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

ls1

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

ls2

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.

ls3

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

ls4

We can set a value here in Word

ls5

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

ls6

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.

ls7

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.

 

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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

f1

 

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


f2

f3

 

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.

f4

Using the developer console you can execute commands as normal

f5

You can also use the selector tool to look at styles

f6

 

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……….? 🙂