Azure Machine Learning Studio Office Add-In

I am currently in the process of learning more about Azure Machine Learning Studio . Within there you can create and train predictive models. As I am going through some of the examples I came across a great example of an Office Add-In.

I am creating a simple weather predicting example based on data I downloaded from an API service. More on that later. From my model I created a sample Web Service with the click of a button. This exposes an End point for me to send data to be “predicted on”.

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When you create a Web Service from your trained model you can access a test screen through the application.

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From there I spotted a link to an Excel App and I figure I would see what was going on there. Turns out it is an Office Add-In… !!

When the Excel sheet opened I was presented with the option to test the web service

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Once you load your test data into the sheet you can then use the Add-In to select the data to test – and designate where the answer will be added back to the sheet.

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And you push Predict !!!

Looking at the application using the F12 tool we can see the hosted Office Add-In location and also see the prediction in action.

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The web service is called and the response is a JSON string with all the answers and the scored confidence in the answer.

The Add-In then inserts those answers back into the Excel spreadsheet for you

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As you can see, my predicting needs some work but the Add-In and sample web service worked like a charm !!!

Poking around the site I can see it is built using Knockout.js and some jQuery – very cool 🙂

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Once I have properly figured out how this all Machine Learning lark works I am going to create some blog posts on the predictive side of this – but I wanted to share how cool this out of the box for free Add-In is

GREAT USE CASE !!

 

Predictive Analysis and Machine Learning

Each year in January I pick a topic which is going to be my learning focus for the year. Partly because I started back in January 2012 (yeah 5 years !!) but also because it creates a basis of knowledge and information to speak on during the coming year. Previous years have been

  • 2012 – jQuery
  • 2013 – ExtJS
  • 2014 – Angular
  • 2015 – Bluemix
  • 2016 – MS Office Add-Ins

While Predictive Analysis and Machine Learning are not exactly “Emerging Technologies” their wide spread use is becoming so. With the significant uptick in IoT and data collection in general there is a growing feeling that this field will become mainstream this year. This is an area of personal and professional interest and I have been looking into it for a couple of months so far.

I have no significant aspirations to become a professional Data Scientist, but I do believe there is very meaningful ways predictive analytics can be integrated into our business solutions.

As normal my main goal of blogging is for personal reference and to build a knowledge base for myself (and others if they want to listen). I guess we will see how it goes 🙂

 

19 Jan – Speaking at Northwest Chicago JavaScript meetup – Office.js

We have been hosting the NWCJS meetup here at PSC Group for the past few months. We have had some great speakers talking about React Native, How Chrome works under the covers, ES6, Web Components and others. This time it is my turn to speak.

I am going to be talking about Office.js the framework library which is the underpinning of Office Add-Ins. I will be talking about how the framework works, how it’s intended to be used and present lots of examples of how you can use JavaScript alone to automate functionality within the Office suite of products (Word, Excel, Outlook etc). The Office.js library is intended to replace the main functionality of VBA but in a way that works not only on Windows machines, but also on the web and on Mac clients.

For more information on time and place check it out 🙂

Office.js

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017, 6:00 PM

PSC Group, LLC
1051 Perimeter Drive Suite 500 Schaumburg, IL

21 Javascripters Attending

Office.js – Using JavaScript to build functionality into Microsoft Office by Marky RodenMarky Roden is Principal Architect for the PSC Group LLC and Head of the PSC Labs emerging technologies group, tasked with using cutting edge technologies to transform solutions offerings for customers.**************Schedule 6:00 – begin arriving and sociali…

Check out this Meetup →

Building Office Add-ins using Office.js – the book, the website

I wanted to show some love for the new website and book by Michael Zlatkovsky. Michael is a Software Developer and Program Manager in the Microsoft Office Extensibility team. I met Michael at the MS MVP Summit back in October and we had a great conversation or two about Office Addins and their future development.

So Michael’s new leanpub book is called Building Office Add-Ins using Office.js and can be purchased through leanpub. The new supporting website http://buildingofficeaddins.com/ provides some of the key information from the book and gives a nice overview thereof while introducing the reader to the more technical aspects of using Office.js.

Michael’s a great guy and this is a very valuable resource for Office Add-In developers. I heartily recommend it.

Sharing data between Office Add-Ins using localStorage

In this article I will show how the underlying dependence on the browser (in this case IE11 in Windows) allows us to pass data between Office Add-Ins through the use of HTML5 localStorage. At this point this is a theoretical post as I haven’t thought of a good use case yet, I am sure I will at some point…

Introduction 

Earlier this year I created a demo for the Salesforce global conference (Dreamforce) which showed how to create an Office Add-In to extract and manipulate Salesforce data from within an Office Add-In (you can see the presentation here). For the main demo I actually created one “Web Page” and reused it in the context of Word and Excel. In this article I will demonstrate how we can easily set a localStorage value in IE11 or in an Office Add-In and have that readable in the other client environments.

localStorage

localStorage is part of the HTML5 Web Storage API which allows the permanent storage of string values in a browser. Like cookies the ability to read and write is tied to a domain. You can get/set values very easily by using the following notation:

  localStorage.setItem('name', 'Marky');
  localStorage.getItem('name'); //Marky

or even as simple as

  localStorage.name = 'Marky';
  localStorage.name; //Marky

The Embedded Browser 

When utilizing an Office Add-In within the Office client apps we are really using an embedded browser session within the context of the external client. In the case of Windows it is Internet Explorer. What this means though is that when we access a web domain, and set a localStorage value, that value is always available to us, when using Internet Explorer on that domain. Let me show you.

