Microsoft brings Visual Studio to Office 11

Trying to bolster developer support for its upcoming Office 11 applications suite, Microsoft on Monday announced a new set of tools that will allow programmers to use the company's Visual Studio .Net to build customized solutions around Word and Excel documents.

In concert with the new tools announcement the company also said it would publish three XML-based Scheme Definitions (XSDs) for Office 11 formats by mid-2003. When used together, Microsoft officials said developers will have what they need to create applications that can cross the span of enterprise platforms from high-end servers to handheld devices.

We are focused on creating some great opportunities for developers and these tools should enable developers to build solutions that result in a more intuitive experience for end-users," said Tom Button, vice president of Microsoft's developer platform and evangelism division.

With Visual Studio Tools for Office developers can now create applications written in Visual Basic .Net and Visual C# .Net that will be able to run in the Office 11 versions of Word and Excel. The merger of the tools and programming model built into Office 11 is intended to make it easier to mix and match tools and provide a higher level of security.

"We think these tools should allow developers like us to take advantage of the .Net Framework and to write code that is more efficient and secure," said Kevin Schuler, president of InDepth Technology.

With the new tools developers can fully leverage the editor and debugging environments of Visual Studio .Net 2003 as well as the designers in the product to create user interfaces, work with data and XML, and create server-side code and components.

The built-in security features of the .Net Framework provides developers and network administrators more control to allow only trusted code to run in Word and excel documents, according to company officials. There is a no-touch deployment in the .Net Framework intended to make it easier for developers to deploy and maintain code on both servers and end-user systems.

Using the Word, Excel and Visio Document XML schemas, programmers can free up more time to focus on helping make corporate information available that has to date been unavailable in documents, company officials said.

Office 11, the second beta of which shipped late last month, features an improved object programming model, the ability to use XML schemas, built-in support for XML Web services, and the company's recently announced smart document model.

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Paul Krill

Computerworld

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