A bit of history

The Office.js API model was first introduced in Office 2013, under the name of “Apps for Office”.  The model was an ambitious – if somewhat limited –- attempt to create a new kind of web technology based APIs, and have those APIs work cross platform and across multiple host applications.

Office 2016 has seen a complete overhaul of the original 2013 API model, creating new and host specific APIs. These APIs offer a rich client-side object model that accurately reflects the unique characteristics of each object type for each of the hosts. For example, the Excel APIs have classes for Worksheets, Ranges, Tables, Charts, and so forth, with each object type offering dozens of properties and methods. Similarly, the Word API now have the notion of Paragraphs, and Content Controls, and Images, and more. The team has also changed the overarching design process, building out the APIs with great transparency in the form of “open specs”, which are posted online for the community to give feedback on before implementation ever takes place. In a similar vein, several colleagues on my team – and an increasing number of folks from the external community – are active participants on StackOverflow, where we actively monitor any questions that are tagged with “office-js”.

The Office 2016 release also signifies a much deeper commitment to cross-platform consistency in the APIs. For example, all of the new APIs in Excel that are available in Office 2016 for Windows are also available in Excel Online, Excel for Mac and Excel on iOS. To keep up with developers’ demands, the new APIs are shipped continuously, usually once per quarter, with those APIs becoming immediately available to users of Office 365 on the Desktop 1See “Office versions: Office 2016 vs. Office 365 (Click-to-Run vs. MSI), Deferred vs. Current channel, on Office Online, and Mac/iOS.

Even beyond the APIs, Office 2016 offers enhancements to other parts of the overall programming framework – most notably, the ability for Office Add-ins to appear in the ribbon and to launch dialog windows. If you were previously on the fence for whether to look into Office Add-ins, I hope that the APIs described in this book will help change your mind.


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