Office Information Bridge Framework (IBF) is a new solution that provides a standardised way for developers to integrate a company data-centric application into Office. IBF includes a means of specifying business entities and relationships between those entities, providing methods to retrieve the data, and creating a task pane for Office that provides a user interface for the functionality. For example, if you have a company HR system, you could use IBF to allow users to retrieve information from that system into a spreadsheet or Word document. IBF is a free download for anyone with an Office 2003 Professional Edition licence, from the following location:

The architecture of an Information Bridge Framework solution:

  • The database: perhaps with a traditional web service façade
  • The metadata: glue code to abstract the data services
  • The solution components: UI for the application

In IBF, you specify classes representing the business entities (customer, customers collection, order, orders collection), with appropriate attributes to control XML serialisation (e.g. [XmlRoot("Customer"), Namespace="urn-Northwind")]. You then provide GetX methods that retrieve a specific entity based on some known criteria (e.g. GetOrdersByOrderID). From Visual Studio, you can add entities to an Information Bridge Framework solution and map them to the underlying method calls for populating the information. Lastly, you can create a user interface that exposes the information and enables users to search for data based on some criteria.

For more information, check out the technical white paper on MSDN.