The Example

Here is my application running hosted on Azure in the xomino365.azurewebsites.net domain

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Through the console I created a new value

  localStorage.Marky = "This value set in IE11";

and as you can see below that is now accessible from localStorage

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If I now load up my Office Add-In within Word we can see (using the F12 tool) that  it is the same URL (same web page). Because it is in the Add-In “host_Info=Word” is added to the URL but other than that it is the basically same.

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Looking at the localStorage value we can also see “marky”

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We can set a value here in Word

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and then open the Add-In in Excel and retrieve the localStorage values previously set

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Caveat

If you have Word and Excel open you cannot set a localStorage value in one and have it picked up in the other, it seems that they only pick up the new values once they are opened. If you wanted to pass information between them in real time you could do that using WebSockets (something for a future demo).

Persistence between different Add-Ins

Now that I have set these values using the same application, we can also demonstrate that the principle is still applicable between different Add-Ins hosted in the same domain. In this example I have a different Add-In, still hosted on xomino365.azurewebsites.net (this time in Outlook). All the localStorage values are still available to me.

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Conclusion

In this article we have seen how we are able to set a localStorage value in Internet Explorer and then Word and have those values available in Excel. We have also seen that these values are actually available in other Add-Ins as long as they are hosted on the same domain.

This capability is all due to the underlying fact that Internet Explorer is the browser used to create all the demonstrated functionality.

 

Using “F12” in Windows to get an Office Add-In development developer console

In this article I will demonstrate the ability to activate and use the Internet Explorer developer console from within an Office Add-In.

Introduction

As I have discussed before, without using the debugging tools available within Visual Studio it is hard to debug Office Add-In development. In the past I have used firebug lite to assist in this but it is far from ideal. Within Windows 10 there is a new capability to open a developer console which help alleviate this issue to an extent.

F12

On a Windows 10 operating system you will find F12 in the %system32% directory. Normally this would be c:\windows\system32\F12\F12chooser.exe

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Open up you favorite Office Add-In and or one you are working on and then open F12Chooser


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Selecting TaskPane.html in this case will open the Internet Explorer developer tools for that web page. In Windows the Office Add-In is surfaced through an embedded IE windows within the office client.

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Using the developer console you can execute commands as normal

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You can also use the selector tool to look at styles

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Thanks to Michael Zlatkovsky (Microsoft Office Add-In dev – this guy) for showing me this 🙂

Conclusion

This is a major improvement for me over having to use firebuglite – interestingly though Michael was very intrigued that I had got that to work as well 🙂

 

Thank you – Microsoft MVP Summit !!!

Just over five weeks ago I was humbled to be awarded Microsoft MVP for the Office Development group and it has been a whirlwind few weeks. I was quickly enrolled in the Microsoft MVP Summit in Bellevue, WA and expectations were high. I now sit in Seattle Airport reflecting, glad to be going home but sad to leave…

Just like the first time I went to a major technology stack conference nearly 5 years ago, I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Professionally and personally this week exceeded my expectations. Not such much the technology, I kinda had a good idea about where that was going, but mostly the people, the company and the attitude. I got to go to Microsoft HQ, I got to see Building 1 and “Bill Lake”. Nerdy and kinda cool at the same time.

Technically, I can’t share what I learned – but that is not the point of this post…….sorry 😉

I wanted to say thank you to all the Microsoft employees for being so embracing, enabling and approachable. The summit was an excellent opportunity to share ideas, and more importantly discuss a vision for the future. I care less about what we do today and more about what we will be doing tomorrow and that is what I found. Plan for growth, go with a realistic vision, embrace tomorrow, take risks.

Due to rearrangements and program restructuring, there are only a handful of “Office Developer” MVPs and I am very excited to be in on the ground floor of something I believe in.

  • I learned that the Microsoft campus in Bellevue is one of the most beautiful business parks I have ever been to.
  • I learned that Seattle rush-hour traffic sucks just like anywhere else
  • I learned that the Microsoft product group I have met and worked with this week are aligned with my vision for their product and I am really excited it.
  • I have learned that what Microsoft is doing is complimentary to my IBM world, not competitive. It is perfectly OK to play in both worlds as a web developer.

Thank you to the poor souls who said no no…..”bitching is OK” and “it’s what we want”! I still don’t really believe you, and I still didn’t come hereto bitch, but you asked for it 😉 Thank you to all the product group people I met and I know I will forget some names (it’s only been a few hours)….I love what you do, I love what you did this week – THANK YOU to:

Rolando, Daniel, Michael, Yena, Sean, Michael, Gabriel, Sonia, Gareth, Sudhi, Caitlen and everyone I clearly forgot at Microsoft…..

Thank you to Lisa Anderson for corralling the Central MVPs and enabling me.

Thanks also to the many MVPs I met including David, Max, Leonid, Donald, Andrew Connell, Maarten, Colin and all the others !!!

I look forward to all seeing all you all again next year !

 

This coming year is going to be a lot of fun…..but then, that was the plan wasn’t it……….? 🙂