5 Microsoft Office Plugins & Apps to Boost Your Productivity

Gavin Phillips 26-10-2015

Microsoft Office 2016 A Microsoft Office 2016 Preview: Smart & Subtle Changes Office 2016 for Mac was just released and the Windows version will follow in the fall. We show you the new look and features of the world's most popular productivity suite. Will you upgrade? Read More 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 Power Up Excel with 10 Add-Ins to Process, Analyze & Visualize Data Like a Pro Vanilla Excel is amazing, but you can make it even more powerful with add-ins. Whatever data you need to process, chances are someone created an Excel app for it. Here's a selection. Read More installation has been happening for years, and each year brings a new wave of productivity boosters to save time, energy, and money.


With Office fresh in your minds 20 Historical Microsoft Office Facts You Forgot Or Never Knew The Microsoft Office suite turned 25 this year. The world has changed since digital presentations, word processing, and spreadsheets became a thing. Do you remember how it all began? Read More , we thought we’d treat you to a handsome list of Microsoft Word Plugins, Apps, and Add-Ins to boost your productivity!

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.

Microsoft Office Add-in types

The plugins, apps, and add-ins have different functions, extending different aspects of 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 6 Tips for Using OneNote as Your To-Do List Are you making the most of your OneNote to-do list? Apply our tips for better OneNote checklists. Read More ? 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 15 Hilariously Random Websites to Help You Procrastinate The Internet is full of weird stuff. Kill some time with these websites that'll make you wonder why they were ever created. Read More .

Microsoft Office todo app


Gliffy Diagrams

Saikat Basu delivered a class on diagram and chart design in Word How to Create Flowcharts With Microsoft Word The Easy Way Want to learn how to make a flowchart in Word? It's easy with the right technique. This introductory article explains how. Read More  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.

Bing Dictionary

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 Can Bing Surpass Google Search Through Windows 10 Integration? Google eats Bing for breakfast. But Bing and Microsoft are a Phoenix in full-rebirth mode. As Google faces antitrust allegations and Cortana meets the Windows 10 Taskbar, Microsoft may soon turn the tables. Read More in its definitions.

Other users may wish to use the Merriam-Webster or Collins Dictionary, and the choice is entirely yours.


Office Tabs

Office Tabs is a productivity ever-present How To Add Tabs To Microsoft Office & Improve Your Document Management Tabs are something which the guys at Redmond woke up late to. So far, it has escaped an introduction in MS Office; a feature I am sure many of you out there would want as... Read More , 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.

Office Tab Setup


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 Upgrade Your Skills with the Best Microsoft Office Courses Online Microsoft Office is a required skill across offices worldwide. How adept are you? Massive Open Online Courses offer everyone the training to get better at it anytime, anywhere. Read More !

What apps are you already using? What is your favorite Office app of all? Let us know below!

Related topics: Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft Office 2013, Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft Word, Productivity.

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  1. Gavin
    November 26, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks for the heads up, Peter. Will have the article edited accordingly.

    "To say the least" - not sure what you meant by this.

  2. Anonymous
    October 26, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Gavin, I have Office 2013 & downloaded the free version but it was not. They call it a free trial. There is a free version but only for older versions of Office. If I am wrong please correct me.

    • Gavin Phillips
      October 26, 2015 at 3:11 pm

      Hi Peter,

      I've been using the version of Office Tabs provided in my previous post with Office 2013 for months without any prompt for licensing.

      If you use that link, you'll download a free version for private use. If you try to download through the Extend Office page, you'll download the trial/pro version which will prompt you to pay. The free version is plenty useful enough IMO.

      Sorry for any confusion.

      • Anonymous
        October 26, 2015 at 4:43 pm

        OK Gavin, I downloaded it & have installed it. I will see what happens. Thanks for the tip.

        • Anonymous
          October 26, 2015 at 4:56 pm

          Update: Gavin, looking at the product's details (e.g. in Excel\File\Office Tab it says the product is not freeware. To continue using it after the free trial period you need to register it. But when you click the "register" button, you need to enter a key, which you get when you buy it.
          So, maybe you were lucky that you have been able to use it free for months, but I suspect the app will get blocked after the 30 day free trial period, like it did the 1st time I installed it.

  3. Anonymous
    October 26, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    I don't know about the others, but Office Tabs has a free trial period only. After that it is premium.