The Best Libraries and Tools for Development of MS Office Add-ins in 2020

MS Office is one of the most used software solutions in the world – it is installed on virtually all computers and everybody knows how to use it, at least to a certain degree.

One of the reasons for its popularity is its extensibility – its functionality can be enhanced by custom add-ins.

Having professionally developed C# based MS Office addins for more than 10 years, my best recommendations are these:

Best Libraries for Development of MS Office Add-ins

LibraryDescription
Add-In Express for MS Office and .NETAdd-In Express is a framework for rapid development of ultra-fast COM add-ins for MS Office.

Its UI allows interactive creation of Office UI controls (ribbons, context menus, etc.) with intellisense and its encapsulation of MS Office events saves tremendous time.
Excel-DNAWhile Add-In Express supports creation of custom Excel UDFs (User-Defined Functions), Excel-DNA is far more advanced.
Outlook RedemptionRedemption provides access to properties and functions not exposed by the MS Office’s COM API.
Telerik UI for WPFTelerik controls dramatically improve the look and functionality of any dialog or a MS Office’s sidebar.

Best Tools for Development of MS Office Add-ins

ToolDescription
Advanced InstallerAdvanced Installer allows you to interactively set up an installer for distribution of your MS Office add-in along with pre-requisites and custom scripts within minutes. No more sleepless nights spent on WIX Toolset!
Visual StudioIn my experience, Visual Studio is the most productive IDE available.

Alternative Technologies

TechnologyDescriptionWeaknesses
VBAEasy development without any additional IDE supported in any MS Office app.1. The code is very slow
2. There is no intellisense
3. Versioning of the code is very difficult since the code is a part of the MS Office document
4. Sharing of the code among multiple MS Office documents is very difficult
VSTOIt’s a legacy technology for development of MS Office add-ins.1. All visual controls have to be defined in XML with no auto-complete
2. Problematic distribution – each user has to manually approve its installation
3. Does not support OneNote

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