Microsoft Updates Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2013

New and improved Microsoft tools help developers build apps for Office 365 and SharePoint.

Microsoft has announced new tools that make it easier to develop cloud apps for devices and the Web that tie into Office 365 and SharePoint.

Announced today at Microsoft's SharePoint Conference 2014 in Las Vegas, the Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2013 – March 2014 Update, ships with a bunch of new features that improve support in Visual Studio 2013 for Office 365 Cloud Business App and apps for Office and SharePoint. The software is now available for download.

Microsoft provides flexible development for Office and SharePoint, enabling developers to build these apps using their existing HTML, CSS, JavaScript skills and others, and choose the tool that best fits their needs, from Microsoft's newly updated Napa" to Visual Studio. Napa is the code name for Microsoft's toolset for building Office and SharePoint apps.

"Whether you are building a mobile app that wants to connect to high-value data and services in Office 365, developing rich integration into Office experiences with a custom app for Office, or developing Cloud Business App projects that integrate with SharePoint, today's releases enable developers to connect to the Office ecosystem in new and exciting ways," said Soma Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division, in a blog post.

Somasegar said Office 365 provides a wealth of high-value data and services for business applications. Now Office is exposing these data and services via a new, simple and consistent set of Office 365 REST APIs. "This release includes APIs for working with Files, Calendar, People and Mail, exposing data spanning Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business and Azure Active Directory," he said. These APIs use standard OAuth and OData, which makes them easy to use in any development environment and from any platform, he added.

"As a developer, you have new scenarios to create contextual solutions that span Office 365 from the Web, mobile apps and Office," said Arpan Shah, senior director of Office 365 technical product management, in a blog post about the new tools. "You have new robust APIs and tool improvements to make building solutions easier than ever before. And your solutions have the potential to reach a vast number of Office 365 users across businesses, government organizations, and schools, who spend hours every day using Office. Start building apps today at"

Moreover, developers can embed custom experiences inside Office with apps for Office. Several new options are being made available including PowerPoint content apps and Outlook mail apps in compose forms. Developers can build these apps both in Visual Studio and in the updated Napa tools.

According to a post on The Visual Studio Blog, an app for Office is basically a Web page that is hosted inside an Office client application.

"You can use apps to extend the functionality of a document, email message, meeting request, or appointment," Keith Yedlin, group program manager for Microsoft Visual Studio Cloud Business Apps, wrote in the post. "Three types of apps are supported in Office: task pane apps, content apps and mail apps. Task pane apps work side-by-side with an Office document, and let you supply contextual information and functionality to enhance the document viewing and authoring experience. Content apps integrate Web-based features as content that can be shown in line with the document. Mail apps display next to the currently viewed Outlook items: email message, meeting request, meeting response, meeting cancellation, or appointment."

Also, in Visual Studio 2013, Microsoft introduced the Cloud Business Application template for quickly building modern business applications. The release of the Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2013 - March 2014 Update includes features that make it easier to integrate documents, further streamline development and support connecting to valuable enterprise data sources, Somasegar said.

Yedlin said the tools fully support apps for Office 2013, Office 2013 SP1 and Office 365 development, and help developers build apps for SharePoint 2013, SharePoint 2013 SP1 and SharePoint Online in Office 365 more efficiently with more enhanced features.