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Build Apps for Office with the New Microsoft Tool Suite

Microsoft on Monday released Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2012, a downloadable suite composed of new templates, designers and integrated lifecycle tools for creating apps for Office 2013, SharePoint 2013 and Office 365.

Apps for Office and SharePoint are optimized for use on the Web and in the cloud. They're built on common Web technologies including HTML5, CSS, JavaScript and OData, which allows Web developers to use their preferred languages and tools to build apps. There are three types of apps for Office and SharePoint, categorized by where they appear in an application or document: task pane apps (found in an Office application's task pane); content apps (appear within a document's content); and mail apps for Outlook 2013 and Outlook Web Access (found alongside an open Outlook item). 

The Office Developer Tools provide support for creating, deploying and maintaining such apps in the cloud; application lifecycle support is also provided for all other currently available Office and SharePoint hosting models. In addition, apps for Office can be sold in the Office store or deployed within a developer's organization.

In a blog post, Corporate VP of the Microsoft Developer Division S. Somasegar highlighted some of the features in the Office Developer Tools release, noting that the tools have been improved after preview builds. Enhancements include a validation tool to ensure apps meet submission standards for the Office Store; upgrades to workflow designers; and improved remote debugging. According to Somasegar, "Windows Azure cloud service projects can be used to easily create provider-hosted apps for SharePoint." He also pointed to Team Foundation Server/Team Foundation Service support for apps for Office and SharePoint build workflows.

Somasegar noted that the Office Developer Tools are available online, as well, as part of the "Napa" project. Napa allows developers to create apps for Office and SharePoint in a browser window, and later transfer their apps to Visual Studio for further enhancements.

In order to share apps in the Office Store, Somasegar wrote, developers need an Office 365 Developer Subscription and a Microsoft Seller Dashboard. He noted that there's "a new MSDN benefit for subscribers of Visual Studio Premium and Ultimate with MSDN: a one-time 12-month Office 365 Developer Subscription." Subscribers can access this benefit from their MSDN My Account page.

About the Author

Katrina Carrasco is the associate group managing editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group. She can be reached at kcarrasco@1105media.com.

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