Microsoft Widens Office's Doors for Developers at Build

Microsoft announces new ways developers can integrate their apps with Teams, Word, Excel and more at Build.

MS.Office365

Office 365 has more than 100 million commercial users, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted during his opening keynote at the Build developer conference this week in Seattle. If that's not reason enough for developers to consider creating applications in support of Microsoft's cloud-based productivity software suite, the software giant introduced new features and updates that make it easier to work with Office 365 and discover compatible apps.

Continuing Microsoft's big push behind Teams, the company's answer to Slack, Office Vice-President Kirk Koenigsbauer announced a developer preview containing a feature called "compose extension" that enables users to issue commands and incorporate information from a third-party app or service directly into the Teams interface. The aim is help users stay focused on a team chat and avoid the productivity-slowing context switching that occurs when they are forced to bounce between apps.

The Teams developer preview also supports third-party notifications, enabling developers to issue alerts directly to users in the application's interface. More features are on the way, Koenigsbauer said.

"New Teams APIs [application programming interfaces] are also coming to the Microsoft Graph, in preview, allowing developers to access team and channel information," Koenigsbauer wrote in a blog post. "Developers can now package these capabilities—tabs, bots and connectors, compose extensions, and activity feed notifications—into a single Teams app to make it simpler to publish and manage."

Office's venerable client applications are also getting enhancements.

Word and Excel get new JavaScript APIs, allowing developers to access structured data with the applications' respective files, Koenigsbauer said. Also during Build, the company showed off its new Presentation Translator add-in for PowerPoint, which uses Microsoft's artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to add subtitles to presentations.

As its name suggests, Presentation Translator can generate subtitles in the same or different language. Users interested in getting early access to the software (Windows only), which hails from Microsoft Garage, the company's experimental app unit, can sign up here.

The Actionable Messages feature in Outlook on the Web is coming to Teams and the Outlook 2016 client on Windows. Actionable Messages allows users to complete quick tasks, like approve an expense report, without leaving the inbox. In addition to new integrations with third-party apps such as Salesforce and Freshdesk, Microsoft also announced new tools for developers to hook their own apps into the solution.

In a bid to improve the discoverability of third-party Office apps and add-ins and potentially drive more sales for developers, Koenigsbauer also announced that the Office Store is now connected to Microsoft AppSource, the company's SaaS (software-as-a-service) marketplace.

"With Office 365 apps and solutions available in Microsoft AppSource, business users can stay connected to relevant business apps and partners in one place," Koenigsbauer said. Additionally, the company is readying the general availability of a centralized deployment feature that will enable administrators to automatically distribute add-ins to their users and tailor their add-in bundles to specific roles or departments.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...