Everyone wants to work easier and faster, don't they? If you're using Office 2016, you can use Office and SharePoint add-ins to do just that. Add-ins are mini apps that perform a specific task. There are many available, both for free and for purchase. You can even develop your own. In this article, I'll show you how to find the add-ins you might find useful when working with Office files. Once you're familiar with the feature, you can look for add-ins before spending a lot of your own time creating solutions from scratch when they might already be built and ready for download.
In Office 2016, this feature is called Office And SharePoint Add-ins. Office 2013 refers to the feature as Office Add-ins. I'll be working with Office 2016 on a Windows 10 64-bit system. You should be able to access the feature with Office 2013 or 2016 running on Windows 7 or later on 32- and 64-bit systems. Given the simplicity of the example, there's no downloadable demo file.
How to get add-ins
Office and SharePoint add-ins are available from the Office Store, and the accessibility is built right into the Office interface. Click the Insert tab and then click My Add-ins in the Add-ins group. In Office 2013, choose My Apps. When using Access Web App, click Settings and then choose Apps For Office. In Outlook, the Add-ins group is on the Home tab. After locating the Add-ins group, click My Add-ins and click Store, as shown in Figure A.
Click Store to find available add-ins.
The following apps currently support this feature across most mobile and web platforms:
- Access Web App
- Outlook 2013 and 2016, Outlook for Mac, Outlook Web App
- Excel 2013 and 2016, Excel Online, Excel for iPad
- Word 2013 and 2016, Word Online, Word for iPad
- PowerPoint 2013 and 2016, PowerPoint Online
- Project 2013 and 2016
- OWA for Devices
In addition, you'll need a Microsoft account to access the Microsoft Store.
Let's get one
Let's work through a simple example to find and download an add-in that trims spaces from Excel data. Now, you can do this yourself using Excel's TRIM() function. But if you do this a lot, you'll find the add-in quicker, easier, and more flexible. Download the add-in as follows:
- In an Excel sheet with text data that needs a bit of scrubbing, click Insert.
- In the Add-ins group, click My Add-ins.
- In the resulting dialog, click Store (circled in Figure A).
- You can search by name or task. In this case, the search string Remove spaces in Excel returns the list shown in Figure B.
- Click Trust It to acquire the free add-in. Excel will open the add-in task pane. As you can see in Figure C the add-in offers several options.
Search by task for available add-ins.
This add-in has data-scrubbing options. Use them all or only one.
Let's use it
You have the add-in, so let's put it to use. Specifically, we'll use it to quickly remove the space characters before and after the names. The space characters are easy to spot in such a small data set (Figure C). Now, let's remove the spaces as follows:
- Click Select under Step 1. The add-in will display a selection control.
- Select the range that contains the text you want to scrub, as shown in Figure D. (The add-in doesn't shade the selection the way Excel does.)
- Click OK.
- Under Step 2, select only the first option, Trim Spaces In Front/In The End.
- Click Apply (at the bottom of the task pane). As you can see in Figure E, the spaces have been removed.
Select the data first.
The add-in removes the spaces before and after each name.
Undo won't work, so you might want to save the workbook before you launch the add-in just in case you don't like the results.
To reuse the add-in, click the My Add-ins dropdown arrow to see a list of installed add-ins. Simply double-click the add-in to start it. To hide an add-in, right-click it in the dropdown list and choose Remove From List. To retrieve it, choose See All from the dropdown and then click Manage My Add-ins. If you're signed in to your Microsoft account, this click displays a list of your add-ins and possible actions you might take. It's an easy-to-use interface that needs little instruction. If you're not signed in, this click requires you to log in before continuing.
To get support for an add-in, visit the developer's website. You can find a link in the Details section for each add-in's page in the Office Store. However, there's no guarantee you'll get a response.
This article is a simple tutorial because accessing and using these add-ins needs little instruction. The add-in does all the work for you behind the scenes. The key is knowing that this feature is available so you can start putting these tools to use today. Of course, given the nature of the feature, especially the free offerings, I can't guarantee that everything you try will work to your complete satisfaction.
If you're interested in learning how to create your own add-ins, visit Office and SharePoint Add-ins for a good, comprehensive developer-level review.
Send me your question about Office
I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. Please mention the app and version that you're using. Don't send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at email@example.com.
Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.