Microsoft Bot Framework November Update – Cross Platform Emulator App, Enhanced Direct Line REST API, Updated SDKs, Card Types and new Azure Bot Service (Preview)

We’ve made a number of enhancements in the November Bot Framework Update all of which are designed to help you build better bots faster. The enhancements fall into two categories – those in Bot Framework and those in Azure Bot Service (Preview), a new offering created in partnership with our colleagues in the Azure team.

First, here’s a summary of the enhancements to Bot Framework:

  • Open source Bot Framework Emulator app is available here on Github for Mac, Windows and Linux. The Emulator provides a superior local testing and debugging solution, allowing multiple bot configurations and featuring the Web Chat control. Through the Emulator, you can now see your bot’s conversation, the JSON and logs all within one handy interface.
  • Direct Line 3.0, a REST API which allows you to host your bot in your app or website, has been updated to support the latest Bot Framework schema, inclusive of all card types (new card types include audio, animation and video) and activities (play, edit, delete). Additionally, Direct Line 3.0 now supports both sockets and polling for increased efficiency and responsiveness.
  • Open source Web Chat control available here on github is now built upon Direct Line 3.0 for first-class bot interactions on the web. The control is customizable to suit your customer’s needs and is ready to be improved upon with the help of community contributions. It’s also available on your bot’s dashboard in the Bot Framework Developer Portal.
  • Bot Builder SDK updates (both Node.js and .NET) enable your bot to have more flexible conversations with users by allowing for in-progress dialogs to be interrupted and changed to another dialog based on an action or trigger. Additionally, the .Net SDK now provides improved integrated language understanding dialogs, powered by Cognitive Services.
  • And, in case you missed it – on November 2nd, we announced support for Microsoft Teams, the chat-based workspace for Office 365. Fulfilling on our promise to write once, run anywhere, your bot can join the conversation today on Teams just by tapping “Add” in the dashboard… You can read the Microsoft Teams full blog post here.Second, we are very excited to announce availability of Azure Bot Service (Preview), a new public cloud bot service powered by the Microsoft Bot Framework and Azure’s trusted, global- scale platform. With the Azure Bot Service, you can:
  • Use Bot Framework with the Microsoft Azure server-less platform to run and scale your bots while only paying for what you use.
  • Get started easily with out of the box templates for Node.js and .NET to create a basic bot, language understanding bot, form bot or proactive bot.
  • Write bot code directly in the browser experience within Azure, test using the Web Chat control or use the IDE and code editor of your choice.
  • Configure conversation channels from either Azure or the Bot Framework Developer Portal.
  • Take advantage of integrated continuous deployment so you can use your preferred DevOps tool chain and commit code to popular source control systems such as GitHub, BitBucket, and Visual Studio Team System and automatically publish the code into Azure to continuously improve your bot.

We’d like to thank you for being such an active community. Many of these improvements were informed by your feedback and we really appreciate it!

Happy making.

The Bot Framework Team