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In This Issue
1. Developer .NET Perspectives
3. New and Improved
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Developer .NET Perspectives
With the release of Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft introduced Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003. The capabilities of SharePoint Portal Server 2003 extend well beyond that of its predecessors. One product that integrates tightly with SharePoint Portal Server 2003 is Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003.
Microsoft introduced InfoPath as part of its Office 2003 release. However, Microsoft didn't make this product readily available to the general public. InfoPath is available only through volume licensing of Office Professional 2003 Enterprise Edition. The consumer version, Office Professional 2003, didn't include InfoPath. The only other ways to get InfoPath are through a Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscription or to purchase it as a standalone.
Microsoft probably limited InfoPath's availability for two reasons. First, InfoPath is a development tool. Second, and more important, the first generation of InfoPath is riddled with issues. If InfoPath has so many issues, why did Microsoft make it available to enterprise customers? When an enterprise organization needs a capability, it will either use a product that offers that capability or develop that capability from scratch. So, rather than have enterprise customers develop custom in-house solutions, Microsoft provided the first generation of InfoPath and let these customers begin working with it. Although the limitation of having to use InfoPath to open the forms makes InfoPath difficult to use for the average consumer, an enterprise organization has the resources to provide copies of InfoPath to its employees under a volume license.
InfoPath's claim to fame is that it lets teams using SharePoint Portal Server 2003 easily create custom forms. Microsoft designed InfoPath to help address the fact that the creation of custom Web parts for SharePoint Portal Server 2003 is difficult. (This situation will change with the next release of Visual Studio .NET, which is code-named Whidbey.) InfoPath is designed as a high-level XML authoring tool that teams can use to create Web-based forms that reside on SharePoint Portal Server 2003 or that can be emailed. You don't need in-depth technical knowledge to use this tool to implement custom forms for SharePoint Portal Server 2003. However, InfoPath is missing some key features (e.g., printing capability) and has one serious limitation: You must use the InfoPath client to open a Web-based form created with InfoPath.
Microsoft is preparing a service pack for Office 2003. As part of this service pack, InfoPath is getting a serious upgrade. This upgrade looks to improve InfoPath's capabilities. Thus, the time has come to focus on InfoPath's strengths.
When you design a form with InfoPath, InfoPath creates an .xsn file. Behind the scenes, InfoPath also creates an XML-based application interface. The .xsn file contains all the Extensible Style Language Transformations (XSLT) and XML required to support the display of your form. What many people don't realize is that the custom .xsn file extension hides a standard .cab file. In fact, if you change the .xsn extension to .cab, you can use Windows' built-in support for opening .cab files to examine your source XML and XSLT files. Although this practice isn't officially supported, you can access the source elements of your compiled form and work against that code.
InfoPath lets you publish forms directly to a SharePoint Portal Server 2003 site, where your team can access them. Other Office applications can also use the data. InfoPath supports exporting data directly to a database (through an ADO connection) or to an XML file. As I discussed in "Collaborating at the Office" (http://www.winnetmag.com/windows/article/articleid/42294/42294.html), you can use Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for the Microsoft Office System to leverage data in captured a database. However, Office 2003 comes with a great deal of XML support, and as a result, one use of InfoPath is to collect data, save it to an XML file, then display the XML data by leveraging the new XML features in Microsoft Word 2003 or Microsoft Excel 2003. Although this capability might not sound that exciting from a software development standpoint, it gives you the Office developer the ability to capture dynamic document elements. Two business-process and workflow vendors provide good examples of how to leverage this power. SourceCode Technology Holding's K2.net (http://www.k2workflow.com/solutions/collaboration/sharepoint.aspx) and Captaris's Teamplate Workflow Wizard (http://www.teamplate.com/internal/product/sharepointworkflowwizard.asp) have built-in logic that lets you leverage InfoPath as part of a larger enterprise workflow solution. These products build on the capabilities of InfoPath and SharePoint Portal Server 2003 to help you create a robust team collaboration environment.
If you want to learn more about how to use InfoPath and SharePoint Portal Server 2003 to build custom solutions, check out the following resources:
- For a preview of the service pack changes to InfoPath, go to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=d5adc839-73f4-4299-aba0-e88c90b25144&displaylang=en
- For InfoPath tutorials, go to http://msdn.microsoft.com/office/default.aspx?pull=/library/en-us/odc_2003_ta/html/odc_landinfo03_tr.asp
- For InfoPath developer resources, go to http://msdn.microsoft.com/office/understanding/infopath/default.aspx
- For InfoPath product information, go to http://office.microsoft.com/home/office.aspx?assetid=fx01085792&ctt=6&origin=es790020011033
- For information about InfoPath's architecture go to http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/odc_ip2003_ta/html/odc_inarch.asp
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Novice forum member xyz01 has accounting software based on the Windows .NET Framework. The accounting software works when run on Windows 2000 Professional but produces an error when run on Windows XP Professional Edition. (The database server is Microsoft SQL Server 2000.) Whenever he tries performing any transaction, he receives the error message "Error occurred while configuring component 'TransactionLib.MyDTC' with attribute 'System.EnterpriseServices.TransactionAttribute.'" The Distributed Transaction Coordinator (DTC) service is activated. If you can help, go to the following URL:
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New and Improved
ASNA released ASNA Visual RPG for .NET (AVR for .NET), a Windows-based RPG compiler that you can use to create traditional Windows, browser-based, and PDA-based applications that connect to IBM iSeries and AS/400 servers, with support for Microsoft SQL Server 2005 (formerly code-named Yukon) coming soon. AVR for .NET is built on an RPG foundation but supports modern OOP principles. The RPG compiler snaps into Microsoft Visual Studio .NET and generates Microsoft intermediate language (MSIL) assemblies. For pricing information, contact ASNA at 210-408-0212 or 800-289-2762.
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