Written by Pieter Maertens, SharePoint Developer at eXsertus.
On July 16th 2012, Microsoft announced the customer preview of Office 2013. This introduced one big change that will be covered in this, and upcoming blogs…
At this moment, all software is made available as an “App”. It doesn’t matter if it’s for iOS, Windows or Android. Apps are the big thing, and this is exactly what Microsoft focused on when creating Office and SharePoint 2013.
We all know the Microsoft App Store called “Marketplace”. The same concept also exists for Office and SharePoint apps, although here it’s called the “Office Store“.
Microsoft has a lot of good reasons to invest in the “Office Store”: data storage is moving to the cloud, applications settings roam and being offline is becoming the exception. We also use multiple devices for multiple purposes.
Today, we use multiple devices for multiple purposes.
Natural interfaces are the norm and most of all everything should be collaborative and social… Working on Islands is long gone; collaboration and social are the key notes now.
Because of the strong, upcoming trends Microsoft created a new cloud app model for Office and SharePoint and kept the following in mind when creating the app model:
- More and more companies are providing/exposing data through public RESTful APIs
- Web standards have matured and dominate
- Apps are everywhere
All good and nice, but what does it mean when developers start building apps? The app model is designed around four key points:
The cloud app model allows developers to build apps for Office and SharePoint, isolated and secure by design.
- Security. Apps created on this new model are isolated and secure by design and are executed in a secure sandbox.
- Performance. Extend and personalize end-users Office and SharePoint experience without impacting performance
- Flexibility and choice. Apps can be submitted to the Office store but developers still have the ability to use the existing Office extensibility models (VBA, Add-ins, SharePoint full trust solutions) but those can’t be submitted to the store.
Sounds good! Give me more information!
What is it?
An app for Office is basically a webpage that is hosted inside an Office client application. You can use apps to extend the functionality of a document, email messages, meeting requests, or appointments. Apps can run in multiple environments and clients, including rich Office desktop clients, Office Web Apps, mobile browsers, and also on-premises and in the cloud.
After you develop and publish your apps to the Office Store (or to an onsite catalog), they will be available to consumers from their Office 2013 applications.
Unlike Add-ins, apps for Office are saved as part of the document file format, they travel with the document and require no code installation on the user’s machine. Apps for Office interact with the document’s content using simple Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and since these APIs are common across Office Applications, the same app can for instance easily work in both Word and Excel, without code change
Anatomy of an Office App
The manifest specifies settings and capabilities of the app, such as the following:
- The URL of the webpage that implements the app UI and programming logic.
- The app display name, description, ID, version, and default locale.
- Whether the app can be shown as a task pane, in line with document content, or activated contextually in an email message, meeting request, or appointment.
- The kinds of client applications (including rich and Web App clients) that an app supports.
- The permission level and data access requirements for the app.
There are three types of Office Apps that can be developed
- Task Pane App
- Content app
- Mail app
Though it seems that every type can be used for every application; this not the case. The following overview clarifies which app type you can use for each office application:
|Excel 2013||Task paneContent|
|Excel Web App||Content|
|Word 2013||Task pane|
|Outlook Web App|
|PowerPoint 2013||Task pane|
|Project Professional 2013||Task pane|
Task pane app in Word
Content app in Excel
Mail App in Outlook
Note: A Mail App requires Exchange 2013, POP and IMAP are not supported!
In the next blog posts we will dive deeper into SharePoint App development and one fancy online code editor made by Microsoft. Stay Tuned!