Office at Build 2016—new opportunities for developers

Today at Build 2016, Qi Lu announced three new Office-specific opportunities for developers: enhancements to the Microsoft Graph that can be used to build smarter business solutions; improvements to the add-in model, including support for Office for Mac 2016, centralized deployment and programmatic creation of solution-specific ribbons and buttons; and new extensibility features for Skype and Office 365 Groups.

Build smarter apps with Microsoft Graph and Office 365

Last November, we made the Microsoft Graph generally available, allowing developers to integrate data and intelligence from Microsoft services into their own apps. Today, we’re expanding the capabilities of the Microsoft Graph so developers can build even smarter apps—powered by data and insights from Office 365. Developers can now use the Microsoft Graph to access a user’s out-of-office status and recent email attachments. New APIs return “relevant documents” and suggestions for meeting times based on real-time calendar availability. And new web and device SDKs make it easier than ever to access the Microsoft Graph and surface Office 365 data in business solutions using simple drop-in integrations like the OneDrive file picker. In addition, we’re making applications that consume Office data more responsive by providing notifications through Microsoft Graph for changes to users’ mail, calendar and contacts.

One great example of these capabilities in action is DocuSign. On stage they showed how they’re using the Microsoft Graph to make the experience of digitally signing a document better. People who use DocuSign with Office 365 will be able to pick files directly from their OneDrive, search for signatories from their contacts and colleagues by expertise or phonetic name matches, and automatically be notified when a colleague to whom they are sending a document is out of the office. Another example is Zapier—a company focused on automating the more tedious parts of your day-to-day job. Using the new Excel REST API, exposed via the Microsoft Graph, they’re able to interact with a file sitting in OneDrive for Business and create actions in the Zapier service that result in adding data to the Excel spreadsheet.

Build native solutions in Office

Since introducing a new Office add-in platform with Office 2013, we’ve collaborated with companies like Uber, Yelp and PickIt, whose services are integrated directly into Office. Today, we’re excited to announce the extension of add-ins to Office for Mac (available later this spring), centralized deployment and programmatic creation of solution-specific ribbons and buttons.

For example, Starbucks is developing an Outlook add-in that allows people to send Starbucks e-gifts within Outlook and schedule meetings at nearby Starbucks locations instead of a conference room. In the future, Starbucks plans to enable employees to mobile order right within the Office experience—offering convenience and saving time.

Baydin has developed an add-in for Boomerang, which uses custom ribbon buttons to provide a suite of email productivity tools inside of Outlook, including one-click sharing of calendar availability and timed reminders for mails to which you don’t receive a reply. And the officeatwork Document Wizard add-in makes it easy to create professional Word documents based on data-driven templates. In each of these cases, developers and companies now have the ability to expand their reach and scale their innovation—through the familiar context of the Office platform.

Build solutions that engage users through conversations

At Build 2016, Satya and Qi described their vision for intelligent, contextual conversations as the new platform for apps, and Office is making that vision real with the new Skype Web SDK, Skype for Business App SDK and Office 365 Groups connectors.

The new Skype Web SDK and Skype for Business App SDK allow companies like MDLIVE to facilitate doctor/patient consultations through a mobile app using voice and video powered by Skype for Business. Making these features available is an important step in our Skype Developer Platform roadmap to combine the power of cloud voice, meetings and messaging with new cloud APIs and SDKs that work across a range of web and device platforms to drive new scenarios and help developers and partners reimagine how they engage and win customers. Check out the Skype Developer Platform site for more information.

Office 365 Groups connectors are also generally available today, and allow developers to push data from their own services into an Office 365 Groups conversation in Outlook. This means businesses can leverage familiar experiences to collaborate on and interact with data from these external services. We also announced that we will be bringing Office 365 Connectors to the Outlook inbox soon. Zendesk has built an Office 365 Groups connector that allows different departments working in Zendesk to easily escalate tickets to groups in Office 365. Colleagues can then collaborate on the ticket together to resolve the issue.

Sneak peek at Inking and Office on HoloLens

In addition to the Office extensibility enhancements, yesterday we also demonstrated two prototypes of exciting future Office inking experiences designed to make pen and ink a primary input across the Office apps. One example leveraged upcoming Windows capabilities for simultaneous touch and pen use, showing the ability to draw lines with a digital pen and line up objects against a ruler in PowerPoint that could be actively positioned with two fingers. And the other highlighted intelligent markup capabilities in Word, demonstrating how a pen could be used naturally—with simple gestures like crossing out words and phrases—to edit a document in Track Changes mode. These demos were a very early look at the types of things we’re working on, but they paint a picture of the potential for Windows and Office to push the boundaries of what’s possible with digital inking. Stay tuned for much more over the coming months.

Finally, we’re excited to announce that preview versions of the Office Universal apps are available in the Windows Store for download on HoloLens Development Edition. In addition to making your HoloLens a productivity device and demonstrating what the device can do, the ease with which the Office team was able to develop these HoloLens experiences based on our Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote Universal Windows apps is an example of how developers can easily create incredible things for HoloLens leveraging their pre-existing code. Learn more about Office Apps on HoloLens here.

Get started today

The opportunity here is tremendous—smarter apps, deeper integration and richer conversations. So get started today! To learn more about the Office extensibility announcements at Build 2016, visit There you can read more details about today’s news, sign up to join a vibrant and growing community and start taking advantage of the possibilities for developing on the Office platform.

Kirk Koenigsbauer