Category Archives: Outlook
If you read my blog you are probably working with IT everyday and are familiar with the fact that all your family members (and extended family) use you as the family IT help desk – if only you could charge them your hourly rate…
A frequent family help desk call is the one you get after they have purchased a new laptop or PC. They need help to set it up and get the basic applications installed – one of which is Office.
You can point them towards buying an Office subscription, but these days it’s also worth considering what a Microsoft Live account provides for free. How much are they really going to use the “power” features of Office? I know they want Office installed because they need to feel assured that when they want to start writing a novel or need to fire up Excel for working out their finances and budget that it’s going to be there for them – but in reality it’s probably just the basic features that they require; and guess what, a free Microsoft Live account gives you online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that are actually very good. So much so that I find them faster than their desktop counterparts and in the commercial world find myself using Office Online more and more to read and make changes to Office files (Word, Excel, PowerPoint & OneNote).
So what do you get when you sign up for a consumer Microsoft Live free account?
The sign-up page lists quite a few things but I don’t think it does a great job of telling you what you actually get, lets take a look at them:
- Account – This is the identity of your user account pretty simple.
- Outlook – You get an Outlook.com email address and you can use Outlook in a web browser, and native Outlook apps available on iPhone and Android (for free) which are really good. What you don’t get is a license to use the Desktop version of Outlook on Windows. The built in Windows mail app can be used to connect to your Outlook.com account however. It’s not as powerful and feature rich as the Outlook Desktop client but it’s also faster and baked into Windows 10.
- Office Online – This to me is really the unsung hero of a consumer Microsoft account. What this means is that you get:
- Word Online (plus native Word on iPhone/iPad and Android) – Read and pretty impressive edit capabilities
- Excel Online (plus native Word on iPhone/iPad and Android) – Read and pretty impressive edit capabilities
- PowerPoint Online (plus native Word on iPhone/iPad and Android) – Read and pretty impressive edit capabilities
- OneNote (Full Windows application plus native Word on iPhone/iPad and Android) – Read and pretty impressive edit capabilities
- Office Lens – If you haven’t used this app on iPhone or Android it’s going to blow your mind (just a little). It turns your phone into a handheld scanner. Take a photo and it automatically straightens up the page and makes the scan look good (with document, business card and whiteboard modes).
- Skype – This refers to the consumer version of Skype that you may already have used for free, well since Microsoft acquired in quite a few years ago now your Microsoft Live account has an associated Skype identity.
- OneDrive – This is personal cloud storage (think DropBox). You can save files to the cloud and they are backed up and available anywhere you log in (Windows PC, Mac, tablet, web browser, iPhone, Android etc). On the free plan you get 5GB of cloud storage for free.
- Windows – to get the most out of Windows 10 you really need to have a Microsoft account at the time of setting Windows up. Your free Microsoft Live account provides this Windows identity, this is who you will sign into you new laptop or PC with.
- XBox Live, Bing, Store, MSN – I don’t think these are anything to rave about they are really just providing you with an identity to these services.
So we’ve covered off the services that Microsoft advertises you get with a Microsoft Live account, but once you have set it up these are the application that you actually get access to (this is accessing your account via a web browser).
In addition to what’s advertised you also get:
- Calendar – Yes this is pretty much what you’d expect it to be. It’s baked into Windows 10 and the Cortana personal assistant can make use of it too
- People – This is your central contact management area for your Microsoft Live account
- Photos – these are stored in OneDrive but you get specific handling of photos with thumbnails, albums and some AI classification as well.
- Tasks – These are basically a ToDo list but with pretty slick apps for iPhone and Android as well. This has come partly from Microsoft’s acquisition of Wunderlist which was one of the most popular mobile ToDo applications.
- Sway – this is for creating rich and engaging online presentations
- Flow – very useful for automating tasks and connecting systems together (even outside the Microsoft ecosystem). Example: every time you receive and email with a certain subject or from a certain sender you want to copy the attachment to a folder in OneDrive – Flow can do that for you. Flow is similar to IFTTT (If This Then That)
The real draw cards here for your family and friends though is Office online (Word, Excel, PowerPoint). The editing capabilities of the online version of these apps is now to the point that it would be sufficient for most use cases. Have a look at the ribbons options on the screenshots below, are they missing anything you’d need for day to day use?
You’re getting a lot out of the box now with your free Microsoft Live account. It’s by far the smartest move when setting up a new laptop or PC so that your Microsoft Live account is used when you are logging in and you are going to get all of these great apps for free and may even replace the need for buying a Office subscription or installing a desktop version of the Office application. Now that has to cut down your future IT help desk overhead!
