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Microsoft Outlook is an effective and powerful program all on its own, but perhaps there are features and options you wish it offered. One way to expand the power and flexibility of Outlook is through add-ins. Microsoft provides an array of add-ins, both free and paid, many of them geared for business users. Created by different developers, Office add-ins are accessible directly from Microsoft through its Office Store. However, to access add-ins for Outlook, you must be running Exchange or Office 365 on the backend. That means you can’t tap into them for your own personal account with Gmail, Yahoo, or another such service.

SEE: Office 365: A guide for tech and business leaders (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

To get started, open Outlook. On the Home Ribbon, you should see an icon for Get Add-ins. Click that icon to display the list of available add-ins, starting with the Editor’s Choice selections and then moving on to all add-ins (Figure A).

Figure A

You can also access and install add-ins for Outlook and other programs at Microsoft’s Office Store (Figure B). The process is virtually the same as doing it through Outlook, so you can choose either method.

Figure B

If you don’t see the add-ins icon or you’re unable to access the list of add-ins, then you’ll need to check your add-ins status. To do this in Outlook, click on the File menu, and then click the button to Manage Add-ins (Figure C).

Figure C

Sign into Exchange or Office 365 with your email address and password. The Manage Add-ins setting in the General section displays any current add-ins and their status (Figure D). If you’re still unable to see or access Outlook add-ins, then you may need to contact your mail or Office administrator to find out if add-ins are enabled in your Office environment.

Figure D

Back at the add-ins list through Outlook, you can browse through the different items or search for a specific add-in by name or other criteria. Notice that the description of each add-in indicates whether it’s free or requires an additional purchase or subscription (Figure E).

Figure E

Click on a specific add-in to see additional information and user reviews (Figure F).

Figure F

To install an add-in, just click on its Add button. Back in Outlook, the add-in will automatically appear on the appropriate Ribbon depending on how and when it should be used (Figure G).

Figure G

To manage your installed add-ins, click the Add-ins icon on the Home Ribbon. Select the section for My Add-ins (Figure H).

Figure H

To remove an add-in that you no longer use, click its ellipsis in the lower right and choose the Remove command (Figure I).

Figure I

You can also manage your add-ins from your Office 365 page. In Outlook, click on the File menu and select the button to Manage Add-ins. Sign in if necessary. At the Add-ins section, you can turn off an add-in without having to uninstall it. To do this, uncheck the checkbox next to its name. To completely uninstall an add-in, select it and then click the minus sign at the top of the list.

Finally, you can add an add-in at this page. Click the plus sign at the top. The first option lets you add an add-in from the Office Store, which we’ve already covered. The second and third options let you add an add-in from a URL or manifest file. These contain XML code that describes the add-in and are sometimes used within an organization for deploying and testing add-ins (Figure J).

Figure J