You never know what surprises each day will bring to you. Two days ago I didn't know today was the day when we were finally sharing with the world our new learning tool for Office developers: The Microsoft Office Interactive Developer Map.
It all started with a nice drawing in a blackboard. Next it became a poster. Then we thought it was a great idea to build an online version of the poster and find the best available online resource for every single namespace, object, Web service, and feature related to a Office product or technology. Today, after lots of months of work we have a cool Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) application built using Microsoft Expression. We host the map in MSDN Labs and it is available as a free download.
What can you do with this tool?
The Microsoft Office Interactive Developer Map helps developers visualize the different programs, servers, services, and tools that will help you build solutions. It allows you to drill down to each product and technology and learn about new features, objects, Web services, namespaces, and schemas required to extend Microsoft Office and build custom Office Business Applications (OBAs). This map provides links to MSDN portal pages, technical articles, and key pointers to SDK and reference documentation topics.
When you download the map you can see an overview of the Office developer roadmap. You can click a product or technology to drill down and find resources related to the product you selected:
Each time you drill down to a product or technology you will find links to:
- Key namespace documentation on MSDN.
- Resources: Product portals on MSDN and Office Online + key pointers to MSDN Library node, technical articles, and Visual How-Tos.
- Features: Most relevant developer features linked to online resources.
- Reference documentation: Links to MSDN developer reference documentation, SDKs, key objects, or Web services.
- Community resources: Product community portal, product MVPs, and product bloggers.
- Latest News: RSS feed with latest news about a product. We provide feeds to product bloggers or MSDN Forums related to the product or technology.
Some regions of the map don't have a resource page. For example, all the platform boxes at the bottom and some technologies under the Tools region. However, if you click a platform box, the maps opens a new browser window that displays the best available MS site. For example, if you click IIS, we take you to http://www.iis.net.
The coolest feature
The map is a living document that provides links to MSDN Library reference documentation, MSDN portal pages, and RSS feeds that describe how developers can use the 2007 Microsoft Office system and associated tools and technologies to develop solutions that meet their needs.
It stores all links in an XML file that we will update when we publish new content or find better online resources. Once you install it, the map pulls the latest version of the resource file. You can find the map at Start Menu > 2007 Office System Developer Resources > Microsoft Office Interactive Developer Map. Then, each time you launch the application, it looks for updates pulls them from the server when available. No need to reinstall because you are using ClickOnce technology. This application is like a news reader that you can open every now and then to find out what's happening out there.
Why build this tool?
We think this is a great way to help developers understand the Office development roadmap and learn how Office products and technologies relate to each other. This is a new type of learning tool that can help you find the best available content and save you time doing research.
The goals of the Microsoft Office Interactive Developer Map are to help developers to:
- Understand Office as a development platform
- Drill down to different Office products and technologies
- Find key content items and portal pages on MSDN
- Find content in the MSDN Library (Office Solutions Development node)
- Learn more from product specific developer communities and find product specific MVPs
- Get an interactive experience using rich media (WPF)
Who built this tool?
So many people that if I start listing them I would never finish and will probably forget to name someone. Rob Barker and I helped drive this for months, but truth is it was real teamwork done by the Office Developer Documentation Group, the Office Business Application team, the MSDN Labs team, the Office + SharePoint + VSTO product teams, the Office Developer Platform Evangelism team, and Lux Worldwide. This baby has lots of moms and dads.
You can find download links, instructions, contact information, and everything there is to know about the map here: http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/office/bb497969.aspx
We all hope you have fun playing with the map, that you learn a lot more about Office development, and that soon it becomes a new item in your list of favorite online toys.
We'd love to hear what you think.