Testing a Web Add-in with Multiple Manifest


First, let’s discuss the architecture and from an Outlook/Exchange perspective:

  1. First, you load your manifest on the Exchange server. The manifest is simply an XML file that contains pointers to your web site (on the IIS server).
  2. When you load Outlook Web Access and click the add-ins button, the Add-ins pane will appear and each application manifest you have loaded will appear in the list.
  3. When you click on one of  the add-is, the task pane will load (in Orange) and your site (located on the IIS Server) will populate in the pane.

The problem arises when you have but ONE Exchange server or ONE developer account for development and test. Developers want to be able to debug the code they are working with which typically loads  from the local instance of IIS Express (localhost). But testers need to be able to work with the latest release build to test.

So, how do you do this?

The key is in the Manifest file. If you open the Manifest file, you will see the <Id> field. This is the most important piece, but there are other areas you should/need to update as well. What you will essentially have is two copies of your manifest file:

The first file will use the default ID provided in the project, it should have a name like Developer Release and it will point to your localhost (this is default with the setup of a new Web Add-in).

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
...
<Id>aaaaaaaa-3c56-4091-951e-18fda9e471d4</Id>
<Version>1.0.0.2</Version>
<ProviderName>David E. Craig</ProviderName>
<DefaultLocale>en-US</DefaultLocale>
<DisplayName DefaultValue="Demo Developer Release" />
...
<FormSettings>
<Form xsi:type="ItemEdit">
<DesktopSettings>
<SourceLocation DefaultValue="https://localhost:44303/AppCompose/Home/Home.html"/>
</DesktopSettings>
</Form>
</FormSettings>
...
</OfficeApp>

 

diagram - developer - manifest

The second file will have a different unique ID, a different name (like Tester Release) and it will point to your IIS website.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
...
<Id>bbbbbbbb-3c56-4091-951e-18fda9e471d4</Id>
<Version>1.0.0.2</Version>
<ProviderName>David E. Craig</ProviderName>
<DefaultLocale>en-US</DefaultLocale>
<DisplayName DefaultValue="Demo Tester Release" />
...
<FormSettings>
<Form xsi:type="ItemEdit">
<DesktopSettings>
<SourceLocation DefaultValue="https://TestServer/AppCompose/Home/Home.html"/>
</DesktopSettings>
</Form>
</FormSettings>
...
</OfficeApp>

 

diagram - tester - manifest

The real key is having different ID’s and publishing them separately. In Visual Studio the developers will have everything set as shown above (essentially leave everything as default). When they are ready to drop a build to the testers:

  1. Right-click on the Website project and click Publish. Follow the steps to publish the site to the Testers server.
  2. Right-click on the Manifest project and click Publish. Click the “Package the add-in” button.
  3. In the resulting dialog, enter the URL to the Testers site, This will ONLY update the URL, but not change the ID.
  4. Open the <manifest>.xml file in Notepad and then change the fields as shown above:
    • Modify the ID
    • Change the name so that you can identify which one is which
    • Verify the URL is correct.

At this point you are ready to go. And you can create MULTIPLE versions of your manifest. If for example you need one for Testers, one for Developer and then another for Pilot and yet another for experimental testing (each pointing to different IIS instances, sites or even to the Cloud (Azure). You can create as many manifests as you need this way, have them all show up in the Add-ins task pane allowing the testers/users to select the one they wish to work with.

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