Office 2007 – Why is a developer getting excited about it?

It’s often very hard for me to write about our products that are in beta because working for Microsoft I see all kinds of things that the public doesn’t. With all this information it is often hard to remember what is “secret” and what is not. Because of this I always err far into the caution zone and only talk about things that I know absolutely are available to the public or I have seen presented in public already. This often changes though as we are constantly releasing new information to the public. Because of this I’m going to be a bit dodgy in this post and some of what I say will be personal opinion and excitement, and backed by little hard info. For the hard info you will just have to wait a few months to see for yourself.

Why am I talking about Office at all? I told you all that I was a developer at heart right? Well I am – but Office 2007 excites me as a developer for two reasons: as a user and VSTO (Visual Studio Tools for Office).

As a user, let me say wow. And I don’t mean just the new ribbon bar. I’ve played with the ribbon bar a bit and I have to say its not just a different looking tool bar. I really love the ribbon bar and I expect it to move through other applications, both Microsoft and others. Secondly and most importantly, this is the first Office release in memory that I can really really point to things and say “wow”. Sure previous versions of Office have had new features, but Office 2007 does not have just new features, the team has thought about existing features and “refactored” them to use a developer term. Not just the ribbon bar, but dialogs, menus, etc. Things just flow better. I’ve been watching Office 2007 for a while now, but as of last week I am now using the beta as my primary Office installation for Outlook, Access, Excel, and Word. What are the results? I find that I am at least 25% more productive after a short learning curve of just a day or two to learn and discover new paths. That is quite amazing!

VSTO? Wasn’t that available for Office before? Yes it was. Essentially you select new project of say Excel worksheet type from within Visual Studio. Then you get a “form” like object that is an Excel worksheet. Drop controls on it, select cells, set events, write code. Now run - and guess what? “Excel” runs but its your application controlling it…. Don’t believe me? Give it a try with VSTO in Visual Studio.NET 2005, then imagine the possibilities with Office 2007's upcoming features. And VSTO is not limited to Excel, but can be used for customizing and using other Office applications as well.

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