Office Scripts: The future is here

Microsoft has been working hard to make Office available on every platform. One of the biggest changes has been the ability to run Office the a browser or Office online. However, one drawback has been that automation in Office online has been limited to Web Add-ins which are aimed solidly at professional developers. However, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros are only supported in Windows and Mac clients. They are not supported on the web platform, the iOS or Android platforms. And, well, they still are not.  wlEmoticon-disappointedsmile.png  However, something new has arrived which will allow you to create “macros” anywhere, on any platform (eventually).

Microsoft recently announced Office Scripts. It is an end-user approachable, web and collaborative supported scripting language. It is still in preview and only supported in Excel online, for now.

First, to access this you must have your administrator enable it in the Office 365 Portal:

turn_on_scripts

For citizen programmers this line from the above page says it all:

Scripts allow you to record and replay your Excel actions on different workbooks and worksheets. If you find yourself doing the same things over and over again, an Office Script can help you by reducing your whole workflow to a single button press.

So, I enabled it in my test tenant and created the quintessential “Hello Wold” Action Recording. When your administrator enables this on your tenant, you will get this new Automation tab:

AutomationTab

From there, I clicked on Record Actions, typed “Hello World!” in cell A1, and then stopped the macro. It then asked me to name it and give a description (optional), and then Save. From there it opened the Code Editor and here is what I see:

Once you open a new workbook, you can then click on the Code Editor button and you will see all your recorded scripts:

recordings

The future is here. Check it out now. You can learn more about Office Scripts from here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/office/dev/scripts/tutorials/excel-tutorial.

 

Web Add-in Side Loader Tool

Whether you have been following the guidance for Centralized Deployment of Web Add-ins or you do not have Office 365 and you want to create a SharePoint catalog for deployment, but realize it has limitations:

App catalogs on SharePoint do not support add-in features that are implemented in the VersionOverrides node of the add-in manifest, such as add-in commands.

You essentially try all the options on this page and find that side loading is the only method that will work. So you give it a shot, it works and now you are wondering how to deploy that to a larger group of users.

That is where this new tool that a fellow co-worker (Marty Andren) and I created will come in handy: The Web Add-in Side Loader Tool. Here is the link to the GitHub where it and it’s documentation are located:

https://github.com/davecra/WebAddinSideloader

Please let me know if you have any questions or issues with this tool.

OfficeJS.dialogs Updated to v1.0.9

Like yesterday with easyEws, it has been a while since I have touched the OfficeJS.Dialogs library. I updated it yesterday with a quick fix and some content updates. I have had questions about using it from a CDN. The primary issue is that the displayDialogAsync() API does not support CDN. It just displays the HTML as raw text in the dialog. There are some ways I can provide this as a workaround, but it involves me support infrastructure. So, the better thing is to just wait for the API to support CDN’s.

If you have any questions about using this library, please let me know.

easyEws Updated to v1.0.11

It has been a while since I have updated this library, however I have had a few requests.

The first one that I am publishing today is adding the ResolveNames operation. The latest is now on GitHub here. And you can install it using NPM like this:

npm install easyews

Also, I have updated the CDN listing. Before I was using RAWGIT but that has been retired. You can now add the CDN like this:

To issue a resolve names you will pass the email address or the display name to the function like this:

If you have any suggestions for this library, please ping me.

Expanding Personal Contact Lists in Outlook with OfficeJS

If you are developing an OfficeJS add-in for Outlook or Outlook Online (OWA) and your project requirements have a need to peek inside distribution lists, you might find that there are two kinds:

  • Distribution Lists – these are Exchange groups, or mail enabled Active Directory groups. These are managed by the enterprise IT and contain a list of email addresses and/or other distributions lists.
  • Contact Lists / Private Distribution Lists – these are personal lists created by the user that can contain similar objects.

For an Office Add-in, you must use the makeEwsRequestAsync() command to submit EWS to Exchange. And the specific command you will need to use is ExpandDL to get the members of a DL (or contact list). With regards to the first item in the list above, it is pretty straight forward. For the second item there is this blurb on the page:

Private distribution lists are located in the Contacts folder of a user’s mailbox. Private distribution lists do not have e-mail addresses so their store item identifiers are used in an ExpandDL request. Members of a private distribution list can be any mail-enabled user, contacts or distribution lists from Active Directory, or contacts or private distribution lists from a user’s Contacts folder.

The bold part is key. But where do you get this. When you request a to.getAsync() and receive “Bob’s Favorite People” as a recipient item what do you do with it?

