While I was on vacation, the Office System Developer Conference happened in Redmond.  From the news pieces I've seen, it sounds like the conference went very well.  Here are some of the links I found:

  • CNet: Speaking to a crowd of Office developers, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates showed off Project Elixir--an internal effort that lets Microsoft's sales force use Outlook to access customer data from a Siebel database.
  • CNet: Most corporate workers already spend their days using Microsoft Office. The company's goal now is to get more servers to follow suit.
  • CRN: Microsoft brought out its biggest guns Friday to push its Office Systems conglomeration as a development platform.
  • ENT News: Microsoft chairman Bill Gates used the company's first Office System Developer Conference to pitch Office as the obvious smart client for applications being built by the 800 partner developers in the audience.
  • InfoWorld: Microsoft (Profile, Products, Articles) with the next major version of the Office applications suite will feature built-in workflow capabilities, company Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said on Friday.
  • InfoWorld: Microsoft on Wednesday opened the first-ever Microsoft Office System Developer Conference, positioning the productivity suite as a development platform in and of itself and emphasizing XML as the lingua franca for data access in the suite.
  • MicrosoftWatch: Microsoft's chairman is jazzed about future possibilities for Office System's SharePoint collaboration technology. Here's why.
  • Seattle PI: Bill Gates (eerily color-coordinated with the backdrop) addressed the assembled developers this morning on the final day of the company's first Microsoft Office System Developer Conference.  Among other things, he talked briefly about the next version of Office, saying the company is making a "big move toward built-in workflow capabilities."
  • TechWeb: Bill Gates put on his chief software architect hat Friday to tout and demo a new development platform that Microsoft will release later this year for creating custom applications atop the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker's Office System.

A few of these pieces say "800 attendees", but I've heard it was closer to 1200.  Apparently, there was a lot of walk-up registration -- 800 was the number of pre-registered attendees.

Given VBA's long history with Office, one might expect VB .NET to be the primary language among .NET developers using Office as a platform.  But I've seen a lot of anecdotal evidence that C# usage of Visual Studio Tools for Office (aka VSTO) is high.  I'll try to get some solid data on this and share it here.

I cut my teeth at Microsoft on Office as a platform (VBA 1.0 in Excel 5.0, then VBA 95 in additional apps like Word, Powerpoint, Project and apps from third parties).  It's good to see that this work is continuing and that we have a vibrant community of developers using Office as a platform.  There are several interesting differences with this generation of solutions for Office.  Just off the top of my head:

  • Sharepoint and ASP.NET.  There's a whole new category of Office-based solutions involving Sharepoint and ASP.NET that didn't exist when I previously worked on this area.
  • Security.  With VBA, we didn't have Code Access Security, so we had to rely on trust-based mechanisms.  Having CAS is a major improvement.
  • XML.  Having XML-based formats for the Office documents is a big win for a lot of scenarios, like generating documents on the server-side.
  • Web services.  With the early VBA versions, we didn't have web services.  As a result, a lot of the solutions were 2-tier, like using Excel as a front end for data stored in SQL Server.  With web services, it is much easier to provide more general solutions that version better and integrate data more seamlessly.

If my blog has found it's way to some C#/Office developers, I'd love to hear from you in feedback.  How are you integrating Office into your solutions?  What could we do to make your work easier?

Happy C# coding, whether with Office or without!

--Scott