Microsoft gives developers new options to plug into Office 365

At the Build developer conference in San Francisco today, Microsoft announced a series of new Office 365 developer tools designed to enhance how they interact with the Office 365 platform.

Microsoft outlined three new ways for developers to work with Office 365, including Graph APIs to provide intelligent integration inside third-party applications using content from the Microsoft Graph, integration points inside of Office 365 to provide the ability to integrate functionality inside Office 365 applications and Office 365 connectors to bring content from external applications into Office 365.

Microsoft Graph, which was announced last fall, announced five APIs to allow programmers to tap into data collected simply by the act of using Office applications such as tasks, calendar entries and documents. As an example, you could tap into the calendar and find all the available openings for people (which changes dynamically) so you could see when a group was available to meet. Similarly, you could find people with a particular expertise this way.

Microsoft Graph in action

Microsoft wants developers taking advantage of its products in a variety of ways, and today it also announced a way for them to build apps and then place them in the Office 365 ribbon, so users can access them in the flow of working within their office productivity tools like Excel, Word and PowerPoint. Similarly, they could also place them in the Office 365 App Store and integrate them that way.

Finally, Microsoft also announced a new developer portal called Office 365 Connectors that lets developers build their own connectors to deliver content from external (non-Microsoft) applications into Office 365 applications. At launch, it’s going to include connectors for Asana, Salesforce, Trello, Twitter, UserVoice, Zendesk and others.

This provides a way to include information and move smoothly between enterprise applications without having to explicitly open the third-party app. This is something we are going to see more and more as users demand more integrated experiences. They don’t want to be constantly shifting among their different apps, and this provides a way to pull information from these other programs

Sample of Office Connectors

From Microsoft’s perspective, this provides one more way to tap into Microsoft products and make the platform more valuable for organizations using it. It’s one thing to use the applications as they are designed out of the box, but it takes it to another level when you provide a way for organizations to take advantage of those functions and even the information being generated by those applications in a variety of ways beyond explicitly using the applications.

It’s also keeping with Microsoft’s new openness mantra by providing support for a variety of applications and platforms, regardless of whether they are from Microsoft, a neutral third party or even a direct competitor.