Buckle in! This is a full-throttled post! If you’ve been following the press and the excitement around our partner conference (WPC) this week you have heard that we have opened up the treasure-house of information regarding Office 2010. I’m going to give you some information about what is new in terms of developer features. An entertaining and informative look at “the making of the release” can be found here.

I’ve been developing Office solutions for 12 years, so I’ve seen the full panorama of what has shipped over the years and how it plays out in the real world. What I can say with confidence is that this is the most extensible, developer-friendly version of the Office-branded set of products we have ever produced. What matters most is that you can build solutions that deliver real, quantifiable value to your users and your business.

Tools Productivity

If you are building Office Business Applications, then you will be pleased with what is happening here, because in this release you can more quickly and easily create, build, deploy, and maintain solutions that deliver real user and business value. The tools productivity has taken another leap forward. The Office solution tools in Visual Studio 2010 have truly matured. There are document, application, and add-in templates for nearly every client application in Office. We’ve fixed some of the hang-ups that made developing Office solutions in C# notoriously tedious. We’ve given developers much more control over how the final solution is “published” (read: ClickOnce deployed), how dependencies are handled. We’ve also included the ability to deploy more than one customization in the same publishing motion. A special bonus in the deployment department is that Office 2010 will support VS-based customizations out of the box (no need to worry about deploying any tools runtime on target desktops.

We’ve vastly expanded the SharePoint development tools in the mix. Now, Visual Studio reflects the real-world notion that business productivity solutions often span client and server. There are new designers to help developers get started more quickly without hindering them from going into “black-belt” mode if they need to for super-advanced scenarios. Debugging SharePoint solution is virtually as simple as it is for a “hello world” Winform app.

We’ve also been innovating with the Open XML SDK. In fact, a good share of the Chris Capossela keynote demo was written using the Open XML SDK. We included a lot of server-side code in a SharePoint workflow process, and we used LINQ to iterate over the document structure and extract or change content without touching any application object model. This is the very kind of thing we want customers to do in the given scenario, and the Open XML tools make it much easier to do.

Additionally, we’ve brought exciting new advances for creating Access applications. Check out this video to see some of what that is all about. Also, check out the team blog and my own blog for more specific information about Access 2010 in the coming days.

UI Platform Improvements

These gains in terms of tools productivity are exciting, and they are accompanied by important additions to the core Office product extensibility. There are too many for me to enumerate in one message (this one is already getting long), but I’ll give you some highlights. At WPC we began showing off the new Backastage view. This is a UI innovation that makes it easier for users to find and work with the kind of operations that are really outside the document authoring experience. For example, in Backstage view you will find more breathing room and a more informative organization for functions related to printing, saving, collaborating, and configuring the application options, for example. Additionally, you can add your own custom elements to the Backstage view (watch Chris Bryant’s brief intro). For example, you can include a view of task or workflow information that is specific to your business needs. You do all of this using an XML schema and programming model that is very akin to the RibbonX implementation.

We have also added some nice little flourishes to the RibbonX implementation and the Quick Access Toolbar. Now, you can programmatically activate a tab in the Office Fluent UI in response to an event somewhere else in your application code. For example, in Word, if the user performs a certain authoring operation or enters text in a Content Control, you can activate a custom tab on the Ribbon that shows the user further options and commands that relate to the operation they are executing in the document. We’ve also added the ability to customize the context menu that appears when you are in the document surface. For example, when you highlight a sentence in Office 2007, the context menu appears giving users quick access to commands like Bold, Italics, and so forth. Well, in Office 2010, this toolbar is now programmable so that you can add your own custom commands to that toolbar. Finally, the expansion of the Office Fluent UI more thoroughly throughout the Office applications allows developers to provide custom Ribbon experiences in more places.

Application Extensibility

Add to all of this the many enhancements that occur as a normal part of evolving each application and making sure that end-user innovations have, where appropriate, extensibility. For example, at WPC the Stephen Elop keynote showed the new Excel 2010 “Sparklines” and “Slicers” features in Excel. These allow for easier visualization and filtering of data in Excel. Developers can work with these new features programmatically through their corresponding APIs. There is similar progress in other applications like Word, OneNote, PowerPoint, Visio, and Outlook in terms of enriching the API. Outlook 2010 witnesses the further consolidation of its object model making it easier for any developer to target specific Outlook items and their properties in code.

Looking Ahead

Again, in the coming days and weeks, I’ll be bringing more detailed information about tools productivity, UI extensibility, and application refinements that will help developers get work done to fill real business needs.

Things arrive full circle at the SharePoint Conference later this year when we go big with all of the innovations in SharePoint and go deep on solution development for both Office client and SharePoint. I strongly urge you to attend or get in touch with what happens there. Great things are in store.\

Rock Thought of the Day:

I am pleased to be the proud owner of 4 tickets to see The Black Crowes in Seattle this November! I'm also thinking of driving up to Vancouver to see The Silversun Pickups. This is a band that is even better live. See them whenever you get the chance. If you haven't listened to the band Local H, then repent and given them a listen. I also recommend the band Celebration, out of the east coast. I bought Tori Amos' new CD: Abnormally Addicted to Sin. Musically, she's amazing. Creepy though. Look, Robert Smith from the Cure can take me on a melancholy journey any time. He explores the strained and disssonate landscapes of the human experience. But, his optimism somehow still comes through. I keep wanting to Tori to show us that she has "healed", that her music helped her heal. But, I'm not just convinced. Time to heal, Tori! Let's go.

Rock On