Microsoft Office 2016 has surged forth from Redmond, releasing a number of new plugins and apps for the world’s most popular Office suite. Extending the functionality of the base Office installation has been happening for years, and each year brings a new wave of productivity boosters to save time, energy, and money.
What Are They?
Microsoft Office plugins and apps are small extensions, designed to expand the functionality of each Office program. Apps are available for most Microsoft Office software, though their use can be limited by the version of Office you’re running. As these extensions have grown in popularity with each iteration of Office, Microsoft has consistently improved support and integration with a number of apps, making the transition from add-in to default installation.
The plugins, apps, and add-ins have different functions, extending different aspects of Word.
- COM Add-Ins: Component Object Model Add-Ins. Extend the functionality of Word with custom tasks, buttons, dialogue boxes, or other software specific task or event.
- Word Add-Ins: Apps that are specifically designed to extend the functionality of Word.
- Actions: Word can perform actions relating to specific words or phrases in your documents.
- Templates: Load templates for any number of things, featuring XML support.
- XML Schemas and Extension Packs: Enable closer control over documents containing XML, and extend the functionality of grammatical rules for XML in Microsoft Word.
Those are the types of extensions you’ll be using. You may note I’ve used “plugins, apps, and add-ins” to describe the extensions. They are ostensibly the same thing, but their chosen name has evolved alongside Microsoft Office. At their genesis, the extensions were known as plugins, and add-ins. However, as the architecture of Microsoft Office changed to allow Apps for Office to flourish, so did the name.
Most extensions are now referred to as Apps, though searching for plugins and add-ins usually return a similar vein of results.
Microsoft Office Productivity Apps
Here we go: a handful of productivity apps we think give you a massive boost.
What productivity list would be complete without a to-do list manager? None, that’s how many. ToDo isn’t super flashy, but it maintains a list of your tasks in the event pane that you can switch to, update, delete from, or just ignore it and procrastinate.
Saikat Basu delivered a class on diagram and chart design in Word last year, illustrating how the sometimes frustrating tools can be tamed to do really nice things. Gliffy Diagrams expands on this, offering hundreds of shapes, templates, business process models, technical drawings, and network diagrams to name but a few.
On sign-up, you’ll be granted a 14-day trial of Gliffy Professional, automatically reverting back after time elapses. Worth a shout for those designing almost any kind of chart.
The Bing Dictionary is actually somewhat included in the base Office 2016 installation as part of the Smart Lookup feature, which offers both definitions and an exploration of the word. However, those running Word 2013 can install the Bing Dictionary app which leverages the search engine in its definitions.
Office Tabs is a productivity ever-present, bringing tabbed documents to Microsoft Office. Why this hasn’t been implemented in the base installation still boggles my mind, but at least we have a dependable, feature-full addition. Office Tabs is available for Office versions as early as 2003, and is worth a look if only for the “All Documents” options: Save All, Close All, Close Others, and more.
DocuSign is an excellent addition to Microsoft Word for anybody sending digital documents requiring secure signatures. Rather than go through a lengthy external process, you can sign and send your document straight from Word, while simultaneously updating your OneDrive folder with signed documents.
If you want to search the Microsoft Office Store for Word Productivity Apps, click here.
Bonus: Wonderful connectors of everything technology IFTTT introduced a Microsoft Office 365 Channel earlier this year, focusing on streamlining a number of tasks across the entire suite. You can check out the recipes right here.
Installation of Microsoft Word Plugins
Now you’ve seen all these sparkly shiny productivity apps, why not install some of them? Applications found in the Apps for Office repository should install and appear within Word on your next reboot, if not immediately in some cases.
Office 2010/2013/2016: download the add-in, and install. Open Word and head to File > Options > Add-Ins. In the Manage box, at the bottom of the screen select the type of add-in that you would like to activate, followed by Go. Make sure your add-in is selected, and hit OK. The add-in should now appear with your existing tabs, or you may have to reboot for extensions altering features of the main installation.
Alternatively, Office 2013 and Office 2016 users can head to Apps for Office, located on the Insert tab, and you can peruse available applications. You may have to restart Word for changes to take place. This service is unavailable to Office 2010 users.
This is just a tiny proportion of Microsoft Office Apps. There are thousands available for you to choose from, covering everything from Lesson Planners to Document Timing, and plenty more in-between, across the entire Office spectrum. Have a search and see what apps boost your productivity, or take a course to boost your knowledge!
What apps are you already using? What is your favorite Office app of all? Let us know below!