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
                    } 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;
                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
// 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");

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.");
  }, 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

Did you miss the Message… box?

Several customers have asked me if OfficeJS has something similar to a Visual Basic or C# MessageBox.Show() function. The answer is no. And for a long time there was not even a dialog option. With the latest releases of the OfficeJS libraries comes a new dialog feature. Yet to get a standard MessageBox, you will still need to create it from scratch. Or, at least until this blog post you did. I have created a helper library the consists of two files:

  • dialogs.js
  • dialogs.html

To reference this library you can do any of the following:

If you used NPM, you can reference then with a script tag like this:

<script type="language/javascript" src="./node_modules/officejs.dialogs/dialogs.js">

NOTE: This assumes your page is in the root of your project. The key point is that it is added to your node_modules when you use NPM and this is how you will reference it.

Once referenced you can then call a MessageBox like this:

MessageBox.Show("This is a test with a lot of text that simply has not point but to show you what " +
                "happens when you place a lot of text in a MessageBox for any point other than to " +
                "place a whole lot of text in the MessageBox.",
                "This is the Caption",
                true, "Check this if you want me to stop nagging you.",
                function(buttonPressed, checked) {
                  console.log("The button pressed was: " + buttonPressed);
                  console.log("The checkbox was checked? " + checked);

Here is what this will look like:


You can call up an InputBox like this:

InputBox.Show("What value do you want to enter?",
              "InputBox caption",
              "Default value", function(result) {
                var msg = "";
                if(result.length == 0) {
                  msg = "The user pressed cancel.";
                } else {
                  msg = "The user entered: " + result;

Here is what the above code looks like:


You can show a custom form of your own design like this:

    var yourJSON = JSON.parse(result).Result;
    // if you placed false in the 4th param you must
    // handle the close of the form

Here is an example of what the above code looks like:


It is important to note that like everything else in the OfficeJS world this is an async dialog. This also means it is non-blocking. This means any code you do not have in your callback method will continue to run. And if you are wanting to display multiple message boxes at the same time – you cannot. The last one you try to display wins, the others will be gone. Most everything in this dialog is just like you will remember from the good ol’ Visual Basic/C# MessageBox and InputBox. Even the constants for MessageBoxButtons and MessageBoxIcons are the same. But, I added a little flare and it probably helps with the best practices in OfficeJS to not nag the user with dialogs, and that is the ability to add a check box to the form so you can ask the user if they do not want to be bothered by your code anymore.

For the MessageBox, the withcheckbox and checkboxtext are there to give you that ability. Additionally, you see the callback method (asyncResult) that will return once the use dismissed the dialog. It will return with two pieces of information:

  • The button the user clicked in string format. So “Yes” or “Cancel” will be what you see here.
  • A Boolean representing whether the check box was checked or not.

For the InputBox, the callback method (asyncResult), will return one piece of information. If will return the text the user entered, or it will return nothing (an empty string), if the user pressed cancel.

The Form method will return a JSON object:

Error: { },                  // Error object
Result: { },                 // JSON from form
Cancelled: false       // boolean if formed cancelled with X

The Result object will be the JSON from your own form. In your code you will need to call back to the parent like this:

Office.initialize = function(reason) {
    $(document).ready(function () {
        $("#okButton").click(function() {
            // notify the parent
            Office.context.ui.messageParent("My custom message.");

You will also see in the examples above, I call .Reset() before I issue a new dialog request. This is because the objects are global and this is a way to be certain to clean up anything in memory that might be associated with a previous dialog. In my testing, I never really had problems like this, but I added it as an extra precaution.

Also, note, I have only tested this in Outlook OWA, I have not had a chance to test it in Excel, Word, PowerPoint or even in the full Outlook client. So, if you encounter issues in those other clients, please let me know.

Finally, I want to call out the OfficeJS Helpers. This library provides a lot of help with authorization dialogs, but also has a simple method for displaying messages using OfficeHelpers.ui.notify(). You can install it into your project using NPM:

npm install –save @microsoft/office-js-helpers

Node Package Manager

As I delve ever deeper into the world of Node, I have found the ability to install packages with NPM quite handy. I do this from VS Code using the Terminal window. I just type:

npm install <packagename>

As I have been developing different packages for my customers, I have found the need to install code that I have been reusing over and over again. Most importantly, easyEws. So, I created a npmjs account (davecra) and I published easyEws. But what is even better and what I was after, is I can now install the latest version of easyEws by going into the Terminal window in VS Code and typing this:

npm install easyEws


Dialogs in OfficeJS

I have been working on a number of projects for my customers and recently, dialogs have taken front and center stage. The Office.context.ui Dialogs are powerful, albeit a tad confusing and the documentation suffers from a few easily missed points.  Here is the documentation:

But in this post, I hope to explain everything I have learned. To start off with here is the code to issue the dialog:

      { height: 20, width: 30, displayInIframe: true },
      function (asyncResult) {
          dialog = asyncResult.value;
          // callbacks from the parent
          dialog.addEventHandler(Office.EventType.DialogEventReceived, processMessage);
          dialog.addEventHandler(Office.EventType.DialogMessageReceived, processMessage);

