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Office 365 Developers Getting Improved Capabilities

Microsoft used the occasion of its Build 2017 event on Wednesday to highlight previews of Office 365 perks for developers, as well as three capabilities now ready for commercial use.

Many of the improvements announced today by Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, centered on the Microsoft Graph, which is the search-based functionality that underpins various Office 365 applications. During the Build keynote, Microsoft demonstrated a coming "Presentation Translator" add-in for PowerPoint, based on Microsoft Graph technology. It lets presenters add subtitles to PowerPoint presentations in another language in "real time." It's currently a Microsoft Garage test project, with sign-up access located here.

Other announced dev tools affect the use of Microsoft Teams, the chat-based user interface within some Office 365 apps.

Microsoft also announced improvements aimed at better connecting partner-built Office 365 solutions, or add-ins, with end users. Microsoft currently has "over 100 million monthly commercial active users" of Office 365 applications, Koenigsbauer noted.

Microsoft also touted the ability of developers to tap Microsoft PowerApps and Flow within their code.

"Today, we are excited to announce an offer for Microsoft Azure ISV customers that enables them to directly provide new PowerApps and Flow Connectors to the broad audience of Office 365 customers," Koenigsbauer stated, although he didn't provide further details.

General Availability
Developers can now take advantage of an expansion to the Microsoft Graph API. It now includes hooks into "SharePoint site, OneNote and Planner Apps" that developers can use commercially.

Also at "general availability" for developers are two new Microsoft Graph core capabilities. The "Delta Queries" capability shows a list of changes based on "types of data." The "Custom Data" capability lets developers "extend base types of Microsoft Graph (e.g., users, contacts) to store critical data in context."

Previews
One perk that also may be of interest to IT pros, as well as developers, is a new capability for centrally deploying Office 365 add-ins. This centralized add-in deployment capability is currently available as a preview for Office for Mac and Office Online users. With the new capability, organizations have access to scripts to deploy Office 365 add-ins or the add-ins can be deployed from the Office Store.

Microsoft also announced that the Office Store is "now connected to Microsoft AppSource," which makes it easier for organizations to find Office 365 add-ins. AppSource is a portal that lets organizations search for partner-built business applications.

Developers can now use the Office 365 Developer Preview to publish their add-ins for Microsoft Teams through the Office Store. This capability also will be accessible by end users "soon," according to the announcement, and Microsoft plans to surface such add-ins to end users via a "new discover apps experience."

The Developer Preview has two new ways for developers to improve experiences for Office 365 end users besides leveraging tabs, bots and connectors. First, Microsoft has a preview of "new Teams APIs," which gives developers access to "team and channel information" that will show up in a user's activity feed. Second, developers can use a new "Compose Extensions" preview to surface information from an application or service into a "team chat" experience.  

"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," Koenigsbauer noted.

Microsoft is previewing "expanded JavaScript APIs in Word and Excel," which permits Office 365 developers to "access and extend structured data within documents." Another preview announced is an "integrated sign-on system" designed to make it easier to use the Microsoft Graph.

The SharePoint Framework, which hit general availability status in February, will be getting a new extensions preview for developers to use. The preview, which will be "coming soon," will let developers customize SharePoint Libraries, Lists and Team Sites.

Microsoft's Actionable Messages capability will be coming to Microsoft Teams users, as well as Outlook 2016 users. It's currently in use by Outlook on the Web users, permitting them to take actions from within the e-mail client. Microsoft is now rolling it out more broadly to Office 365 users. Partners such "Salesforce, Freshdesk, Wrike and more" are tapping into the expanded Actionable Messages capability, Microsoft's announcement indicated.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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