Developer .NET UPDATE--Office Collaboration--April 2, 2004

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In This Issue

Developer .NET Perspectives

  • Collaborating at the Office
  • Resource

  • Featured Thread: Benefits of Using the Framework for Web Sites
  • New and Improved

  • Document Your .NET Projects

  • Developer .NET Perspectives

    by Bill Sheldon, [email protected]

  • Collaborating at the Office
  • One of the major pushes now taking place in the software market is providing software that lets users share information. You've probably already seen software that takes advantage of the Internet to let everyone access information on a central server. The next step is to enhance that access. This evolution is taking the form of tools that run on the desktop. Of particular importance is the ability to leverage an interface with which today's knowledge workers are already familiar: interfaces such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.

    I'm not just referring to the ability to create a document, then post it on Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server. If you've had the opportunity to work with SharePoint, you know that the current version is a powerful collaboration tool. SharePoint lets you set up a departmental server and, within that server, create sites that are oriented around specific groups and tasks. The key is that SharePoint doesn't require a developer to set up a basic site; advanced users can set up a basic site. Now when a project manager starts a new project, the users can set up a central repository for project-related data.

    SharePoint is an amazing technology that offers many built-in capabilities. For example, you can load Word and Excel documents into a SQL back end for document management, the creation of custom Web parts, or the setup of task lists or bug reports. I speak from experience--the InterKnowlogy project managers have become experts at leveraging SharePoint's built-in capabilities to coordinate, track, and manage development projects.

    However, as part of the Microsoft Office system, SharePoint is just one enabling technology in Office 2003. For years, you've been able to record and create macros in Word and Excel through Visual Basic for Applications. VBA is code that you can embed in a document. Based on Microsoft's COM model, VBA came with its own development interface. However, VBA suffered from built-in limitations, including security problems. To deal with the limitations, Microsoft enhanced Word and Excel in Office 2003 by leveraging the power of its .NET technology.

    One of the main features of .NET is that, unlike COM, which operates directly against the OS, .NET runs within a managed environment. This means that you can manage its security context at a much more granular level. For example, you can set up shared documents on a SharePoint site and enable these documents so that users don't need to change their desktop security settings.

    Even more impressive is the ability to build dynamic documents that can quickly and easily leverage the power of the Internet. To build such documents, you use Microsoft's Visual Studio Tools for the Microsoft Office System, a new add-on for Visual Studio .NET 2003. Unlike VBA, which creates a custom development environment within the Office environment, Visual Studio Tools for Office uses Visual Studio .NET's IDE. With VBA, you create a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet, then add a macro to it. With Visual Studio Tools for Office, you create a Visual Studio Tools for Office project in Visual Studio .NET's IDE, then the project becomes the basis for a document or spreadsheet. This is a major paradigm shift. Instead of adding automation to a document or spreadsheet, you're designing an application that uses the document's or spreadsheet's object model as its interface. Visual Studio Tools for Office provides a platform from which you can use the same software tools and patterns that you would use for a custom application. However, instead of creating a Web form or WinForm, you now have the ability to create a document or spreadsheet interface.

    Visual Studio Tools for Office is the primary enabling technology from an implementation standpoint. From a data manipulation standpoint, the enabling technology is XML. As you've probably heard, Office 2003 truly exposes XML within the Word and Excel object model. The result is that you can embed an XML schema within a custom document, then programmatically manage the associated data. Don't underestimate this capability. With it, you can use both Excel and Word as a feature-rich interface for displaying and manipulating data in a format very familiar to business users.

    The story about the enhancements in Office 2003 doesn't end here. In my next column, I'll introduce you to Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003. For now, if you need additional information about SharePoint, Visual Studio Tools for Office, Word's object model, or Excel's object model, I recommend the following links, respectively:


    DevConnections conference and expo will be held April 18 - 21. Back by popular demand are concurrently running events Microsoft ASP.NET Connections, Visual Studio Connections, and SQL Server Magazine Connections. Details about workshops, sessions, and speakers are online, including the exclusive Microsoft Day on "Yukon" and "Whidbey". Receive access to all three conferences for one price plus a chance to win a Harley motorcycle. Go online or call 800-438-6720 or 203-268-3204.

    (brought to you by SQL Server Magazine)

  • SqlJunkies Has What Developers Need

  • SqlJunkies is your online community resource for original tutorial and how-to articles for developing applications with SQL Server 2000 and Yukon; peer-to-peer help and networking through discussion forums and newsgroups; technology tips and pointers from expert bloggers; and the latest in SQL Server-related events and news.

  • Share Your Feedback About SQL Server Communities

  • Microsoft's SQL Server team has launched a new survey to help it and its community partners better understand your needs and help to improve your experience with SQL Server. Take time to let Microsoft know how satisfied you are with the availability of SQL Server information and peer support in the SQL Server communities. Click here:


  • Featured Thread: Benefits of Using the Framework for Web Sites
  • Expert forum member dealman wants to know the advantages of using the Windows .NET Framework for Web sites. If you'd like to provide or read about the advantages, go to the following URL:

    Events Central
    (A complete Web and live events directory brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine: )

  • SQL Web Seminar--Writing and Debugging Great Stored Procedures
  • Strong, well-written stored procedures can go a long way toward helping your project be successful. Join speaker Wayne Snyder (SQL Server MVP) on April 7th for a free, 1-hour Web seminar, sponsored by LearnKey. You'll learn a useful debugging technique and the most common reason for wildly changing stored procedure responses. Register today for a chance to win an Apple iPod!

  • SQL Web Seminar--Key Success Factors for SQL Server Backup and Recovery
  • More than ever, data availability is crucial for business service. Sign up today for a free, 1-hour Web seminar on April 29th, sponsored by BMC Software, and learn about the key success factors of SQL Server backup and recovery. Register now and get a free SQL-BackTrack License:

    New and Improved

  • Document Your .NET Projects
  • Helixoft released VBdocman .NET 1.0, a Visual Basic .NET add-on that automatically generates technical documentation from Visual Basic .NET source files. With VBdocman .NET, Visual Basic .NET programmers can generate technical documentation for their Visual Basic .NET and ASP.NET projects with just few mouse clicks. The product parses the source code and automatically creates a table of contents, an index, topics, cross-references, and context-sensitive Help information. The predefined output formats are Help 2 (the latest Microsoft Help technology used in Visual Studio .NET), HTML Help 1.x (i.e., .chm files), Rich Text Format (RTF), HTML, and XML. Users can also create their own output formats. VBdocman .NET works with Visual Basic .NET 2002 and later on all Windows platforms that support Visual Studio .NET. Pricing starts at $179 for a single-user license; volume discounts are available. Contact Helixoft at [email protected]

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