The key is to call the EWS method ResolveNames. When you call this on “Bob’s Favorite People” you will get a return value with PrivateDL and an ItemID (the Exchange Store Item ID in the users Contact folder) that you will then send that ItemId to ExpandDL. Here is what the soap response would look like from ResolveNames:

You can then make your ExpandDL request like this:

The result will be a list of all the email addresses, like this:

NOTE: For now the ResolveNames operation is not supported in my library easyEws. I am working to add it in the coming weeks.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions or questions.

NOTE: I am not an Exchange Web Services (EWS) expert, but have some experience with it through the OfficeJS makeEwsRequestAsync() command. To get the answer for this blog entry, I had to go to a real EWS expert to figure this one out. Many thanks to Dan Bagley (EwsEditor) for his assistance.

Downloading the OfficeJS Preview API for Offline Testing

Recently, I had a need to download the preview of the OfficeJS API for testing in an offline environment. The primary (and preferred) way to access the preview beta library is to point to it on the CDN via your HTML, like this:

However, if you need to download this for use offline in testing, you can actually download it using Node Package Manager. All you need is this command:

npm install @microsoft/office-js@beta

I was able to do my testing as if I were online with the CDN, so all was good. Happy coding! wlEmoticon-hotsmile.png

Removing Web Add-in Ribbon Customization in Outlook for Windows

If you are following the latest updates the the OfficeJS API’s, you will see that PowerPoint, Excel and Word have this new feature that allows you to specify an equivalent COM add-in in place of the Web Add-in. Here is the link:  https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/office/dev/add-ins/develop/make-office-add-in-compatible-with-existing-com-add-in

This is useful for when you have created a Web Add-in but it is not as feature rich as your COM add-in. So on the Windows clients, you still want your COM (or VSTO) solution to run there and not the web version of the add-in.

However, this feature has not yet arrived for Outlook. I am told that this is coming, but for now there really are only two workarounds.

If you are using Office 2016, you can set your manifest requirements to 1.5, like this:

    <Requirements>
      <bt:Sets DefaultMinVersion=”1.5″>
        <bt:Set Name=”Mailbox” />
      </bt:Sets>
    </Requirements>

If you are needing to support Outlook 2019 or Outlook for Office 365, then this easy trick will not work. So what you need to do is a bit more complicated. To start you need to collect some information first:

  1. Open Outlook, and verify that your web add-in customization has loaded.
  2. Go to File, Options, Customize Ribbon:options
  3. At the bottom, click Import/Export and select Export all customizations.
  4. Save the “customui” file to the desktop and then open it in Notepad.
  5. You will look for your customization and it will be in a group or a tab and contain an if like this: x1:Group_5febe0ec-e536-4275-bd02-66818bf9e191_msgEditGroup_TabNewMailMessage.
  6. Make note of this value, minus the namespace (x1:) and whether it is a customtab or a customgroup.

If this does not work for you a couple of other options are to add the Group to the Quick Access bar, by right-clicking on the group and selecting “Add to Quick Access.” This should help it appear in the customUI file. However, if this still does not work, you can make an “educated guess” at the name by using these steps:

  1. Open your manifest file in your Web Add-in and locate the ID:

    5febe0ec-e536-4275-bd02-66818bf9e191

  2.  Next, locate what you called the group in your manifest:

    < Group id=”msgEditGroup” >

  3. Finally, you need to determine which “Ribbon” it is on. This is a tad more complex, but since most following the “TabDefault” option, here are two defaults I know about, that could help you:
    • TabNewMailMessage
    • TabReadMailMessage
  4. From there you can build the Group identifier:

    Group_5febe0ec-e536-4275-bd02-66818bf9e191_msgEditGroup_TabNewMailMessage

  5. If you are working with a custom tab, you would look in your manifest and get the name of the custom tab:

    <CustomTab id=”myTab”>

  6. From there you can build your tab identifier:

    Tab_5febe0ec-e536-4275-bd02-66818bf9e191_myTab

The namespace is what makes this whole process a little harder than expected. This namespace is a UID for the Exchange Account to which the add-in was installed. And this ID is unique to every user and each email account in Outlook. What you will need to do is customize the Ribbon XML in your solution to then hide this group. I have created a solution here on github that shows how to do this end-to-end with a new add-in:

https://github.com/davecra/RemoveOfficeWebAddin

The primary functionality is found in the GetCustomUI function. Here is the function:

What this does is loads a file called RemovedCustomizations.txt from the install directory of the add-in. This file will contain entries like this:

5febe0ec-e536-4275-bd02-66818bf9e191
customtab,Tab_5febe0ec-e536-4275-bd02-66818bf9e191_myTab,

Important to note, the first entry is the ID of your Web Add-in. This is used to create the namespace entry,

You will use the steps above, to build this list. This is a tad more complex than I had hoped it would be, so please let me know if you get stuck on any parts and/or if there are areas that you think I can elaborate more.