Microsoft’s New Add-In Frameworks Let Developers Access Office’s Data Graph

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At its Build event in San Francisco, Microsoft just showed off its new add-in frameworks for Office that let developers build applications on top of the company’s productivity apps that will run everywhere Office does.

Instead of siloing data off within its productivity suite, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Microsoft wants to “move to a semantically rich graph of data that developers can view and extend.”

These mini-applications aren’t limited to Windows (or even the desktop). Since they’re built in HTML and JavaScript, the same add-in that users become familiar with on their PC at the office will also show up when they make a quick change in the app on the iPad or web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook.

In an on-stage demo, Nadella and an Office Product Manager showed several applications from early partners, including a DocuSign app running within Word and an add-in from SAP running in Excel, pulling data from what the user is looking at and automatically turning it into something easier to work with.

Nadella says these new frameworks will make Office applications more powerful by allowing for sub-apps that fit within specific user contexts — thus offering the benefits of broadly applicable and powerful apps like Excel while also bringing in interfaces and tools built for niche user bases.