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Visual Studio Tools Emphasized at First Office Devcon

Redmond, Wash. -- Microsoft kicked off its first ever Office System Developer Conference here Wednesday, emphasizing the increasing programmability of the Office suite and its improving integration with other products.

In his opening keynote, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office System, Richard McAniff, showed off several key pieces of the company’s strategic vision for Office to 800 developers gathered here from around the world.

Among McAniff key points: “XML at the core,” application interoperability via Web services, and collaboration through SharePoint services and Live Communications Server 2005.

Under the theme of increasing developer productivity by leveraging Microsoft platforms, McAniff demonstrated the XML-based InfoPath forms tool, as well as Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office (VSTO 2005). Tools like VSTO enable C# and Visual Basic .Net programmers to easily leverage the capabilities in InfoPath and in Office applications, McAniff said. The latest version, VSTO 2005, is currently in beta as part of the first beta of Visual Studio 2005.

According to Microsoft’s “Visual Studio for Office 2005” site, VSTO 2005 adds the ability to “host Word and Excel as full-fledged designers within the Visual Studio development environment, the ability to program directly against data and view objects, and the ability to create and use custom controls within the Task Pane.”

“Probably the largest new feature set is in the way VSTO 2005 uses XML to separate data from the way it's presented (its "view"), making it simpler to build Office-based solutions and to keep those solutions from breaking when documents change,” KD Hallman, general manager for Visual Studio Tools for Office said in a Q&A published on Microsoft’s site. “Specifically, VSTO 2005 enables data to be embedded as an XML data island within an Office document, and is thus able to update the data directly without having to write view code.”

Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates speaks on Friday morning and is expected to reveal more of the company’s strategic vision for Office.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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