What this dialog does is opens as a modal form in a frame over the application (in Office Web Apps). It looks like this:


As you can see the dialog is modal. But what is really important are the two event handlers you need to register to be able to get back to your code:

          dialog.addEventHandler(Office.EventType.DialogEventReceived, processMessage);
          dialog.addEventHandler(Office.EventType.DialogMessageReceived, processMessage);
The first one is an event receiver and really this is the event handler for errors, such as being unable to open the dialog or, most importantly, the user closed the dialog by clicking the (X) in the upper right of the dialog. There are a series errors you can catch, but specifically, the dialog cancel is this:
12006 The dialog box was closed, usually because the user chooses the X button.
The second one is a handler for messages coming from the dialog. These messages can be anything, but is usually a string or a JSON string. You can send a message from the dialog like this:
When the dialog issues a message using the code above, the function defined in the event handler is called. For example, if the user clicks an OK button or Submit button, you can pass the stringified values from the form back to the callback function. From there the dialog actually remains open until the caller issues a close, like this:
    // close the dialog
In the example above where I make the displayDialogAsync call, you will see I defined the SAME callback function for both dialog events. I did this because the results can be parsed by the same function. Here is what my function look like:
function processMessage(arg) {
    // close the dialog
    // procress the result
    if(arg.error == 12006) {
      // user clicked the (X) on the dialog
      sendEvent.completed({ allowEvent: false });
    } else {
      if(arg.message=="Yes") {
        // user clicked yes
        sendEvent.completed({ allowEvent: true });
      } else {
        // user clicked no
        sendEvent.completed({ allowEvent: false });
My previous blog post references all the code for the dialog:

Outlook OnSend and Dialog Sample

As promised, I have created a GitHub repository for the sample I blogged about earlier. Here is the repository:

This includes three items of interest:

  1. The OnSend event, implemented in the simplest of ways to demonstrate bare bones how to get it to work.
  2. The displayDialogAsync with the inline frame (displayInFrame) option. I will blog about this in the future as well.
  3. A project build by Yo Office and published per my blog post here.

What this sample add-in does is pops up a dialog box anytime you press Send on an email with a question: “Are you sure?” If you click Yes, it sends, if you click “no” is blocks the send. Here is what that dialog looks like:


If you have followed the steps from my Yo Office post, you will be able to open the project in VS Code, and from the terminal, launch it with:

npm start

Next, you will need to follow the steps to enable the OnSend policy in your account and then you will need to install/sideload the manifest. From there you will not see any appearance of the add-in at all, until you press the Send button.

NOTE: At the point I first tested it on June, 13th, 2017, there is a KNOWN ISSUE with the certificates created fro a “yo office” build. If you have not resolved the certificates issue you will be able to start the project in Node.js, but the add-in will fail to run. You need to perform the steps outlined here to correct it:

EasyEWS: JavaScript Library Improved

I have been working on improving my various Outlook proof-of-concepts and nearly every one of them require using EWS to access data about items in Exchange, which are not exposed through the object model. As such I have been constantly improving easyEWS.js. I have just posted version 1.0.6 and also have provided a published CDN which you can now use to always get the latest version of the library. Here is the CDN:

Here is the latest version on GitHub:

Specifically, the improvements I have made are:

  1. Typed every var using JSDoc. See my post on that here. This should help with debugging any issues you have. And if you have issues with my library, please contact me.
  2. Updated the Error handling callbacks and the Debugging callback to include more information. Every function can be called with this pattern, and you will get more information now if something does wrong. Here is the essential pattern every function uses:

easyEws.fn([x, [y],] function(z) {
// this is the success
}, function(error) {
// this is the failure - error
}, function(debug) {
// this is the debug information which contains:
// the soap message sent to the server
// the soap response from the server
// the server status message
// the server error message if any


Yo Office

Ok, odd title, I know. For some developers “in the know,” they will understand what I am eluding to. So what does it mean? It is short for Yeoman. In their own words, here is what it does:

Yeoman helps you to kickstart new projects, prescribing best practices and tools to help you stay productive. To do so, we provide a generator ecosystem. A generator is basically a plugin that can be run with the `yo` command to scaffold complete projects or useful parts.

So, by “yo office”, I am telling you that Office Web Add-in templates can be delivered through this cross-platform command line tool. This means you do NOT need Visual Studio (or even Windows) to create a new Office Web Add-in project package. More importantly, these packages are setup through NodeJs Package Manager and are configured to use Node.js web server (which comes on MANY different platforms).

