Opening a Browser from a Button on the 2007 Office Fluent Ribbon

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Summary: Performing various actions on the 2007 Microsoft Office Fluent user interface (UI), such as opening a browser from a button, requires only a few lines of XML and programming code.

Office Visual How To

Applies to: 2007 Microsoft Office System, Microsoft Office Excel 2007, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, Microsoft Office Word 2007

Frank Rice, Microsoft Corporation

May 2007


The 2007 Microsoft Office Fluent user interface (UI) replaces the current system of layered menus, toolbars, and task panes with a simpler system that is optimized for efficiency and discoverability. The Office Fluent Ribbon, context (right-click) menus, the Quick Access Toolbar, and the Microsoft Office checkbox are all parts of the Office Fluent interface. There are a number of custom and built-in controls, such as buttons, check boxes, and combo boxes, that you can add to the Office Fluent Ribbon. You add components to the Office Fluent Ribbon with XML markup elements, and set properties on those components by using attributes. You assign functionality to the components by using any programming language supported by Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, such as Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and Microsoft Visual C#, as well as Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), Microsoft Visual C++, and Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0.

Code It

You can use a combination of XML and programming code to add your own custom controls to the Office Fluent Ribbon or perform actions on the Office Fluent Ribbon.

Adding Controls with XML

XML provides a hierarchical, declarative model of the Office Fluent Ribbon. Add controls, such as toggle buttons and tabs, to the Office Fluent Ribbon by using XML elements to specify the type of component. For example, you can add a single toggle button by using the toggleButton element. You assign property values to the control by using attributes such as the label attribute. The following code example shows how to do this.

This code example adds a custom tab named Open Browser Demo to the Office Fluent Ribbon by assigning text to the tab element's label attribute as seen in Figure 1. This tab contains the Demo Group group, which contains a button control named button1.

Figure 1. The Open Browser Demo tab

Open browser demo button

The button1 control has properties defined by using attributes such as the imageMso attribute, the onAction attribute, and the label attribute. You can assign these properties explicitly by setting the attribute equal to a string or indirectly by pointing to a programming code procedure. In addition to the id property and the label property, the button also defines the imageMso attribute. This attribute points to an image built into Microsoft Office. You can determine this based on the Mso suffix. Attributes with the Mso suffix always point to built-in functionality. To point to a custom image, you use the image attribute as in image="MyImage".

Next, is the onAction attribute. This attribute points to programming code called callback procedures. Callback procedures are discussed in more detail in the "Assigning Functionality to Office Fluent Ribbon Components" section.

Finally, notice the tag attribute of the button. You can use this attribute to store information that you may want to use later. For example, in this example, I set the attribute equal to a Web address that I use when opening the browser in the programming code. You will see how this works shortly.

Assigning Functionality to Office Fluent Ribbon Components

In the previous XML sample, the onAction attribute points to a callback procedure. When the button is clicked, Microsoft Office calls back to the OnAction method. The code in the OnAction method gives the button its functionality. These procedures are called callbacks because when the button is clicked, the action alerts Microsoft Office that the control needs attention. Microsoft Office then calls back to the method defined by the onAction attribute and performs whatever action is contained in the method. The following paragraphs describe this callback procedure in more detail.

The onAction attribute points to the OnAction callback procedure although the name of the callback procedure does not need to match the name of the attribute. It could just as easily be onAction="DoSomething".

When the OnAction procedure is called by Microsoft Office, an IRibbonControl object representing the button is passed in. The procedure assigns the Tag property of the control to a String variable. It then calls the Start method of the Process class in the System.Diagnostics namespace and passes it the String variable that contains the URL that I assigned in the XML markup. This opens the computer's default browser to the address in the URL.

Read It

There are two ways to deploy a custom Ribbon:

  • Modify an Open XML Format file created by one of the Microsoft Office applications that support the Office Fluent UI.

  • Use an add-in.

You can select the technique depending on the scope you need for the customized Ribbon. For example, modifying an Open XML file results in document-level customization where the customized Office Fluent Ribbon is associated with a particular document rather than the entire application. Alternatively, by using an add-in, you get application-level customization which means that the customized Office Fluent Ribbon applies to the entire application regardless of which document is open.

Creating a customized Office Fluent Ribbon using an Open XML file is not complicated.

To create a customized Ribbon using an Open XML file

  1. Open the document as a ZIP file by changing the file name extension.

  2. Add a folder containing the XML Ribbon customization code.

  3. Modify the document's relationship file to point to the custom folder.

  4. Rename the document's file name extension.

  5. Open the document in the Microsoft Office application.

  6. Add code to the document to give the custom Office Fluent Ribbon functionality.

Using an add-in to customize the Office Fluent Ribbon is equally simple. After creating the add-in project, you implement the IRibbonExtensibility interface, which is included in the Microsoft.Office.Core namespace. This interface contains a method called GetCustomUI. Use this method to return the XML Ribbon customization code to Microsoft Office. Then add programming procedures that give the custom Office Fluent Ribbon its functionality.

Hiding Tabs on the Ribbon

In the following procedure, you combine this information to create a custom tab containing a custom group and button that opens a browser from a button on the Office Fluent Ribbon in Office Excel 2007.

Creating the Add-In Solution

To create the project, there are nine steps.

To create the add-in solution adding custom buttons to the Ribbon

  1. Start Visual Studio 2005.

  2. On the File menu, point to New, and then click Project.

  3. In the New Project dialog box, in the Project Types pane, expand Other Project Types, click Extensibility, and then select Shared Add-in.

  4. In the Name box, type RibbonDemo and then click OK to create the project.

  5. On the first page of the Shared Add-in Wizard, click Next.

  6. On the Select a Programming Language page, select either Visual C# or Visual Basic, and then click Next.

  7. On the Select an Application Host page, clear all of the selections except Microsoft Excel, and then click Next.

  8. On the Enter a Name and Description page, optionally, type a name for the project and a description, and then click Next.

  9. On the Choose Add-in Options page, select I would like my Add-in to load when the host application loads, click Next, and then click Finish.

Visual Studio creates a solution that contains two projects—the add-in itself and a Setup project. The Setup project enables you to install the add-in on other users' computers, and it makes it easier for you, at design time, to install and uninstall the add-in.

Adding References to the Project

To interact with Excel 2007 and the Office Fluent Ribbon object model, add a reference to the Microsoft Office Core type library.

To add a reference to the project

  1. In Solution Explorer, expand the References folder.

    If you do not see the References folder, on the Project menu, click Show All Files.

  2. Delete the Microsoft.Office.Core reference.

  3. Right-click the References folder and then click Add Reference.

  4. Click the COM tab, select Microsoft Office 12.0 Object Library, and then click OK.

  5. At the top of the open code file, add the following statements to the project.

Creating the Ribbon Customization XML File

Create the file that adds the components and sets the property for those components.

To create the Ribbon customization XML file

  1. On the Project menu, click Add New Item.

  2. In the Add New Item dialog box, select XML File. Name the new file Ribbon.xml, and then click Add.

In the new XML file, add the XML markup in the section titled "Adding Controls with XML."

Adding the XML File as an Embedded Resource

For best results, use the XML file as a resource within the project's resource file.

To add the XML file as an embedded resource

  1. In Solution Explorer, select Ribbon.xml.

  2. In the Properties window, select the Build Action property, and then select Embedded Resource in the list of options.

  3. On the Project menu, click RibbonDemo Properties.

  4. Click the Resources tab.

  5. From Solution Explorer, drag Ribbon.xml onto the Resources design surface.

    This action creates a file-based resource. From now on, the Ribbon.xml file is automatically stored as an application resource, and you can retrieve this content by using Visual Basic or Visual C# language features.

  6. Close the Resources window. When prompted, click Yes to save the resources.

Accessing the Host Application and Working with the Ribbon

You need to create an instance of Excel and add the Ribbon interface.

To access the host applications and work with the Ribbon

  1. In Solution Explorer, right-click Connect.cs or Connect.vb, and then click View Code.

  2. Find the existing declaration for the applicationObject variable, and modify it so that it refers to an Excel.Application object. That is, modify the declaration so that it looks like the following code.

  3. Modify the existing first line of the OnConnection method, which creates an instance of the Excel.Application object.

  4. In Visual Basic, modify the line of code, near the top of the class that starts with Implements, adding support for implementing the IRibbonExtensibility namespace. Visual Basic inserts the GetCustomUI procedure automatically.

  5. If coding in C#, at the end of the public class Connect : statement, add a comma and then type the following interface name.

  6. Continuing in C#, right-click the interface you just added, click Implement Interface, and then click Implement Interface Explicitly. This adds a stub for the only IRibbonExtensibility interface member: GetCustomUI.

  7. Modify the GetCustomUI method so that it looks like the following code.

  8. Add the variable declarations and procedures in the section "Assigning Functionality to the Office Fluent Ribbon Components" according to the programming language.

Testing the Project

Now you are ready to run the project.

To test the project

  1. On the File menu, click Save All.

  2. Exit Excel 2007 if it is running.

  3. On the Build menu, click Build Solution.

  4. In Solution Explorer, right-click RibbonDemoSetup, and then click Build.

  5. Right-click RibbonDemoInSetup, and then click Install.

    The RibbonDemo Setup Wizard appears.

  6. Click Next on each of the pages, and then click Close on the last screen.

  7. Start Excel.

    The Open Browser Demo tab appears.

  8. Click the Open Browser Demo tab. You see the Group Demo group containing the button.

  9. Click the Launch Browser button. The browser launches to the Microsoft Web site as shown in Figure 2.

    Figure 2. Clicking the button launches the browser

    Click button to launch browser

  10. Exit Excel.

  11. In Visual Studio, in Solution Explorer, right-click RibbonDemoSetup, and then click Uninstall.

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