10 highly useful add-ins for Microsoft Office

You can easily extend the productivity suite’s capabilities.

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The tools available in Microsoft Office are highly versatile, but sometimes you want to do something that Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook can’t accommodate. Chances are good, though, that you can find an add-in that will give you that little extra something.

Hundreds of add-ins are available, but surprisingly few stand out. Here are 10 (in alphabetical order) that we think can be really useful for a lot of people. All of them install just like an extension for a web browser, and they’ll all give you a boost whether you’re using desktop Office apps or Office Online. Some require Office 365 subscriptions.


Developer: Baydin
For: Outlook
Works with: Outlook Online, Outlook 2013+ for Windows, Outlook 2016+ for Mac (requires Office 365 mailbox)

office add ins boomerang Howard Wen/IDG

There are many options for sending emails at some future time in Boomerang. (Click any image in this story to enlarge.)

Boomerang adds a lot of features to Outlook. The most useful for everyday work: It lets you schedule an email to be sent at a later time or on another day. You can also tag an email that you’ve sent with a reminder to notify you on a later day and time you choose, so you can follow up on it. It helps you schedule meetings by embedding a table of potential times in an email — recipients can click on the times that work for them. All incoming emails can be paused, or only emails containing certain keywords or from a specified domain or person can be let through.

You can get limited access to Boomerang’s basic features for free. When billed annually, personal plans run $5 per month, and the pro plan $15.


Developer: DocuSign
For: Outlook and Word
Works with: Outlook/Word Online, Outlook 2013+ for Windows, Word 2016+ for Windows, Outlook/Word 2016+ for Mac 

office add ins docusign 2 Howard Wen/IDG

DocuSign uses the eSignature legal standard.

If you’re writing a contract or other document in Word that will require a signature, this add-in lets you implement the digital signature service of DocuSign within that document. You tag the areas of the document where you want the other parties to type in information (e.g., address, date, name) and where they need to digitally sign with the DocuSign service, which meets the eSignature legal standard. You can email the completed document or automatically save it to DocuSign’s servers.

The DocuSign add-in for Outlook lets you digitally sign a document you’ve received attached to an email or to email a document that you need signed by someone else.

After you install this add-in and sign up for a DocuSign account, you can use it for free for 30 days. Afterwards, plans start at $10 per month when you prepay for a year.


Developer: Microsoft
For: Outlook
Works with: Outlook Online, Outlook 2013+ for Windows (requires Exchange Online and a work or school subscription account on Office 365)

Microsoft’s own free add-in FindTime helps you and your co-workers schedule a time when everyone is available for a meeting or other event, and it does this completely through Outlook. FindTime shows you the days and times when all the people can participate, determining this information from their calendars. You select a list of these days and times, and FindTime emails them to your co-workers so they can vote. After the day and time with the most votes is determined, FindTime will send out invites to everyone for the meeting.


Developer: Lucid Software
For: Excel, PowerPoint and Word
Works with: Excel/PowerPoint/Word 2013 SP1+ for Windows, Excel/PowerPoint/Word 2016+ for Mac, Word Online

office add ins lucidchart Howard Wen/IDG

Lucidchart works with Excel, PowerPoint and Word.

The Lucidchart drawing tool is available as separate add-ins for each of the main Microsoft Office apps. It helps you design and draw diagrams for your work, such as business process models, flowcharts or organization charts. When you start to create a new diagram from the Office app that this add-in is installed on, the Lucidchart drawing tool opens in a new browser tab. Its toolbox provides shapes and templates to help you quickly put your diagram together through a drag-and-drop interface. When you’re finished, you can insert your new diagram into your Office document.

You can use Lucidchart for free, but only to create up to three diagrams. To increase this to an unlimited number, you have to pay for a plan, starting at $6 per month or $60 for a year.

Merge Cells

Developer: Tyrant Ventures
For: Excel
Works with: Excel 2013+ for Windows, Excel 2016+ for Mac, Excel Online

With this free add-in, you can merge the values of columns, rows or selected cells. You choose where on your spreadsheet you want the end result to be placed and whether you want the merged values to have a delimiter to separate them inside their newly merged cell, column or row. In the sidebar panel of Merge Cells, you can see a preview of what a merged result you selected will look like before committing to it.

