Ultimate Tools for Office 365 Developers

Here is my (mostly) comprehensive list of Office developer tools I use for Microsoft Office and Office 365 applications. It’s focused purely on dev+test+deploy for Microsoft Office, with a couple of extras.

Office Developer Tools

Visual Studio Community 2015 — The best free IDE, which satisfies almost all of my Office development needs. Unfortunately, it comes without project templates for Office development (hence you need to download the next item on our list).

Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio — This free download will enable additional C# and Visual Basic project types in Visual Studio. Included are project templates for Office VSTO COM add-ins and document-based solutions. Also included are templates for Office Web Apps and Office Cloud Business Apps.

Add-in Express — Framework for development of version-neutral Office COM add-ins. I’ve written a review about Add-in Express here.

NetOffice — .NET Assemblies for Office COM add-ins development.

Xamarin Studio — This is a great alternative to the Visual Studio IDE. I use it in cases when I needed to develop with C# on the Mac.

Sublime Text — Sublime Text is a sophisticated text editor for code, markup and prose. Works great on both Mac and Windows.

NuGet — NuGet is the package manager for the Microsoft development platform including .NET, comes included with Visual Studio and Xamarin.

Git — Git is a free and open source distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects.

XCode — What Visual Studio is on Windows, Apple XCode is on the Mac. 

Prototyping and UI

Balsamiq Mockups — An awesome wireframing and prototyping tool that’s extremely easy to use, and produces great results.

Blend for Visual Studio — Blend remains my preferred tool for creating beautiful user interfaces for WPF (XAML) apps.


Microsoft Enterprise Library —A collection of reusable software components (application blocks) designed to assist with common enterprise development features (such as logging, validation, data access, exception handling, and many others).

MVVM Light Toolkit — MVVM Light is a popular open source toolkit for development of applications using the Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) pattern. It works with both Visual Studio and Xamarin.

Excel-DNA — A library for making native (.xll) add-ins for Excel using C#, Visual Basic.NET or F#, providing high-performance user-defined functions (UDFs), custom ribbon interfaces and more.

Entity Framework — Entity Framework is Microsoft’s recommended data access technology for new applications.


MSTest —Included with all free and paid editions of Visual Studio, starting with 2012.

NUnit — An open-source unit testing framework for .NET.

Rubberduck VBA — An absolutely essential add-in for the Visual Basic Editor (VBE) with features like refactoring, unit testing, source control, and more.


Oracle VirtualBox —This free virtualization solution is a staple in my dev & testing lab. It’s great if you need to move virtual machines around between Mac and Windows.

Parallels Desktop 10 for Mac — If Mac is your primary (and only machine), I highly recommend Parallels. It’s more user-friendly than VirtualBox, and highly optimized for speed.

VMware Workstation — Available for Windows and Linux, it also includes the VMware Visual Studio Add-in, which allows the direct debugging of apps inside any virtual machine.


Microsoft Visual Studio Installer Projects — This official Microsoft extension provides support for Visual Studio Installer Projects in Visual Studio 2013.

Advanced Installer — Commercial installer package similar to InstallShield, comes in many different editions and it’s very easy to use.

InstallShield — Commercial installer with the most features. Suitable for expert-level deployments of any size.

WiX Toolset – Free tool for creating awesome MSI-compliant installers. Has a slight learning curve to it, but I still use it from time to time.

ClickOnce— This proprietary Microsoft technology is built directly into Visual Studio, and provides a fast way to build simple installers for Office add-ins and document-based solutions based on VSTO.

Orca.exe — Database table editor for creating and editing Windows Installer packages and merge modules.

Apple PackageMaker — Awesome utility for building installers for the Mac.

For a good comparison of various installer authoring packages, I’ve written this article.

Essential VBA Tools

Rubberduck VBA — An absolutely essential add-in for the Visual Basic Editor (VBE). Adds neat features like refactoring, unit testing, source control, and more. I’ve written a few posts about Rubberduck before.

MZ-Tools — Set of tools that make the lives of VBA programmers much easier.

VBAPrime — Make your VBA coding more like Visual Studio with automatic parentheses, code completion, closing brackets, and more.

Custom UI Editor — Pretty cool ribbon customizer tool. It comes with basic syntax checking and supports custom ribbon images.

Unviewable+ — Great VBA locker tool that helps safeguard your code in Excel and PowerPoint. I’ve written a review here.

Remove VBA Password — Utility that allows you to remove VBA project passwords. Supports all Office desktop applications, as well as AutoCAD, and a few others, too!

Icons for Office Developers

Visual Studio Image Library — Directly from Microsoft, this free icons library is available in a visual style that matches the appearance of VS 2010, 2012 and 2013.

Glyfz — Toolbar icons for Office business applications, including styles for 2003, 2007 and newer. Icons come in different sets and sizes.

Axialis Stock Icons — Quality icons to supplement your Office ribbon development.

FamFamFam Icons — Another commercial library of icons available for use in Office desktop applications.

For a good comparison of these icon libraries, see my review: Best Icons for Office Developers.


The list contains most of the tools I use in my daily Office development. Did you find this list useful? Are there any other tools you would like added to this list? Let me know in the comments!

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