Companion Article for the Overview at the Boston Office 365 Developer Bootcamp
This article could be useful to any Office 365 developer who wants a quick reference to the recorded sessions from Microsoft Ignite, but it’s also intended as a companion to my opening talk at the Office 365 Developer Bootcamp on October 27, 2017, in Burlington, MA. The talk is intended to show you all the ways you can develop for Office 365. Office 365 includes the Office client programs, such as Word, Excel, and Outlook, as well as the online services, such as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, etc.
There was a ton of great content at Ignite on Office development and, thankfully, most of it is available online. Here are links to the sessions that are available as recordings, so you can dive into whatever areas you like.
If you have time to watch only one session, I recommend this one:
This was the big overview of the whole platform, and all the announcements at Ignite. They began by discussing a spectrum of options for “realizing value from the Office 365 platform.” In case that’s not clear, it’s just marketing-speak for “different ways to use Office 365 as a platform.”
Customers can use Office 365 as an application platform in 4 different ways:
- Purchase packaged solutions from AppSource
- Build low-code/no-code solutions in PowerApps and Flow
- Leverage a pre-built Reference solution as a starter
- Full custom development
The sections which follow discuss the last three of these options in detail.
PowerApps and Flow
These new applications are destined to replace InfoPath and SharePoint Designer workflows, but the initial versions weren’t powerful enough for many real world situations. Microsoft continues to invest here; here are the enhancements that were announced at Ignite:
- Custom SharePoint forms using PowerApps
- PowerApps web part
- PowerApps in Teams
- Flow for OneDrive
- Flow launch panel
- Document/item review
- Custom approval action
Here are the sessions to watch to get more details:
Microsoft is rolling out a ton of open source reference solutions you can use as a starting point for projects. Here are links to the relevant sessions:
The Graph API is the master key to unlocking the potential of Office 365 data in your applications. It’s a single REST endpoint that exposes nearly everything in Office 365. This includes obvious things like files, groups, and messages, but it also includes people, conversations, and insights derived from all of this.
A great place to start is the Microsoft Graph Explorer, which allows you to play, test, and experiment with the Graph API running against a test tenant or your own.
They announced a number of Graph enhancements including:
- Now generally available: SharePoint lists, file versions, and people API; app-only support for OneDrive; access to Outlook shared calendars, contacts, and mail folders
- Now in Beta: Outlook rules, categories, supported languages, supported time zones, rooms, and email headers
- Also in Beta: Graph extensions for Azure functions – these are ready to go templates in Azure Functions to hook activities in Microsoft graph such as receiving a message in Outlook or rendering user photos
Here are the many Graph API breakouts from Ignite:
Office 365 developers have three “canvases” to work with – that is, they can surface their applications in three important ways: in documents, in conversations, and in pages.
To use a document as a canvas basically means writing an Office Web Add-in; they work on Office for Windows, Mac, iPad, and Office Online. Here are the relevant Ignite breakout sessions:
This is a new and very exciting area for Office developers. Wherever there’s a conversation, there’s the potential for developers to add value. Bots allow your application to participate in a conversation, and actionable messages allow your application to initiate a conversation with users.
Here are the breakouts on the Conversation Canvas:
They could have called this “modern SharePoint pages”, but that would spoil the whole canvas theme! This is the focus of the Office Developer Bootcamp that Scot and I are offering. Any one of the other areas could easily consume a whole bootcamp!
Here are the SharePoint page development breakouts from Ignite:
Acquisition and Deployment
All these applications are only useful if you can deploy them, and maybe buy them if you’re not writing your own. Here are the Ignite breakouts about those topics: