Script Lab for Outlook. Yeah!

OMG! This is a day I have been waiting for.

I do a LOT of Outlook Web Add-in development. A lot. I have made the move from Visual Studio to Visual Studio Code, from C# to JavaScript and have not looked back. However, there are a few things that make development in this new area difficult and that is rapid prototyping.

For C#, I could always go into VBA and see how the object model would behave when I needed to test a hypothesis. I was able to use VBA as a laboratory for ideas before I codified them into solid C# code in a VSTO Add-in. But there was no such laboratory in the JavaScript web add-in world, until now…

…Script Lab for Outlook has been released. And the best part, it is available in Outlook on Windows, Outlook on Mac and Outlook on the web!

Script Lab in Outlook for Windows
Script Lab for OWA

If you do a lot of Outlook development this will be a godsend. You will now be able to go into Script Lab and test your code ideas before you add them to your more complex add-in.

Open Outlook, go into the Office Store and type “Script Lab” and Script Lab for Outlook should come up in your list. Select and install it. Then open a message in Outlook and you should see the Script Lab items on the Home tab.

Happy coding!

Detecting Print in Outlook (VSTO/C#)

This is a common problem in Outlook. You might have tried to override the Ribbon settings for Print in Outlook to find that your code never gets run when the user clicks Print.

There is also not any events in the Outlook object model to detect Print either. So if you need to detect the user pressing the print button, you are out of luck.

While it is still not possible to detect the print button being pressed, you can at least detect when the user has selected the Print tab on the backstage.

The following code uses a background thread and a series of Windows API calls to FindWindow/FindWindowEx to detect when the Print tab on the backstage is opened:

easyEws v1.0.16 Published

I have made a few minor updates to easyEws. First, was a fix for distribution lists with an “&” in the name. The second is a few minor JSDoc updates for better linting. And finally, I changed a couple forEach loops to traditional for loops for performance reasons.

I have published the update to NPM and to my GitHub.

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

easyEws v1.0.15 Released

In this latest release I have incorporated my first community pull. A big thank you to Vijay Samtani for adding the sendMailItem. This new addition allows you to create a message to multiple recipients and with zero to many attachments.

Here is a link to the repository: https://github.com/davecra/easyEWS

You can references it in your code:

And you can allow pull it down from NPM:

npm install easyEws

What is Office 365, really?

In my day-to-day dealings with people and organizations, there is a common confusion on the term “Office 365.” And that confusion is fed by a few common myths that I have heard repeated by some very smart people in those organizations. So, first, let me dismiss the myths…

  • The first one is that Office 365 is online, in the browser applications only… NO! Office 365 is NOT just Excel Online, Word Online, PowerPoint Online, Outlook Online, and OneNote Online.
  • And the second myth is that the desktop applications are getting deprecated… NO! Microsoft is NOT doing away with the installed desktop applications on Windows and Mac in favor of web based versions.

So let’s get to the question:

If Microsoft is not replacing Office with web versions, then what the heck is all this Office 365 and cloud stuff then?

Primarily, Office 365 is the name of the subscription. You no longer buy the Office applications on disks and install them, then buy the next version, etc. With the subscription you always get the newest version (and much more). As you will read from the link above, there are lots of FAQ’s and other information that explain how this works.

So Excel Online, ET AL. is PART of the Office 365 subscription based platform. Office 365 still includes the traditional Microsoft Office desktop applications on the PC/Windows or the Mac. And they are not going anywhere. When you hear that your organization is moving to Office 365 it does not mean you will ONLY be accessing Office from a web browser.

Office 365 is really Office anywhere, on any device. For example, Office 365 also includes applications on iPhone, iPad, and Android. And it is not just the traditional applications. There are incredible tools such as Forms, Sway, Teams, and for developers the Graph API. It also shifts workloads like Exchange Server for mail and SharePoint server for document management from local IT servers to servers run by Microsoft in the cloud.

So when you hear Office 365, DO NOT THINK GOOGLE DOCS. wlEmoticon-smile.png The online versions of Office are only there to provide an additional avenues to access Office from anywhere, on any device. Per the Office 365 website:

Works across multiple devices

Get the fully installed Office apps on multiple PCs, Macs, tablets, and mobile devices (including Windows, iOS, and Android).

They are not as fully featured and as such you really need to consider when you might use them over using the traditional Microsoft Office desktop applications. Per this site (my emphasis added):

Office for the web (formerly Office Web Apps) opens Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint documents in your web browser. Office for the web makes it easier to work and share Office files from anywhere with an internet connection, from almost any device. Microsoft Office 365 customers with Word, Excel, OneNote, or PowerPoint can view, create, and edit files on the go. …

The following tables compare Office for the web feature capabilities to feature-rich Microsoft Office desktop apps.

So, if you like your Excel just the way it is, installed on your scientific workstation with a bazillion gigabytes of RAM, you can still run it there if you move to Office 365. What you get with the traditional Office applications is more frequent, seamless and automatic updates from the web. Per the Office 365 website:

Monthly Updates

Get the latest features and capabilities with fully installed and always up-to-date versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint for Windows or Mac, OneNote (features vary), Teams, and Access and Publisher (PC only).

Hopefully, this has helped clear up and dispel the myths. And when you go back to the smart person that has told you otherwise, and continues to insist and tell you otherwise, please send them here. wlEmoticon-hotsmile.png

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.

Visual Studio 2017: This is an invalid xsi:type… mailappversionoverrides/1.1:Event

If you have been using Visual Studio 2017 to create an Outlook Web Add-in and are trying to use the new ItemSend event, you will note per the documentation the you need to add the MailAppVersionOverrides 1.1 to your manifest:

<VersionOverrides xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/office/mailappversionoverrides/1.1" xsi:type="VersionOverridesV1_1">

The problem is that when you try to build and run the project, you get this exception:

Severity Code Description
Warning This is an invalid xsi:type ‘http://schemas.microsoft.com/office/mailappversionoverrides/1.1:Events&#8217;.

a

Specifically, Visual Studio 2017 does not like this line:

<ExtensionPoint xsi:type="Events">

If you are like me you have been hoping for an update to Visual Studio 2017 to fix this, but I just got word today that it did not get into the last update to Visual Studio 2017, but will make it into Visual Studio 2019. However, you do not need to run off and install Visual Studio 2019 once it is available. There is a workaround, and here are the steps to follow:

  • If you have an updated Exchange 2016 Server CU9 or later, you can browse to this folder:
    C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\V15\Bin
  • Locate and copy the file MailAppVersionOverridesV1_1.xsd and copy it to a removable drive or a network share.
  • On your development machine, locate the existing MailAppVersionOverridesV1_1.xsd. It should be located here:
    C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\Enterprise\Xml\Schemas\1033
  • Rename the existing file to MailAppVersionOverridesV1_1.old.
  • Copy the version of the MailAppVersionOverridesV1_1.xsd you got from your Exchange Server here.

At this point you should be good to go.

But wait!?!?! You say you don’t have an Exchange Server? You use Office 365 and your instance of Exchange is up in the cloud? OK… Now this is not the “preferred” method, but it will get the job done. I created a GIST, and you can download it from here. wlEmoticon-hotsmile.png Simply view RAW, copy, open Notepad, paste, Save As: MailAppVersionOverridesV1_1.xsd, and then you have your file.

easyEws v1.0.7 is now released

This has been slow coming, but I have just released v1.0.7 of easyEws. As per usual, it is on NPM and on GitHub. You can get the latest with the command:

npm update easyews

Or, you can install it into your solution with the command:

npm install easyews

In this version the JSDOC information is now full incorporated so you get great inline help with each command. I enhanced the library so that it works better with inline help and so I changed how the class is setup and exposed. I have updated the README.md on GitHub, but I still am working on examples and such, that will be done later. And I added new functionality, a moveItem command which can be used to move any item from one folder to another. This was a added due to feedback I received on LinkedIn.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or suggestions.

 

OfficeJS.dialogs Updated (v1.0.5)

I have been working hard on my OfficeJS.Dialogs library and just published version 1.0.5. You can get it from NPM and GitHub. See my previous post for more information on how to do this.

I have added a few new features:

  • A simple Alert.Show() method that displays a simple OK box. For those times you want to just simply pop up a quick notification to the user.
  • A Progress.Show() that displays a progress bar. This allows for you to show the progress bar and then issue Progress.Update() to move the progress bar along. When you are done you call Progress.Complete().
  • A Wait.Show() dialog that will show an indeterminate spinner. This form will remain up until you issue a Wait.CloseDialog().
  • New UpdateMessage() and Update() methods were added to the MessageBox. This was done to allow you to quickly ask a lot of questions of the user in one instance of the dialog, without giving the user back to the application for a second while the new dialog is rendered. UpdateMessage() will just update the message but keep all the buttons the same, but you will specify a new callback. Update() will allow you to fundamentally change all the settings the MessageBox (buttons, icon, caption, text and all), plus a new callback function.
  • Behind the scenes I made some improvements/bug fixes:
    • If you try to show two dialogs too quickly, nothing will happen. So I added a half-second delay between dialog displays to make sure you never get an overlap.
    • You will get an error message in your callback if more than one dialog is attempted to be opened at once.
    • “Window Messaging” has been setup with Progress and MessageBox to allow the parent and the dialog to pass messages back and forth. It involves using setTimeout().

For those interested in the last item, here is what that look like:

        /**
        * Handles messages coming from the parent
        */
        function startMessageHandler() {
            setTimeout(function() {
                var message = localStorage.getItem("dialogMessage");
                localStorage.setItem("dialogMessage", ""); // clear the message
                if(message !== undefined && message !== null && message != "")
                {
                    var msg = JSON.parse(message);
                    if(msg.message == "update") {
                        // update the form
                        updateForm(msg.settings);
                    } else if(msg.message == "close") {
                        // do nothing special here
                        return; // stops the message pump
                    } else if(msg.message == "progress") {
                        if(msg.settings.Number > 100) return;
                        $("#bar").prop("value",msg.settings.Number);
                    }
                }
                startMessageHandler(); // call again
            }, 0);
        }

Here is an example of how to use the Progress dialog. The method signature is like this:

Progress.Show( [message], [start], [max], [completeCallback], [cancelCallback] )

  • The message is the message the user see’s when the dialog is opened.
  • The start is the number you want the progress bar to start at. Usually this should just be zero (0).
  • The max is the number you want the Progress bar to end at. Usually this should be 100. But it can be any number you want. If you have 5 steps to perform in the background while this dialog is up, you can set this to 5.
  • The completeCallback is your callback function to be called when your code calls the Progress.Compelte().
  • The cancelCallback is what gets called when the user presses the Cancel button on the form.

By itself, this will do nothing. You will have to call the Progress.Update() command in order to move the progress bar, or update the message to the user. Here is the method signature for the Update method:

Progress.Update( [amount], [message] )

  • The amount is how much you want the progress bar to move. If you do not specify an amount, an amount of 1 is assumed.
  • The message is a new message to provide the progress bar. If you want to update the message and do not want to increment the progress bar, specify an amount of zero (0).

Once you are all done with the Progress dialog, you issue a Progress.Complete() call. There are no parameters to it. Once called, your completeCallback in the Progress.Show() call will then be executed.

Here is an example:

// reset first to make sure we get a fresh object
Progress.Reset();
// display a progress bar form and set it from 0 to 100
Progress.Show("Please wait while this happens...", 0, 100, function() {
    // once we are done - when your code
    // calls Progress.Complete()
    Alert.Show("All done folks!");
  }, function() {
    // this is only going to be called if the user cancels
    Alert.Show("The user cancelled");
});
doProgress();

function doProgress() {
  // increment by one, the result that comes back is
  // two pieces of information: Cancelled and Value
  var result = Progress.Update(1);
  // if we are not cancelled and the value is not 100%
  // we will keep going, but in your code you will
  // likely just be incrementing and making sure
  // at each stage that the user has not cancelled
  if(!result.Cancelled && result.Value <= 100) {     setTimeout(function() {       // this is only for our example to       // cause the progress bar to move       doProgress();     },100);   } else if(result.Value >= 100) {
    Progress.Compelte(); // done
  }
};

That example also uses the new Alert dialog. This one is very simple:

Alert.Show ( [message] )

This next example uses the new Wait dialog, which is much simpler to implement. Here is the method signature:

Wait.Show( [message], [showCancel], [cancelCallback] )

  • The message is the message you want to show the user. If you specify null, it will appear as simply “Please wait…”
  • The showCancel flag if set will allow the user to see a Cancel button.
  • The cancelCallback function is only valid if the showCancel option is true. When the user presses cancel, this function gets called.