It’s a fast moving space and hard to keep up with even when you are working in the space, so cut your family and friends some slack, it may take a little education but they can achieve what they used to with a minimal install and without having to part with any hard earned cash.
Read more about Office Online.
I had the pleasure this week of speaking at the Sydney SharePoint User Group on the topic of transitioning to the modern Office Add-in development model.
- The existing COM/VSTO Office Add-in development model
- The reasons and drivers for needing a new development model
- What the modern Office Add-in development is and how it works
- Benefits of the modern model
- What this transition means for Office developers
- A look at the typical modern add-in technology stack and discussing some of the options
- The wider Office Developer Vision (Extending Office through add-ins + accessing Office 365 data via Graph)
Thanks to those who attended and as promised here’s a link to the slide deck from the nights presentation.
What a massive week in Orlando for Office developers. So many sessions, so much new information, it really was a case of drinking from the fire hose!
Thankfully most sessions were recorded and are progressively being made available along with the relevant slide decks on https://myignite.microsoft.com/videos
If you only have time to watch one session my pick for the SharePoint/Office Developer would be Accelerate your digital transformation with SharePoint and OneDrive presented by Jeff Teper, Dan Holme, Omar Shahine, Naomi Moneypenny. This session was just non-stop announcements on what’s new in SharePoint, Office and OneDrive. Some of the announcements:
- Office 2019 is coming (Office clients, SharePoint, Exchange, Skype for Business servers – all servers to be available on-prem) – preview due mid 2018
- A SharePoint specific conference (backed by Microsoft) is coming back in 2018 – and yes it’s going to be in Las Vegas
- SharePoint hub sites to group related sites together, share branding and navigation and provide rollup of some information
- SharePoint site provisioning model to allow for scripted customizations during the provisioning process
- SharePoint Company Theming and an online tool to help (https://aka.ms/spthemebuilder)
- SharePoint File Preview webpart (supports over 270 file formats)
- SharePoint Migration tool to move SharePoint content from on-prem to the the cloud (Office 365)
- Improved external link sharing
- OneDrive – deeper integration into Windows 10
- Improved large list support
- New version of the SharePoint mobile app
Going one level deeper into the Office/SharePoint developer world, here’s some of the news that came out regarding:
Microsoft Graph (Build smarter apps with Office using the Microsoft Graph (Yina Arenas))
- Generally Available
- SharePoint Lists
- File Versions
- People API
- App-only support for OneDrive
- Access to Outlook shared calendars, contacts and mail folders
- In Preview
- Graph Extensions for Azure Functions
- Outlook Categories
- Outlook Rules
- Outlook Email Headers
- Outlook Rooms
- Generally Available
- Outlook Add-ins for Android
- Single sign-on API (Web clients)
- Auto-open task pane
- Single sign-on API for Outlook
- Centralized Deployment for Outlook Add-ins
- Adaptive card support in Outlook (OWA)
SharePoint Framework and Patterns and Practices
- SharePoint Framework became available on-prem with SharePoint Server Feature pack 2 (this was released a couple of weeks before Ignite)
- SharePoint Framework Extensions – custom snippets on every page (aka delegate controls) context buttons/actions, customized field rendering
- Reusable controls and Office Fabric Core
One of the more complex areas of doing modern Office development is authentication and authorization (especially when connection back into Office 365 services). This story is becoming a lot simpler if you can go exclusively through the Graph API. Vittorio Bertocci did a very entertaining session (Office development: Authentication demystified) that really shows you an on-rails experience for how to accomplish this from many different technologies and context. It is well worth a watch and has the potential to save you a lot of time and head scratching. This area of Office development has changed drastically over the last couple of years and there is a lot of conflicting information on the web and much of it is out of date.
Debugging in Office Online (web browser versions of the Office products) is probably the simplest to use existing debug tools, and simply using F12 debug tools in IE, Edge, Chrome will give you access to the Console, DOM and inspection of HTML and CSS.
Desktop Office clients make it a bit harder since you can’t just start the F12 debugger tools because you are not in a full browser (like Edge or Chrome). Luckily Microsoft have provided a standalone version of the F12 tools (F12Chooser.exe) that you can use to attach to the running instance of the Desktop Office client.
Once you start talking about devices such as iPhones and iPads it begins to get even more difficult. Most documentation points you in the direction of Vorlon.JS which provides a good remote debugging experience, but involves a fair bit of setup, configuration and embedded scripts in your addin as well.
