution.

Over the next few months I’ll be publishing a dedicated series for Apps for Office so stay tuned for more soon.

The code for the demo solution is available here.

The code is far from production ready and is used at your own risk.

SPC046 – Creating apps for Excel, Word and PowerPoint – Rolando Jimenez

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Rolando introduces the new investments by Microsoft for Apps for Office. This session is a deep dive into how to create apps in Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

Common App Architecture

 

The diagram shown highlights the architectural structure of the app model. The Office 2013 also contains a client side API. This allows apps to interact with the office content.

The session focus is on the client side logic so the:

App containing the HTML/CSS/JavaScript
Office JavaScript

Apps for Office – Recap

Web Page + App Manifest = App

Core concepts

  • 3 shapes, Task Pane, Content and Mail shape
  • Multi-platform and Cross App
    • Excel (web/desktop)
    • Outlook (Web/Desktop/Mobile Web)
    • Word (Desktop)
    • PowerPoint (Desktop)
    • Project (Desktop)
  • JavaScript API
  • Runtime sandbox

It is important to note that Apps for Office are agnostic to its host and is a core principle.

Principles

Cross Platform – designed from the ground up, providing abstraction, is async. Microsoft have not ported the old APIs (COM or .Net) into JavaScript they have built this from the first principles.

Cross App – common objects and methods across apps (selection, tables, settings) Principle is to present the office suite to a developer consistently and not really concern them whether they are in Word or PowerPoint. A selection is a selection.

Compatibility -Office version to version

Web standards – ECMAScript 5 e.g. Property get/set, strict mode, plain JS objects

Performance – async, limits. Things will be shut down which sap performance

Office JavaScript API Overview >

The diagram shows the hierarchy

  • Office.context
    • Document
      • R/W selection
      • Bindings
      • Settings
      • CustomXmlParts
    • Mailbox
      • Item
      • User Profile
      • EWS
      • Properties & Settings
    • Project
      • Project Info
      • Tasks

This session will focus on the ‘document’ branch of the API

Demo

Basic Hello World example

Choose App for Office 2013 in VS2012

Demo app selection was all the Task Pane options

In the VS solution the Office App project is the top one, with the manifest file inside

Pressing F5 before any changes should run a working default code app

In the html there is a JS include for

<script src="../Scripts/Office/1.0/office.js"></script>

Which means the Office API is being included

But be aware that this file is actually on a MS CDN and this is actually commented out by default. So good practice is to change to use the CDN version. This will mean that as the API gets updated your app will get them.

The first step is to create the ‘Office.initialize’ function

This function is the runtime handshake, and the app will error if it is missing

For Excel, Word and PowerPoint the document object is the most important object to start from

To change the run client you can change the ‘start action’ to the client you want

You can change the type of data you can interact with you use the ‘coercionType:Office.CoercionType’ which allows you to set things like html, openXML etc.

During the demo Rolando used a snippet of html for bold text, enetered it into the task pane app and set data pasted it into the doc as bold text. Proving the API can interpret the html into the document.

Note: You can change the html during debugging if you just click save and F5 in the app window

Demo of the OpenXML and its power

This is very useful where you have complex information content.

Org chart example showed how the app can interact with OpenXML to fill an orgchart form data in the app

Bindings Example

Bing map example bound to the data

The project is a Content app

Used the OOTB Bing Map scripts

Technique: In Office Apps the JavaScript ‘alert’ has been suppressed so as a developer you need to implement somewhere to show messages and debugging markers.

Note: the selection supports text/matrix and tables

Demo showed a basic map insertion and setting pins on the map based on selection of cells

To add a binding to the document call into the ‘Office.context.document.bindings’ object

To have the content app react an event handler needs registering

This can then react and make the app change based on whether data or selections have changed.

Settings example

Code example:

_doc.settings.set("mode", _mode);
_doc.settings.saveAsync();

Which persists the mode setting of the app into the document.

Technique: think about this state persistence for you apps, as a usability aspect it would be important

Custom XML Parts

A hidden and powerful feature in Office

These were introduced in 2007, documents can store islands of xml data, these are called custom XML parts within a document file.

