Office System Developer Conference

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!


Comments (15)

  1. Scott,

    The horizon for Office apps looks good, and the tighter integration with .NET (hopefully) would definitely be a good thing. I have to make a few comments though.

    In regards to having XML-based formats for the office documents, yes, it is a big win in a number of scenarios, but I wouldn’t say most. I think a lot of people still want to use the object model to create their documents, and having to generate the XML from scratch is a big pain. Server side use of Office functionality is essential.

    Also, the I see the current solution of having managed code interoping with Office to be a stop-gap measure. I believe it is time for VSA to be integrated into Office. While I do love the environment that VS.NET offers me, developing a solution in the editor for Office is usually preferable (and having that be shipped with the document, instead of something outside of the document).

    – Nick

  2. Unfortunatelly, Microsoft Access doesn’t support VSTO.

  3. JackG says:

    Scott, great post.

    Customers continually give me feedback on the growth of adopting C# within their enterprise. As companies migrate, or more likely begin new application development utilizing the ability to extend Office applications, they are given an opportunity to reevaluate the language agnostic behavior afforded by the Net runtime. This gives developers an alternative, as opposed to the single option of VB(A) in the past. Many customers have told me that IT is standardizing on C#. As such, they are recommending new development for VSTO applications in C# for their departmental developers so that applications may be migrated into a larger corporate wide application supported by the IT department that has chosen C# for core IT development.

    I have also added some information on the Office developer conference as well as references to VSTO as the subjects pertain to the Smart Client paradigm.”>

    Nicholas, In VSTO 2005 we have added support on top of the Word and Excel OM to enable data and view separation which allows you to store your data independent of the document (in an XML data island), as well giving you data binding, offline, and access to the data through a server object model without the need to instantiate the Host (Excel, Word) application.

    My blog is currently a little high level and contextual regarding Smart Client evolution but you can find links to VSTO in the posts at I think you will also enjoy the VSTO 2005 feature where we host Word and Excel in VS. We allow you to drag and drop managed controls (Winform, user controls, etc.) onto the Word and Excel document surfaces. Think about having the power of a fully functional spreadsheet application like Excel that can be extended with managed controls and C# code behind as opposed to the empty Winform Window frame and the mind reels.

    I would also recommend Eric’s blog for the real meat on our architecture and Office development

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