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Second Preview of Office Dev Tools for Visual Studio 2015

SharePoint 2016 and add-in development support are highlights of this release that allows Visual Studio developers to customize Microsoft Office.

A number of tools were introduced at Microsoft's Build conference at the end of March this year, including a slew of developer-based tools for improving the Office user experience. Less than a month later, and the Office Developer Tools team has released a preview of its Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2015 Preview.

It's actually dubbed a "second" preview, with the addition of support for SharePoint 2016 and add-in development.

Add-in development comes in the form of some new project templates for creating add-ins to specific Office tools. So, there are add-in templates for Excel, Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, SharePoint, and Cloud Business App, which developers will be able to see in a drop-down in the VS IDE's New Project dialog.

"With the new templates, you can create add-ins that add new functionality to an Office host," writes Ji Eun Kwon, a Microsoft program manager with the Office Developer Tools team, in a blog post. "You can build task pane add-ins or use add-in commands to create buttons in the Office ribbon."

There's some interesting code running under the hood for these starter templates, which Kwon covers in the post. For example, rather than having to add extensive CSS to maintain the Office look and feel, many of the UI features are already built in via Fabric UI. As well, when deploying the add-ins, underlying code is able to figure out whether to run the new code with compatible versions of Office or revert to older Office version behaviors.

SharePoint 2016 support comes in the form of starter templates that can be opened in VS 2015 to spin up SharePoint 2016 solutions and add-ins. Developers will see several options when starting a New Project, including templates for Silverlight Web Part and Visual Web Part, as well as dozens of other templates that are available online through an embedded link.

Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2015 Preview 2 is available here.

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