Now, if you are like me (a 20+ year VS Office Developer veteran), when I first heard this, it all sounds just like this:

Γράφω στα ελληνικά και αν καταλαβαίνετε αυτό, καλό για σας
FYI: That is Greek. wlEmoticon-hotsmile.png
So, I have a choice here and that is to make this a long blog post, or a short blog post and I dislike making long posts as much as you do reading them, so… In this case, here is the executive summary: The Microsoft Office Developer team is trying to make Office an accessible development platform no matter where you come from (experience wise) or what platform you use.
Now, for “super hip” developers living on the cusp of command-line based free developer tooling, put this in your MacBook:
yo office
For the rest of you…
To get this to work, you need to install Node JS from here. And next you need to install the prerequisites as per these steps. Once installed, you will open the Node JS command prompt (in Windows, from the Start menu, type NodeJS and it should appear as a choice) and perform these steps:
  1. Change directory (using cd) to the folder where you want the project to live.
  2. Type “yo office” and then answer the questions.
  3. In my case, I developed an Outlook add-in, with a manifest, using JavaScript, called “Outlook-Sample-1” and I chose JQuery as the framework. Here is the output:


When it is done, it will create a folder called Outlook-Sample-1 and place a set of files in it that you can edit and the NodeJS configuration to run it from a standalone web server locally. I used Visual Studio Code (or VS Code, as it is known, which is a new multi-platform code editor from Microsoft that runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux), to edit the add-in.
NOTE: If you have configured everything in Visual Studio Code correctly, you can not only get NodeJS to interact from the “Terminal Window” you can also hook to GitHub to push/pull your projects. It is a whole other topic for a whole other blog post, but VS Code is a bare essentials utilitarian cross-platform code editing development tool.
Now, which files you need to edit and such are beyond the scope here, but if you have done some development in this area before, you can probably quickly figure it out. I might post more on this in the future. Stay tuned!

Ok, ok… I know, I know… I need to stop here and address the big huge hulking elephant in the room. YES, these are command line tools. Yes, DOS is still dead. No, it is. Really. Repeat after me, DOS “IS” DEAD. Now, just accept that this is the way it is, because this is the way it is. I know, it seems so… 1994… Neo called from the Matrix to assure you it is, indeed, 2017. wlEmoticon-surprisedsmile.png For my fellow Visual Studio, 20+ year developer gurus: “deep breaths.” Now, back to our regularly scheduled broadcast..

Here is a view of my project from VS Code, with the Terminal Window open…
Once I was done, I opened a NodeJS command prompt in the Terminal window and launched my project using the following command:
npm  start
Once you run this command, you will effectively start NodeJS web server at http://localhost:3000 which will be hosting your WebAdd-in. But you still need to side load your manifest. To do this, you will need to follow these steps (for Windows), here for Mac, here for Outlook. This gets all kinds of technical and deep into other areas that are potentially future blog posts, but the point is that you can then debug your add-in locally no matter which platform you are on.
Ok, Ok… back to the elephant
So, is this BETTER than Visual Studio Enterprise and the JavaScript debugger there and code assistance I get?
Well, this is more nuanced… I lean towards “no” as most of this stuff is too lightweight, especially given my experience. Especially without the debugging. But, I do see some advantages (besides the command line tools) that have its advantages for use on Windows:
  • It is available across multiple platforms – including Windows. VS Code, Node JS, and “yo office” are everywhere, anywhere, over there, under that, etc.. wlEmoticon-disappointedsmile.png
  • Out-of-the-box support for TypeScript. Which I have not blogged on a lot, but Michael Zlatkovsky has covered well in his book. TypeScript makes JSDoc seem like child’s play.
  • Out-of-the-box support for the Node Package Manager ecosystem. This is a huge repository of reusable code.
  • VS Code is a light weight editor that hooks into NPM, Node and Git really well. And while it does not debug, recent builds of Office have added the ability to hook to a debugger right from your taskpane. Which is only good if you have a taskpane, but it is a start.
  • Node provides auto-refresh (browser-sync), auto-compilation, and other goodness.

Again, this might look like a lot of Greek, but if you find your shop turning Greek, you can at least know some starter phrases to begin acquiring the knowledge you need to speak it.


So, why is any of this important to me? Especially if you are telling me:
“I use Visual Studio Enterprise (or Pro) and I am happy with it, why would you introduce me to this Greek language lesson.”
The answer comes in three points you can take away:
  • Office development is really multi-platform capable now. This correlates to the fact the Office Applications are also multi-platform. Write your add-in once, and it will run (or the future plan is, it will run) on every platform you can think of: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (or essentially an browser or any platform with a browser that has HTML5 support).
  • You know more about the vision, commitments and goals of the core Microsoft Office teams. If you get nothing out of this other than Microsoft is committed to true multi-platform capabilities with Office Web Add-ins, you have come away with a major point. But there is also the knowledge on how Office development can be done no matter the developer background. And hey. You 20+ year VS Office Developer veterans: take this to heart and read into it, because these are the tea leaves; then look over to your mentee that is likely your kids age and <sigh>.
  • You can move to another platform and still take what you know with you. This means that “cool” MacBook you bought several years back and gave to your kiddo when they went off to college can actually do something more than read email and browse web pages. wlEmoticon-hotsmile.png Uh, I still strongly suggest you stick to Web Add-in development on Windows and Visual Studio Enterprise if you are already there… just saying…
So, with this, I hope I have sufficiently given you a vision of things to come, and maybe even given a few of you some new things to research and delve into. If you want more, the entire how-to with Yeoman, including a cool video, is on the following page: