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First day of Office Developer Convention

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in .Net, Programming | Posted on 03-02-2005

Today was the first day of the Office Developer Convention 2005 in Redmond, Wa. This is the first time Microsoft has put on a convention for developers revolving around their Office products. When most people think of Office they think of three or four basic apps. Usually this includes Word, Excel, Acccess and Powerpoint. There are however a lot more products that round out the Office tools. Other packages include Front Page, InfoPath, One Note, Live Communication, Visio, Outlook, Publisher, Project, and their server counter parts such as Live Communication Server, Sharepoint Portal Server, Content Management Server, and Exchange Server. With this and many other products that make up the total package there is plenty of things to talk about for a conference so let’s get started.

Office Developer Conference 2005 – Day 1

To start the conference off Richard McAniff, Corporate Vice President Microsoft Office, gave the keynote. The keynote focused around two things: XML and Sharepoint. Office is moving more and more in the direction of handling XML. One of the demos that was shown was taking the Halo 2 RSS feeds which provide stats and other information and displaying the data in Excel with graphs and charts. As Richard pointed out, it is great to get an HTML page as a report for example. However, what if you want to work some other numbers that are not in the report? Moving things to XML and allowing Office tools to absorb this information in a variety of ways can be very powerful. Of course, .Net is very web service friendly and the Office products can absorb and utilize these web services to retrieve information. As I mentioned, the other big item on the keynote talked about Sharepoint. For those not familiar with Sharepoint it is Microsoft’s portal server offering built entirely on .Net and offers a lot of tight integration with the Office tools. Sharepoint was previously known as Office Web Services a long time ago. Mike Ammerlaan, Program Manager for Sharepoint, pointed out during one of the sessions for developing and deploying web parts that Sharepoint is really the pivot point for all of the Office products to be used in collaboration. Another technology that was talked about a lot during the keynote is InfoPath. InfoPath is an XML based form building system that integrates with web services, databases, supports validation, active directory and much more. When you build a form for example in InfoPath you are essentially building an XML file with an XSD. As I mentioned earlier, XML is really being incorporated into the Office tools and InfoPath is probably leading the movement. One of the integration capabilities with InfoPath is the ability to store your InfoPath documents inside of a Sharepoint form library. Using one of the demos that was shown, lets say you have an InfoPath form that would start off a new project. By storing the InfoPath document in Sharepoint, you can have a Word document that will use the InfoPath information and pull other inforamation from other InfoPath forms to bring together the project. Adding workflow from third party vendors, this can be really huge.

Sessions – Day 1

We attended a lot of sessions throughout the first day. Lyle spent a lot of time in the client and solution sessions while Dan and I spent a lot of time in the server track learning more about Sharepoint. We got to see how to build and deploy web parts for Sharepoint. During the keynote the demo showed how quote “easy” it is to build web parts. While it may be easy to build web parts when it comes to writing the code there are a lot of weird gotchas when it comes to deployment. I’m sorry guys, but this just isn’t where it needs to be. There was a rumor that .Net 2.0 is is going to change a lot of the web part rules. Let’s hope so! Other sessions we attended were how to customize and brand Sharepoint. I did get an answer as to how to customize a few things that I needed to in Sharepoint so that was nice.

The Store and Xbox

After the sessions ended for the day Xbox game stations were setup all around the conference with Halo 2. And probably the highllight of the day was a $120.00 voucher for the Microsoft Company Store which employees are only allowed to attend. The voucher allowed us to purchase $120.00 of software and hardware at ridiculous prices. That may not sound like a lot of money, but when you can buy Xbox video games for $15.00, Streets and Maps with GPS for $60 ( which Dan and I picked up), and hardware 50% off the MSRP prices, it goes pretty far. We spent quite a bit of time in the store trying to find the best deals and picked up some software, hardware, wearables and more. I mean when you see things like Visual Studio 2003 Enterprise Architect which sells for $2000 for $255, your jaw drops. The store was definitely a highlight of the day.

Day 2

Day 2 the solutions track starts to heat up and some cool vendors doing document management and workflow with Sharepoint as well as K2 which integrates heavily with Sharepoint and provides workflow. Stay tuned for day two’s recap.

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