Nine things SAAS Companies need to know about Outlook plugins

Nine things SAAS companies need to know about Outlook plugins

Outlook plugins are the most mature method of adding features and providing third party integrations into Outlook. 

If you are thinking about integrating your SAAS product with Outlook, here are nine things you need to know.

1. Flexible User Interface

Outlook plugins have many options to enhance the Outlook user interface, including:

  • Add items to the ribbon bar anywhere you want
  • Add whole tabs to the ribbonbar
  • Show a new pane top, left,right, bottom of the Screen
  • Show popups and popup windows
  • Show message boxes

2. Respond to events

Outlook plugins can automatically show or do things when something happens in Outlook – an event. These events include:

  • New email arrives
  • Email is sent
  • Meeting request is sent
  • New message is opened for composing.
  • Read an email
  • Edit an appointment

3. Work with all items in Outlook

Outlook plugins can access any item in Outlook including:

  • Email
  • Appointments and Meetings
  • Contacts
  • Tasks
  • Journals
  • Folders

4. Can run background processing

Outlook can run some processes in the background. This means while the user is checking email, the plugin can be synchronising contacts. [Note:if you do this wrong you will cause Outlook to freeze or crash, but if you know what to avoid it is perfectly possible to get right.]

5. API Integration with external applications

The User Interface, Events, Items and Background processing options can be used together with API calls to provide a very slick integration with a SAAS application.

Information can be passed between Outlook and the SAAS application via an API to provide users with an integrated experience.

  • Copy and link emails from Outlook to a SAAS crm
  • Download Contacts from SAAS to Outlook
  • Synchronize calendar information between Outlook and SAAS
  • Use SAAS data to allow Outlook information to be linked to Cases, Sales Opportunities, Custom Categories.
  • Retrieve custom text to insert in a meeting request or email.

6. Work with all versions of Outlook Desktop (e.g. Outlook 2003 onwards if you wish)

Outlook plugins can be created to work with all versions of Outlook which run on Windows desktop. Typically they are only created for Outlook 2007/2010 and upwards these days, but technically they an be created with one version to run in all Outlook desktop versions.

7. Installation

Outlook plugins are installed like any windows application using a windows installer. This includes many enterprise environment types such as Citrix or other hosted desktop environments. Installations can be managed locally by a single user downloading the installer, or centrally being pushed by Network admins.


Some Gotchas:

8. Cannot run in Outlook for Mac

Plugins do not run in Outlook for MAC – and never will. If you need to run in Outlook for MAC,you will need to create an Office Add-in.

9. Cannot run in Outlook Web Access / Outlook for Mobile

Plugins do not run in Outlook Web Access or Outlook for Mobile – and never will. If you need to run in Outlook Web Access, you will need to create an Office Add-in.


David Tongeman has been building business applications based on Outlook and Exchange for over 10 years. Now as CEO of Davton his highly experienced team will build a working integration between your SAAS application and Outlook, Exchange and Office 365. David can advise on the best options and methods, help avoid some of the common problems of working with Outlook, and deliver a working application that customers will love