(I'm missing my friend, Chris Kunicki, and his sure-footed instincts about Office development. He's beening pursuing philanthropic interests full-time and will be for as long as I can tell, so he's no longer a direct part of the Office dev community. However, as a nod to him, I tried to write today's entry as if it were Chris at the helm [although he always teased me about being a walking thesaurus, so I'm more wordy than he would be]. Chris, if you are reading: Hi!.)
Here's a product with a big name but a truly colossal and far-reaching impact. Many people have heard the news about VSTO 2005 SE Beta. For the record, there are only three (!) official names for the product:
Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the 2007 Microsoft Office System
the slightly less verbose:
Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office Second Edition Beta
and the more more tolerably worded:
VSTO 2005 SE Beta
Of course, when it's no longer in beta, it'll be pretty reasonable. I have heard people refer to it colloquially as "SE", but this is going too far for most conversations, I think. It requires too much context to know what the SE is really referring to. Thus, I like VSTO 2005 SE. You'll see my subsequent blog entires use this.
When you look on the MSDN Office Developer Center page for VSTO 2005 SE Beta, you will see the list of features. There's some predictably cool stuff that it supports in Office 2007: ribbon, task panes, form regions, etc. But, the last item might not seem as flashy, but it really drops back into the pocket, looks over the offensive line, pump-fakes and goes big (It's American football season, so the sports jargon is inescapable to me right now):
"Support for more versions of Visual Studio 2005. VSTO 2005 SE Beta now runs in Visual Studio 2005 Professional (stand-alone), in addition to those versions already supported, including all of the MSDN subscriptions and Visual Studio Team System"
What this signals, in my view, is a true polar shift. For a long time Office developers have been pointing to a reliable, steady star: VBA in Office. It's a good star. It's been a reliable star. It's guided many passengers across wide waters and has safely landed ships in the harbor. The star hasn't burned out. It's still shining. But, there's a new star that more and more vessel captains have been using to chart their course: VSTO. Many thousands of developers have been looking to VSTO to help them tap into the programmable power of Office and combine it with the strength, agility, and sheer vastness of .NET. But, even more thrilling is the prospect that every developer with Visual Studio 2005 Pro (stand-alone) or another version like VSTS can get in on the game. <underStatement>That's a lot of developers</underStatement>
Now, chances are, if you are reading this blog, you are like me. I've been doing Office development since 1997. I've never seen the Office developer community more vibrant and promising. Here's my first invitation to those of you who are legacy Office programmability developers like me: start converting your VBA programs now. That's a tall order in some cases. I recall Excel pitchbooks with many thousands of lines of VBA and black-belt programming that cannot be taken lightly.
Nevertheless, the time has come. The tools have matured. The stars are in alignment. It's time for us all to chart our course with the new star in view and strike out on new journeys.
Rock Thought for the Day: I have been playing the guitar parts from Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train". The open riff is easy (but the solos are definitely more technical). It's a song that exemplifies why rock and roll is so enduring. You do not need to like Ozzy or know anything about the history of metal or Black Sabbath. It's instantly infectious, and it has all of the teen-adrenaline with ironically mature and purposeful lyrics. Strange side-note: When I was at a youth conference for my church when I was 16, we found a stray cat for the weekend, fed him pizza, and named him Ozzy.