The developer of this add-in has five other add-ins that also perform niche tasks for Excel, such as changing the capitalization of letters in cells, generating random numbers and randomly sorting columns, rows or selected cells.

Mini Calendar and Date Picker

Developer: VERTEX42
For: Excel
Works with: Excel 2013 SP1+ for Windows, Excel 2016+ for Mac, Excel Online

office add ins mini calendar Howard Wen/IDG

Users can select dates on the prebuilt Mini Calendar.

This free add-in lets you insert a small, prebuilt calendar into your spreadsheet, and users can then interact with it. For example, if your spreadsheet requires users to enter a date, this calendar lets them do so by clicking on it. This calendar also lets you input the current time into a designated cell. The calendar’s color theme and sizing can be changed. Its format can be toggled between ISO and U.S. systems, and changed to show the number of weeks in a month alongside it. Overall this can be a useful interactive element you can incorporate into a ledger or timesheet you’re designing in Excel.


Developer: OfficeConsult
For: PowerPoint and Word
Works with: Word/PowerPoint 2013 SP1+ for Winows, Word/PowerPoint 2016 for Mac, Word/PowerPoint Online


Developer: Pickit
For: OneNote, PowerPoint and Word
Works with: Word/PowerPoint 2013+ for Windows, Word/PowerPoint 2016+ for Mac, OneNote/Word/PowerPoint Online

office add ins pickit Howard Wen/IDG

The legal stock images available in Pickit can liven up presentations and documents.

Both of these free add-ins let you search through a library of stock images that you can legally use for free in your PowerPoint presentation or Word document. Pexels and Pickit appear as a sidebar with a search box that you summon along the right side of PowerPoint or Excel. Type in a word or phrase to find images tagged with that description. Pexels also lets you search images based on the main color that is dominant in it, but it is otherwise a bare-bones image search tool.

Pickit offers more search flexibility, such as browsing categories of images and searching separately for illustrations or photos. If you pay for Pickit Pro, you get access to more images and ones that are in higher resolution. Pro is $10 per month, or $5 per month when you prepay for a year. With the Pickit Business edition (variable pricing), businesses can upload their own images so that their users can search through company and Pickit assets at the same time.

XLTools.net Data Cleaning

Developer: WavePoint
For: Excel
Works with: Excel for iPad, Excel 2013+ for Windows, Excel 2016+ for Mac, Excel Online

office add ins cleaning excel Howard Wen/IDG

It's easy to choose the kind of Excel cleanup you want to do with XLTools.net Data Cleaning.

With XLTools.net Data Cleaning, you can do cleanup and necessary editing of spreadsheets that were sloppily designed or where unnecessary values were entered into cells. You select a column or row, or highlight a range of cells. Then, through the sidebar panel of this add-in, you can change the capitalization of letters or change number format to text format (and vice versa), or remove unnecessary spacing and unprintable characters in them.

Like the developer of Merge Cells, WavePoint makes several niche tools that help you tweak your spreadsheets. Other Excel add-ins by this developer can compare how similar two selected columns are and convert 2D pivot tables to a flat list.

XLTools.net Data Cleaning is free.


Developer: Yesware
For: Outlook
Works with: Outlook Online, Outlook 2013 SP1+ for Windows, Outlook 2016+ for Mac

office add ins yesware Howard Wen/IDG

You can track emails with Yesware.

When you send an email, how do you know whether the recipient has read it? Email tracking services such as Yesware can verify that your email has been opened, thus confirming that it didn’t get flagged as spam by your recipient’s email service or that the recipient didn’t ignore it. With this add-in installed, a “Send with Yesware” function is added to the email composition window of Outlook. After you send your email, you can follow in the Yesware sidebar panel in Outlook, which will report when the email was opened and whether a link you put in the email was clicked on by the recipient.

Yesware isn’t cheap. A plan starts at $12 per month, when you prepay for a year. You can try it out for four weeks for free.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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