Microsoft Office has evolved from a suite of personal productivity products into a comprehensive and integrated system. Building on the familiar tools that many people already know, the Microsoft Office System includes programs, servers, services, and solutions designed to work together to address a broad array of business problems. This special edition of CoDe Magazine brings you a look at some of the many solution capabilities around the new Microsoft Office System and introduces you to a few of the programmable interfaces. The components of the Microsoft Office System are listed on

Microsoft has added extensive capabilities around XML and the Microsoft .NET Framework, which could change how you think about and architect solutions. The introduction of Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services (the successor to SharePoint Team Services), as the base for Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003, provides a robust platform for building collaborative solutions. The Microsoft Office System also includes new programs, such as Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003, which helps streamline capturing business information. These core changes lead to many new developer opportunities using the Microsoft Office System. Here are some of the tools and technologies in the Microsoft Office System that help enable developers to implement and deploy custom solutions quickly and easily.

Customer-Defined XML Schemas

Many of the new Microsoft Office System programs introduce support for customer-defined XML schemas, enabling developers to build solutions that capture, retrieve, or manipulate data in any XML structure that fits the needs of the specific business solution at hand. Being able to use any valid W3C schema enables quicker solution design and easier integration. Building document- and form-based solutions with an XML structure can help users by offering context-sensitive and dynamic actions and information. Word 2003 and Excel 2003 support customer-defined schema for tagging information throughout a document or spreadsheet, object model manipulation of XML document data, and validation; InfoPath 2003 simplifies the creation of rich forms for capturing XML data to feed business processes or collaborative solutions; Access 2003 can use customer-defined XML schema for creating tables and importing data; and FrontPage 2003 has a new WYSIWYG XSLT editor for XML data sources. (For Word 2003 and Excel 2003, customer-defined XML schema capabilities are available in the Microsoft Office 2003 Professional Edition and the standalone programs.)

XML File Formats

A lot of valuable company information is locked in binary document files. Now, native standards-based XML file formats for Word 2003 and Excel 2003 allow saving documents as XML, including any tags from customer-defined XML schema, making it easier for developers to build solutions that can extract information for reuse directly from documents, use document data to initiate online business processes, or automatically generate documents for analysis or reporting by generating the XML format on a server. Using XML file formats, developers benefit from easier reuse, indexing, and searching of document data, and gain greater control over business solutions.

Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003

InfoPath 2003 is a new client application with which developers can create dynamic, interactive forms with built-in business rules. Forms can leverage existing data schemas, Web services, and XML data to yield solutions without complex data mapping. Point-and-click interfaces allow easy integration with the Microsoft Office System as well as backend systems and applications. InfoPath 2003 features support data validation out of the box, as well as advanced customization through script and a programmable object model and support both online and offline information capture. Solutions can be deployed from a server and upgraded automatically as forms are updated.

Smart Documents

As a new, programmable solution platform for Word 2003 and Excel 2003, smart documents combine the richness of Office applications with the management advantages of Web solutions. Created using Microsoft .NET managed code with a primary interop assembly or through a COM interface, smart documents provide an XML-based solution framework that allows document information or document regions to be associated with context-specific information and actions. Smart documents help create more secure solutions through a server-based "no touch" deployment and maintenance model.

Research Library Services

The Microsoft Office Research task pane provides an elegant yet powerful tool for exposing corporate data through Web services, enabling users to conduct a search and use the results without switching applications, no matter where the data originates. Thanks to the flexibility of XML and the loosely coupled reach of Web services, any information can be exposed easily through Web services into Microsoft Office applications using the Research task pane.

Windows SharePoint Services

Although not a direct component of the Microsoft Office System, Windows SharePoint Services is a foundation upon which Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and many collaborative solution capabilities are built. Compared to its predecessor, SharePoint Team Services, Windows SharePoint Services has been made more flexible, extensible, scalable, and secure, becoming a more robust collaboration platform. Developers can configure the Web-based user interfaces through customizable ASP.NET Web parts, access nearly all of the data through XML Web services, and build business solutions by manipulating the managed object model. Note: Windows SharePoint Services is a component of Microsoft Windows Server™ 2003.

Web Parts

Web Parts are a core user interface component for Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server 2003. Web Parts are ASP.NET server controls which are then hosted on Microsoft Windows® SharePoint Services and/or SharePoint Portal Server 2003 so users can add them to pages at runtime. Developers can easily integrate Web Parts with Web services, Microsoft Office, Microsoft BizTalk Server, and XML data sources to provide powerful, flexible, and cost-effective solutions for work sharing, enterprise applications, and portal sites. Multiple Web Parts on a page can communicate to each other through part-to-part connections for advanced functionality.

Visual Studio Tools for the Microsoft Office System

Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for the Microsoft Office System is an exciting new addition to the world of Office development, combining the productivity and power of Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework with the extensibility and programmability of the 2003 release of Microsoft Office. With this technology, developers using Visual Studio .NET 2003 can use Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and Microsoft Visual C# .NET to write code behind Word- and Excel-based applications. This enables applications built on Office to take advantage of familiar user interfaces, support a robust security model, deploy across a network, and have rich support for XML and Web services.

Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003

FrontPage 2003 has received a major makeover with the addition of some very powerful Web page design, coding, and data tools. New design tools, such as Dynamic Web Templates and table layout tools give you more control than ever. Split code/design views, multi-monitor support, scripting support, and professional coding tools such as Microsoft IntelliSense, help you to write code faster and more efficiently. And FrontPage 2003 is even more powerful when used with SharePoint Products and Technologies. Besides being an excellent tool for customizing SharePoint sites, FrontPage 2003, the first commercially available fully WYSIWYG Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation [XSLT] editor, enables you to build XML data-driven sites, with connected live views on data from a range of data sources, including OLE DB data sources, Web services, XML, and data from SharePoint Lists and Document Libraries. Anything that can tackle that difficult task is worth a look! The XSLT editing and XML data-driven capabilities require Windows SharePoint Services.

Microsoft Office Visio® 2003

Although there wasn't room in this issue for another article, if there were, it probably would've gone to Visio. Two new features extend Visio functionality beyond the program's traditional boundaries. The Visio Drawing Control can be embedded in line-of-business applications built on Windows, the .Net Framework, or the browser, enabling you to incorporate as little or as much of Visio functionality as you need. Additionally, Visio now has built-in support for add-in solutions written in managed code (via Primary Interop Assemblies), which makes it easier to integrate XML and Web services to generate and modify diagrams based on dynamic information (for example, a flowchart that tracks the status of customer orders through a fulfillment process). Visio 2003 also includes improved support for extracting information contained in diagrams through both its XML file format and its reporting feature.

Of course there are more technologies, such as smart tags and shared workspaces, and more cool products, such as Microsoft Office Project Server 2003 and Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003, but there isn't space here to mention everything new. And, the Microsoft Office System will continue to grow as we work to build more products and technologies that help customers realize their potential through better ways of using information.

I encourage you to read through the articles in this magazine while thinking about the many ways that your company or clients could turn information into impact. Look into capturing information in an XML format to reduce entry errors. Consider XML documents as a way to better reuse information. Think of how teams could be more efficient using SharePoint Products and Technologies to collectively work on a project, whether in one location or scattered across the globe. The opportunities seem endless. With its integrated set of servers, services, and programs, the Microsoft Office System provides developers with a comprehensive set of tools to create sophisticated solutions that are robust enough to meet the requirements of the most complex, demanding business environments.