When you are ready to close the Wait dialog, you issues a Wait.CloseDialog(). Here is an example:

  Wait.Show(null, true, function() {
    Alert.Show("The user cancelled.");
  });
  setTimeout(function(){
    Wait.CloseDialog();
    Alert.Show("Done!");
  }, 15000);

If you have some suggestions for some things you would like to see added to this library, please add a comment below or reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Some ideas I will be working on:

  • Allow you to call another dialog type without having the close the dialog.
  • A selection dialog, where you have a dropdown list of a listbox where you wan select (or multi-select) items.
  • An option to resize forms.
  • An option to use the message handler in your own custom form – minimal code

Delay Loading Outlook Add-ins

A customer I work with encountered an issue where a specific add-in was causing Outlook to lose its network connection. Essentially, we were unable to get the “Click here to view more on Microsoft Exchange” (in cached mode) to light up. Here is what we saw:

connect error

Here is what we wanted to see:

connected

It was always grayed out and no mater what we did in Outlook with the connection state, it never same back.

After a lot of troubleshooting we found one particular in-house add-in was causing the problem. Oddly, everything worked great with the same add-in in previous versions of Outlook, but in Outlook 2016, we started seeing this problem. Therefore, we knew it had to be a change made in Outlook 2016. What we found is that Outlook 2016 had been greatly reconfigured in the startup code to optimize network connections as it now connects to the cloud (Office 365). So we started working with the product team on identifying the root cause and in the end we were unable to find a solution (in time). My customers deployment was delayed.

As such, I had to come up with a workaround. We found that if the add-in was not loaded when Outlook started, but was manually enabled after Outlook  launched, the problem would NOT occur. This got me thinking: What if I created an add-in that loaded add-ins AFTER Outlook was done loading all other add-ins?

The Outlook Delayed Loading of Add-ins for the Enterprise was born. By the way, that name is credited to my customer. The catchy acronym stuck: D-LAME Add-in. wlEmoticon-disappointedsmile.png

I have posted the project for it here on GitHub here:

https://github.com/davecra/DLAME

You will need to load it into Visual Studio and compile it and then sign it with a certificate on your own. The code is provided AS IS. The README.md on the page explains the installation, configuration and usage of the a add-in once you have it ready for deployment. Some key points:

  • You will want to make sure it is not disabled by setting the Resilience policy key for the add-in.
  • You will want to move the add-in(s) you wish to delay from HKLM to HKCU registry locations.
  • You can load DLAME as either HKCU or HKLM. The suggestion is HKLM.

So, what can you use this for? Well, it turns out this add-in has a lot of uses and as I have started discussing it with other support folks at Microsoft, several use cases came out:

  1. You have a lot of add-ins that you need to have loaded with Outlook. They keep getting disabled by Outlooks resiliency feature, so you add policy settings to prevent them from being disabled, but now Outlook takes forever to launch. You can now set only DLAME to be resiliency policy blocked and then delay load all your other add-ins.
  2. Because it is a .NET/VSTO add-in, added to the above scenario, you can have all your VSTO add-ins load after Outlook has completed loading all other add-ins.
  3. Because the loading occurs on a background thread, the user will see Outlook fully load and then will start to see the other add-ins load (Ribbons and buttons appearing) after they are able to see their inbox and start reading/selecting items.

Bottom line, this add-in is useful for helping an enterprise manage their add-in without impacting the loading of Outlook or user productivity.

However, there is ONE major caveat. You will need to thoroughly test your add-ins because some add-ins might not like being loaded AFTER the fact. Technically, I have not found any that behave this way, but there could be some that register to certain events (like Application_Load and NewExplorer) that will not get fired if loaded after Outlook is already fully loaded.