REDMOND, Wash., April 10, 2001 — For the more than 2.6 million developers who create business solutions for the Microsoft Office platform, Microsoft Office XP Developer offers a number of improvements and updates. Microsoft Office XP Developer provides all of the essential tools that will enable developers to quickly build and deploy Microsoft Office XP solutions. These tools include Office XP Professional, FrontPage version 2002 and SharePoint Team Services; productivity tools like the Code Librarian and Smart Tag Software Developer's Kit (SDK); and development tools like the Workflow Designers for Exchange 2000 Server and SQL Server 2000, and the Digital Dashboard Project.
These tools enable developers to quickly build collaboration and data-driven applications that improve overall productivity within and across Office and other business applications. Office XP Developer will allow businesses to build business solutions quickly, using more than 600 pre-built components; leverage common programming languages such as Visual Basic for Applications, XML and COM; and deploy applications into the familiar Office environment that end-users interact with every day.
"Ultimately, these capabilities result in productivity improvements that translate into an improved return on investment and a more agile business," says Lisa Gurry, Microsoft Office product manager.
Developer Tools Yield User Productivity
A wide range of technologies found in Office XP Developer enable the development of a broad set of solutions, including enterprise data management, enterprise collaboration and enterprise line-of-business applications. Specific examples include financial and sales reporting, customer relationship management, expense reporting and document routing and approval solutions.
The workflow capabilities in Office XP Developer are used to design internal applications that run on a single server. These stand-alone applications track the state and information pertaining to a class of items such as issues, customers, orders, events and documents.
Workflow tools help the developer easily define and automate a workflow process by modeling the process visually and then writing small amounts of script code that run on either SQL Server 2000 or Exchange 2000 Server.
The workflow designer tools help developers build solutions that automate business processes and enforce business rules. Rishi Rana, a Microsoft program manager, says they can save weeks and months of development time by visually designing workflow processes that use SQL Server and Exchange 2000 Server data, automatically generate the appropriate server-side business rules for the workflow processes and automate an action as part of the workflow process by attaching custom scripts to workflow events.
"The workflow designers are a great start for developers who get complete server solutions that allow them to develop their workflow applications," says Rana. "Right out of the box, they have the servers and can install them on their development machine and start creating applications."
Microsoft made sure the workflow designers could work with either Exchange 2000 Server or SQL Server. "We wanted to provide a tool that would be easy to use no matter what server you were working against," Rana says. "We realize that users want to add workflow to business processes that already exist -- regardless of the server that is running the business process."
The Exchange 2000 workflow designer can be used to build a document routing system with Exchange as the database. The designer generates workflow processes that use Collaboration Data Objects (CDO) for workflow objects -- the native workflow engine for Exchange 2000 Server. Developers can take advantage of tight integration between Office XP and Exchange Server -- such as Office document properties -- and save documents directly to public folders to automatically start a workflow process.
The SQL Server 2000 workflow designer can be used to build an issue tracking application with SQL Server as the database. The designer creates a workflow-driven user interface that automatically synchronizes users with the business process. The workflow toolbar monitors the workflow process, and regulates actions available to users depending on their roles and their state in the process.
Rana says the workflow designers help users create a visual flow. "You can define your business process visually using a graphic representation," he says. "In addition, the designer provides the ability to set workflow permissions. This ensures that you conform to the parameters of your business process."
Developers can point to any object on the design surface and instantly access the script behind that object. Server-side properties can also be easily accessed and manipulated using the designer.
Beyond the developer tools contained in Office XP Developer, the product integrates a number of key productivity enhancements, including:
Smart Tags, which can help users easily access information by automatically linking them to rich, up-to-date corporate and Web information directly from within Office documents.
XML Designer, which lets developers create and manipulate XML data easily, and provides a Source View for working with XML and XSD (XML schema definition) files.
COM Add-In Designer, which developers can use to create stand-alone COM add-ins (DLLs) for use in any or all of the Office applications.
The Code Librarian, which offers a drag-and-drop database for storing and retrieving code modules, functions and code snippets, allows developers to retrieve the tools they need while they are creating their applications. "Code Librarian is a database that contains example code and scripts for all the things you'd want to work on in Office XP," Rana says.
A VBA Code Commenter, which makes it easier to add comments into code using customizable templates, and VBA Error Handler helps developers create more professional applications that are easier to debug and support.
A collection of documentation resources, including the Microsoft Office XP Developer's Guide , to help developers learn the product quickly, as well as prewritten code for standard routines for VBA and the Visual Studio development environment, workflow samples and step-by-step white papers that help developers learn to build workflow solutions.
Developer-only versions of Exchange 2000 Server and SQL Server 2000.
Developers can create or edit XML code by typing directly in the Source View editor window. The designer color-codes the XML source code as it is input and automatically completes tags, offering a pop-up list of available properties as a tag is inserted.
Native XML support in Excel and Access enables Office developers to create data-driven solutions that share data with a virtually unlimited number of sources, and interoperate with external applications that are within the corporation or over the Web.