Content Control Binding to parts

Word has content controls, these have been around since 2007 , these controls act as containers for specific kinds of content. Content controls can be mapped to nodes within the custom XML part.

There is now a new repeating section content control. This control provides the capability to bind to a collection of nodes.

Note: How to enable the Word developer tab, Backstage >> Options >> Customise Ribbon >> Right hand list has the ‘Developer’ and check it.

The developer tab allows the viewing and editing of the XML mapping pane

You can add a new part from that task pane.

Once the content is inserted into the xml mapping pane, you can right click and choose ‘insert content control’ and select the type of control you need.

Word also now has a repeating content control. So you can create a table, insert values from the XML and then highlight the entity and insert a repeating control to make it repeat for the length of the entity array.

Of course the example was done manually, but it can be done via the app code as well. This becomes powerful to embed data into the document.

Example used was an invoice document bringing in the data from another service. This is a very cool use case.

Operations that can be performed

  1. Add/Delete custom XML parts
  2. Get XML parts
  3. Get/Set node values
  4. Event handlers for node deleted, inserted, or replaces

Core objects for working with custom XML parts

  1. CustomXmlPart
  2. CustomXmlParts
  3. CustomXmlNode
  4. CustomXmlPrefixMappings

Connecting to SharePoint

How Apps for Office relate to SP

Now that Office365 contains Office, Exchange and SharePoint developers can now take advantage of this to create very complex solutions which span these technical capabilities.

Example is a simple task pane app which works in Word or Excel called ‘SPLister’

What this demo app does is allow the selection of any table that exists in the document, and then automatically generate a SharePoint list of it.

A key note is that the app needs to be told the SP url

The demo app is running from Azure so it will need to get into SP via Oauth

When invoked SP realises and asks the user to trust that app via Oauth consent flow page

Once SP issues the app with its access token it can start to communicate to the app.

The app is using the client side OM to create the list.

The demo app has both client and server side code. This was a little frustrating as it would have been great to see this being a JavaScript only hosted app.

Showed the ‘Seller Dashboard’ and the client ids

The ‘client id’ is the id which allows you permissions to request access to SharePoint in Office365

Code example for initialising the authentication to SharePoint.

function initAuthFlow(siteUrl, inSameWindow) {
authorizeUrl = siteUrl + "_layouts/15/OAuthAuthorize.aspx?IsDlg=1";
authorizeUrl += "&client)id=" + $("#clientId").val();
authorizeUrl += "&scope=Web.Manage";
authorizeUrl += "&response_type=code";
authorizeUrl += "&redirect_uri=" + $("#redirectUrl").val();
authorizeUrl += "&state=" + siteUrl;

if (inSameWindow) {
//Perform authorization flow in this window
window.location = authorizeUrl;
} else {
//Open a new window to perform the authorization flow
authWindow = window.open(authorizeUrl, "authWindow");
codeListener(); //Start listening for the auth code
}
}

This code will start the auth request, this allows the permission. The client id provides the identifier for the calling app. The code also requests the permissions it needs on SharePoint. The code asks for the auth code in the url and provides the call-back redirection url to send it too.

The example app has the handling logic for the returned auth code in the C# code behind of the aspx app page. The ‘TokenCache’ and ‘TokenHelper’ classes are used to handle storage of the returned token to reduce the need to keep asking for it.

Functional areas v’s App support summary

 

Functional area

Word

Excel/Excel WAC

PowerPoint

Outlook/OQA

Project

Get/Set data as text, table, matrix

X

X

X

X

Settings

X

X

X

X

Get File

X

X

Bindings

X

X

Custom XML Parts

X

Html and OOXML

X

Mailbox

X

X

Resources

http://dev.office.com

Summary

A good overview into the power of Apps for Office. It was disappointing that the question of how to host them within SharePoint (not AZURE) remained unanswered. I’m guessing that an ‘auto-hosted’ SharePoint app might be the answer, but only some trial and error will confirm that.