In Office 2003, Microsoft Office applications now include a Research task pane that allows users to search for information through the Web or a corporate data source from directly within the application. Now users can access corporate data and work with their research information right alongside their reports, charts and other documents.


Search results can be pulled into the document without switching applications, and through the use of smart tags, the data source can provide a variety of actions beyond the typical copy/paste of HTML that a web search would do.


Here are some neat examples:


Amazon Research Services for Microsoft Office System allows you to search for Amazon products from within Microsoft Word or Excel documents, and to insert product information and footnotes into documents and spreadsheets.


Chris Kunicki from OfficeZealot published the article Build Your Own Research Library with Office 2003 and the Google Web Service API on the Office section of MSDN.  This is a fun example to walk through to see how an Office Research Service works, and allow one-click access to Google searches from within your Office applications.


There are some cool examples in specific industries as well.  Here are a couple of examples in Healthcare:

This Research Service created by Gold Standard Multimedia allows you to search their Clinical Pharmacology Drug database to pull up all kinds of drug information, including images and drug interactions, and insert them into Office documents.


Ovid has an Office Research Service that allows you to search across over 900 medical specialty journals, for Medical topics.


The Office Marketplace has more listings of these types of services.


Finally, there are some great articles on how to get started building Research Services for Office.  It is essentially defined in a WSDL with a few operations and data types.


Research and Reference in Microsoft Office 2003 on TechNet


Microsoft Office Developer Center - Research Services