Microsoft equips Visual Studio for Office app-building

Visual Studio developers now can use templates to quickly build apps for Microsoft Office and SharePoint

Microsoft has released a collection of tools that will help Visual Studio 2012 users more easily write add-on applications for Microsoft Office 2013, SharePoint 2013 and Microsoft's Office 365 hosted service.

The packages could be handy for longtime Visual Studio users, given the number of new technologies Microsoft is supporting in these office products. The new releases of Office and SharePoint will allow developers to use emerging Web technologies, in addition to the ones they are already familiar with, said Sean Laberee, a Microsoft senior program manager lead in developer engineering, in an email interview.

"Prior to Office 2013, development for Office was done through ... add-ins and templates for Office using .NET. This technology is also fully supported on Office 2013 with the introduction of .NET Framework 4.5 support," Laberee wrote. "The difference is that the new model allows for developers to use their Web skills, including HTML [and] JavaScript to write apps that extend their Office applications."

With Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2012, developers can build apps using Web technologies such as HTML5, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), JavaScript, REST (Representational State Transfer), OAuth and Microsoft's own OData.

Once the free package is installed, developers can specify to Visual Studio that they are starting a new Office or SharePoint app, rather than a generic new project. The Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2012 package includes a number of templates and other add-ins to more easily create, test and package apps that run in all current releases of Office and SharePoint. Users are given templates and tools for three types of apps: task pane apps (apps appear in the task pane of an Office application), content apps (apps that appear inside of the document's content), and mail apps for Outlook 2013 and Outlook Web Access.

With these tools, developers can also extend SharePoint 2013 functionality to end users who do not have SharePoint clients on their local machines. The add-ins also work well with Microsoft's Napa development environment, which allows developers to build Office 365 and SharePoint apps in a browser, then transfer them to Visual Studio to build out with additional capabilities.

"The new Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2012 create a tremendous opportunity for developers to reach a wide audience of potential users," wrote Laberee. "With the addition of third-party apps, Office 365 enables developers to deploy to the cloud and enriches the Office experience for all Office users."

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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