Linking of Office and server apps simplified

New tools in the upcoming Visual Studio 2005 will make it easier to turn desktop Office applications into front-ends for server-based applications.

Microsoft is working on tools to make it easier and faster for developers to link Office desktop applications such as Outlook, Excel and Word with backend applications and data.

The upcoming Visual Studio 2005 application development environment will have tools to simplify the process of turning Office applications into front-ends that can access server-based business applications from Microsoft and other vendors, a Microsoft executive said Monday.

"You've always been able to access some backend applications from Office. Some of that was through Web services, some through XML, but it was fairly complex to go and build those things," said Martin Taylor, Microsoft's general manager of platform strategies, in an interview at the company's TechEd conference for IT professionals and developers.

"The robustness and ease of use haven't been there in terms of building the applications at the developer level. With Visual Studio 2005 tools for Office, we're now making that easier and simpler to do, and enabling more environments where that can be done," Taylor said.

During Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer's opening keynote on Monday, a Microsoft representative demonstrated an Outlook application that had been customized with the new Visual Studio tools. It could pull data from the Web, from a delivery-tracking system and from a CRM application, and integrate it into a single interface with Outlook data, such as e-mail messages.

Without the links created using the new tools, a user would instead have to toggle among multiple Windows from the different applications, cutting and pasting information from one place to another, said B.J. Holtgrewe, the Microsoft official giving the demo.

"We found a lot of people were spending a lot of time in Outlook and other Office applications and having to hop between screens," Taylor said.

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