Microsoft Word Add-Ins vs. Traditional Macros: Which One is Better?
Microsoft Word is a mature business application that has been used for word processing for many years and has evolved to include a vast amount of features. What if you could extend Word to include functionality that does not currently exist? Until now macros were the way to go. Now there is a tool called Word add-ins that far and away outshines the traditional macro paradigm.
Microsoft Word add-ins allow a developer to access the full functionality of the .NET framework to enhance a Word document that has never existed before. The downside is that this ability is not really meant for the average office worker. Knowledge of Visual Studio and a .NET language is required to take advantage of this toolset.
Using Visual Studio Office Toolkit to Create Word Add-Ins
The toolset, called the Visual Studio Office Toolkit, is freely available from Microsoft and plugs into Visual Studio providing the programmer with a new project type. Once the project is established, standard Win form user controls are used to present the UI pane for the Word add-in. Any .NET language can be used to program the UI and access the document object model.
A good example for usage might be storing standard boilerplate language in a database for office workers to use when creating documents. The user would open up the document and a new Word add-in pane would be visible, allowing the user to select text snippets to place anywhere in the document. Behind the scenes the Microsoft Word add-in is connecting to a database and selecting text snippets to show the user. The user then could tailor the text or leave as is and save the document normally.
The Word add-in also shows a lot of promise with interacting with SharePoint web services. These services allow access to the SharePoint API which gives your document the ability to interact with your portal in ways never thought possible.
Microsoft Word add-ins provide functionality to extend Word documents not previously achievable with macros. They also bridge the gap between a regular old Word document and a full-fledged application UI.
Please share any of your experiences working with Microsoft Word add-ins or traditional macros. I’d like to hear them.