Firebug Console (iPhone)
Firebug DOM explorer (iPhone)
Firebug HTML Inspector (Desktop Outlook)
I was recently working on extracting mail from Outlook to an .msg file and later importing the .msg file back into Outlook. I was concerned that some of the non-obvious properties (there are a lot of non-visible MAPI properties stored on an email) would not be persisted or may change value in the process of the export/import. I thought this was going to be a daunting and time consuming process comparing the value of around 100 MAPI properties and playing spot the difference. Luckily the first thing I tried was the awesome OutlookSpy tool which I’ve found simply brilliant for assisting with Outlook development over the years. What I didn’t realise was that OutlookSpy has a build-in compare feature that will compare the MAPI properties of 2 mail items and highlight:
- Properties missing/extra on the 2 objects being compared
- Properties with different values on the on the 2 objects being compared
- Properties with the same values on the on the 2 objects being compared
Steps compare the properties on 2 email messages using OutlookSpy
Select one of the emails to compare and select OutlookSpy | IMessage
The IMessage window will appear showing all the MAPI properties on the item. From here select the Compare tab.
In order to compare this email against another email, the compare tab gives you a green area where you can drag and drop the PR_ENTRYID property from a different email message. So to do this leave the IMEssage window open on the compare tab.
Go and select the email you want to compare to in Outlook and select the OutlookSpy | IMessage button for this new email. You will be presented with the IMessage window and shown the MAPI properties for the new email. Locate the PR_ENTRYID MAPI property in the table (hint: click the column header to sort the table). Now drag and drop the PR_ENTRYID row from the table into the green drag/drop zone on the original IMessage window that you left open.
Now the magic happens! The compare tab does a comparison of the 2 items and allows you to switch between properties with the same values, properties with different values, and missing or extra properties.
When working with Outlook for Mac the content of email messages are rendered in a web browser control that is specific to Outlook (it does not use Safari). So when you have a need to clear any cached data or cookies it is far from obvious how you should go about clearing this cache. I’m a newbie to Mac so maybe this is obvious to seasoned users! Here’s how I went about it.
- Start the Finder application
- Open the Go menu
- You need to get to the hidden Library folder. To get the Library folder to show up under the go menu, hold down the option button on your keyboard
- Now open the Library folder
- Find the Containers folder under Library and expand it
- You should be able to find a folder called com.Microsoft.OsfWebHost
- To clear out the web browser cache I move the following to the trash:
- com.Microsoft.OsfWebHost/Library/Caches/com.Microsoft.OsfWebHost (folder)
- com.Microsoft.OsfWebHost/Library/Caches/Cookies/Cookies.binarycookies (file)
Restart Outlook and you should now have no cached files being used.
Microsoft is currently running a Hack Productivity competition for creating apps that leverage Office 365 Add-ins and/or APIs to deliver an app that increases user productivity.
I’ve been working with the awesome dev team at OnePlace Solutions to cook up a modern Outlook Add-in that will run on any device and allow a user to quickly and easily save email and/or attachments from Outlook to SharePoint/Office 365 Groups.
We think it’s an awesome productivity app as it makes use of the “dead-time” you get during the day when you haven’t got time to do any heavy work but have your phone or tablet handy. This allows you to do those tasks like filing emails into your Project Management System in SharePoint while catching the train to work, or saving that updated document you’ve been sent into your Legal Matter Management System in SharePoint while waiting for your doctor’s appointment.
We are using all the cool technologies to make the magic happen. Running as a super fast Angular 2 Outlook Add-in and looking very slick thanks to the Office UI Fabric! We are utilizing the Microsoft Graph, SharePoint and Exchange services of Office 365 and hosting the app 100% on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud.
We didn’t just cobble together an app for the Hackathon, we built this app to be ready for the prime time and it will become a commercial product offering in the very near future. We have released the app into the Office Store as a preview where you can take a look at what we’ve built and try it out for yourself.
Get the OnePlaceMail for SharePoint Online preview app from the Office Store today.
Learn more about the app by visiting the OnePlace Solutions website
Bug in Outlook add-in commands showing command label instead of the add-in title on first use in a session
It seems there is a bug with the Outlook add-in commands when using the add-in from Outlook Web Access.
When using the add-in command (ribbon button) to open a task pane to show your add-in the label of the command button is shown at the top of the add-in where the add-in title should be. If you close the add-in and use the command button subsequent times in a session, then the add-ins title is correctly displayed.
Refreshing the browser window and again trying to use the add-in with show the command button label again (but just the first time the add-in is used).
I have been able to reproduce this issue with the Command Demo add-in from the Office Dev site:
1. Clone from GitHub https://github.com/jasonjoh/command-demo
2. Run locally using gulp serve-static (as per instructions in the GitHub repo)
3. Deploy the add-in manifest (as per instructions in the GitHub repo)
On first use of the add-in in a session (or after refreshing the browser window) the add-in title uses the label of the command button. In the case below the button label of “Display all properties” is shown.
If you close the add-in and then click on the same command button subsequent times then the correct add-in title of “Add-in Command Demo” is displayed.
This bug only seems to affect OWA, Desktop Outlook 2016 consistently displays the correct add-in title as shown below.
It would also be nice if the header we displayed in Desktop Outlook was consistent with OWA. As you can see from the screenshots above OWA shows the add-in icon in the header whereas Desktop Outlook just has the title without an icon.
I’ve logged this bug on UserVoice, if it’s causing pain for you please vote it up!
The basic premise of how this works is that the URL that you see in the browser window always refers to the same HTML page hosting your SPA e.g. http://myserver/spa-app/index.html
As the user navigates around the application this is done using URL fragments (the bit after the #) e.g. http://myserver/spa-app/index.html#configurationpage or http://myserver/spa-app/index.html#customerspage
This allows the browser to not go back to the server to request a page refresh (because we are always on the same page http://myserver/spa-app/index.html) but the SPA can react to the change of URL by reading the Fragment of the URL and route the user to the correct area of the app. The browser history also keeps track of the Fragment URL so this can provide a nice navigation experience.
That was a very basic explanation and I suggest reading this good primer on Fragment URLs (or hashbangs as they are sometimes referred).
So this leads us to Outlook add-ins and the problem I’ve encountered. Lets illustrate this with an example so that the use case becomes clear.
Imagine we have a simple SPA that shows a To Do list. The main screen of the app (http://myserver/spa-app/index.html) just shows the To Do list. There is also a second screen in the app for creating new To Do items(http://myserver/spa-app/index.html#newitem).
In the Outlook add-in manifest you provide a URL to your page that Outlook will load up in response to the user activating your app. The Microsoft preferred way of triggering this in Outlook is via Commands that appear as buttons in the Outlook Ribbon (in the desktop version of Outlook). If we create such a Ribbon button and specify the URL of the main screen of the app (http://myserver/spa-app/index.html) everything works just fine. Within the app itself, it can navigate off to http://myserver/spa-app/index.html#newitem to show the screen to create a new item. But what if we want to provide Outlook Ribbon buttons that streamline the process and let the user go straight to creating a new to do item rather than first having to open the app, then navigate within the app to create the item? Having the main functions of you app accessible as Ribbon buttons in Outlook is a huge time saver for users.
So what happens when we try to use the new item URL Fragment behind a Ribbon button?
If we specify a URL of http://myserver/spa-app/index.html#newitem in the add-in manifest, the following is the URL that Outlook actually launches the add-in with:
Obviously this is going to wreak havoc with your SPA. The original URL Fragment #newitem looks to be encoded in the resulting URL as “&_serializer_version=1newitem” although how to reliably detect and extract this and then do the correct routing within your SPA is challenging!
OnePlace Solutions is proud to be an exhibitor and sponsor again this year at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Atlanta. Ignite is Microsoft’s premier conference this year for Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, Azure, Windows and related technologies.
I’ll be on the OnePlace Solution booth (#563) during the conference talking about our suite of products that bring SharePoint and Office 365 to where you work such as Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, and Windows Desktop.
I’m very excited to be unveiling our latest product OnePlaceConnect at the conference. OnePlaceConnect is focused on bringing cloud based solutions such as Office 365 and SharePoint directly into the applications you use, on whatever device you use them (yes that means on your iPad/Android tablets, phones, Mac and of course your Windows devices).
Registration is now open to participate in the OnePlaceConnect Preview and be one of the first to get your hands on the new product.
The following are some really useful resources that I often refer people to at conferences.
OnePlaceLive – Scenarios Unleashed (Project Management, Legal Matter Management)
It’s always fun meeting new people at conferences and hearing of successes, challenges and battle wounds you’ve had with technology. It’s also awesome to catch up with existing customers and partners while I’m in the US as well, so please drop by the OnePlace Solutions booth if you get a chance.
We will have some swag at the booth, and we have new and improved hacky sacks/footbags/juggling balls to give away this conference. I’m more excited than I probably should be about those!
Have a great conference and hope to see you at the booth or one of the many events.
Reach out to me @CameronDwyer on Twitter during the conference.