For example, Medicity, a provider of the only secure, vendor-neutral Internet platform for physicians, created an Office XP solution built on smart tags and XML technology. The solution automatically triggers a smart tag option and generates a letter that is embedded within patient information. This automation allows patients to be notified more quickly and accurately than before. Because physicians and staff can create accurate letters in seconds, they can spend more time focusing on patient care.
Customized Smart Tags Enhance Personal Productivity
Microsoft offers a Smart Tag Software Developer's Kit , which allows users to "incorporate smart tags into their dashboards and create a useful application within minutes," Rana says.
He also notes that Office XP makes it easy for developers to create customized smart tags to enhance personal productivity. Using the Smart Tag SDK, developers can now design company- or industry-specific smart tags that will tightly integrate Office XP with information from the Web, enterprise data sources and other desktop applications to expand the Office XP user experience.
Using Office XP and the Smart Tag SDK, developers can quickly create solutions that lower development and deployment costs, reduce training and improve business agility.
Charles Maxson, director and technical evangelist for Plural, Inc., says his firm is having great success using smart tags. "The ability to dynamically link user input -- for instance, a supplier invoice number with relevant user actions -- such as check invoice status or visit supplier Web site using the full power of COM and development tools like Visual C++ and Visual Basic is an enormously powerful concept," Maxson says.
"Were excited to work with Microsoft to deliver integrated solutions that address these specific customer needs."
Digital Dashboards Drive Productivity
Another time saving attribute of Office XP Developer is the product's support for Digital Dashboard capabilities. A digital dashboard is a customizable portal framework that enables knowledge workers to view and collaborate on personal, team, corporate and external information.
Digital dashboards, which are based on the Outlook 2002 messaging and collaboration client and Office XP, allow workers to take advantage of the analysis tools, collaboration capabilities and support for Internet and messaging standards that are built into the product.
Dashboards allow developers to quickly assemble corporate information in one location. For example, using Office Web Components , a dashboard could be used to bring together the e-mail inbox, calendar, analysis applications and other pertinent information in a single, easy-to-use package.
Digital Dashboards are built on Web Parts, reusable components that can contain any kind of Web-based information. Developers can quickly build Web Parts from HTML and other Web-based controls, and deploy them using the existing digital dashboard infrastructure.
The template for the Office XP Developer Digital Dashboard project includes tools for building Web Parts or complete Digital Dashboards that run against Exchange 2000 Server or the new Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server. The Dashboard Template and Web Part Designer can be used as standalone applications or opened as a project in the Microsoft development environment. In either case, Gurry says, developers can benefit from the features of this environment. It includes Solution Explorer, which hierarchically represents the Dashboard and any resources, Web Parts or sub-dashboards that it contains; Properties Grid, which exposes the properties of the Web Parts and Dashboards; Common HTML Editor, which supports color-coding and statement completion; and Toolbox, which contains HTML design-time controls that a user can drag and drop into Web Parts.
Dashboard Approach Gets "Immedient" Results
Immedient, a Microsoft solution provider, worked with National Oilwell, a top global manufacturer of oil equipment, to create a versatile Office XP solution. Their XML-basedsolution, employs a digital dashboard that helps employees generate proposals quickly using Microsoft Word 2002. It seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Enterprise Servers -- allowing employees to access and assimilate information into their proposals.
"The new Microsoft .NET and Office XP platform with smart tags provides a powerful and versatile platform for developing custom e-CRM solutions that are far easier for customers to learn and use," says Immedient Vice President Mike Brul é .
The firm's vice president of Customer Support, Pat Sullivan, says the approach "substantially reduces the time and cost to produce a complex, highly detailed proposal, while increasing the professionalism and the quality of our presentation."
Beyond the technology required to capture and organize the information necessary to build a proposal, Sullivan says the solution also offers a comprehensive knowledge-management system that makes it easy to train new staff and customers and include them in the proposal process. "This valuable solution enables National Oilwell to become part of our customers strategies, which generates higher revenues and profits for our company, " Sullivan says.
Office XP Developer also includes a library of pre-built Web Parts to jump-start the development of digital dashboard projects. Developers can also design their own Web parts based on workflow applications they design.
"We are using the Office XP Developer product to build digital dashboards that leverage the Workflow Designer for SQL Server 2000 to automate processes," says Jeff Bloom, executive director of Computer Training Academy/Network Resource Center. "By automating processes and enforcing workflow rules, we help our customers save time and improve their productivity."
Microsoft's Rana notes that developers can create an end-to-end solution in which all of their relevant Office XP work is exposed in a digital dashboard, "including Outlook e-mail, calendaring and any Web Parts that may have workflow associated with them," he says. "All this information in one location really drives overall productivity improvements."
"Developers have been building custom solutions based on Microsoft Office for many years, and each version of Office has introduced new tools and technologies that make it easier to develop and deliver custom Office-based solutions," Microsoft's Gurry says. "Microsoft Office XP Developer continues this tradition by offering everything developers need to access a rich platform of pre-built functionality on which to build their solutions."