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How to boost your productivity with Office add-ins

How to boost your productivity with Office add-ins

What is an add-in ?

An add-in, also sometimes called add-on or plugin, is a piece of software that new features within another “host” application. Typically, for Office, an add-in would present itself as additional buttons on the ribbon in PowerPoint, Excel, Word or Outlook that were not available in the standard version. Sometimes add-ins even bring entire new tabs with specific features.

There are probably a billion people using the Office suite. Obviously, it’s impossible for Microsoft to have a single solution that would fit the individual need of everyone. So they enabled add-ins to let developers customize the Office solution to make any additional feature they want available to add-in users.

What are the benefits of using add-ins?

The add-ins ecosystem is quite large, if you need to increase your individual efficiency, collaborate with teammates, improve your document’s visual impact or interact with your audience, there will be an add-in that will help you do that.

For instance, some of these tools offer you impressive charting capabilities to display your data in a very visual way. If you work in finance or consulting for instance, you may be interested in a tool that will let you build waterfall charts. If your work implies analyzing geographic distributions, there will be an add-in providing you maps that you will be able to link to your Excel data. If you need to interact with your audience while presenting a PowerPoint presentation, you can use an add-in to create polls or word clouds in live.

What are the existing solutions on the market?

There are a multitude of actors on the market. Many add-ins are available for free, while there are also a number of paying solutions, so I’ll just give a few interesting examples.

A popular charting solution would be Oomfo for instance. Their add-in brings interesting chart possibilities in PowerPoint. You can connect your data from your cloud applications to PowerPoint, create advanced charts like Pareto, Marimekko, Funnel or Waterfalls, or add animations to your charts.


Figure 1: A waterfall chart created with Oomfo

With Microsoft Word, you can find tools to check spelling of your documents, suggest synonyms to diversify your vocabulary, or access templates of documents for instance. An add-in like the Selection Diff Tool will let you compare multiple Word documents and identify the differences.


Figure 2: Selection Diff Tool compares multiple Word documents

In Excel, there are many different add-ins, since it’s probably the most complex application of the Office suite. These tools have a really wide range of uses: charting solutions, formula auditing, database cleaning, etc. An example could be Spreadsheet123, an add-in that will let you select from a library of spreadsheet templates before building your own workbook. You can see this diversity in this list of 80 Excel add-ins.

With PowerPoint, add-ins usually bring tools to animate presentations and interact with the audience. But there are also many solutions to create charts like waterfall Mekko or Gantt. You can also find tools to insert templates, icons or pictures. And you can find add-ins as well to work with videos in PowerPoint, create word clouds, mind maps, and more. Power-user is a good example: it offers a library of visual content containing thousands of PowerPoint templates, icons, maps, charts or diagrams.


Figure 3: Power-user’s library has hundreds of PowerPoint templates


Add-ins let any user of the Microsoft Office Suite customize his own Office work environment, to make it fit his own needs. This is a very flexible solution that can help increase the productivity or make more appealing documents.


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