XML to Drive Office Update

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2002-09-30 Print this article Print

The next version of Microsoft's Office productivity suite will allow developers to use Word as a development platform to create XML templates and solutions.

The next version of Microsoft Corp.s Office productivity suite will come with XML support baked into Word, allowing users to, among other things, more effectively mine their data.

Code-named Office 11, the suite will feature built-in support for XML in Word, allowing developers to create "smart" documents that automatically search for code or updates as needed.

In addition, the software—the first beta of which is expected to be announced by company CEO Steve Ballmer at Gartner Symposium in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 9—will allow developers to use Word as a development platform to create XML templates and solutions, as well as re-purpose content with database and Web service interaction, said Jeff Raikes, Microsofts group vice president of productivity and business services, in an interview with eWeek.

For example, developers could deploy solutions built for business process problems for Word or Microsoft Excel that end users could forward to third parties. When the document is opened, Word or Excel would check to see whether the solution was installed on that persons machine. If so, it would load the solution. If not, and if the solution passed security tests, Office could retrieve the files and install them, officials said.

"Office 11 is a big step forward," said Raikes, in Redmond, Wash. "It now supports arbitrary schema, which can be used to validate a document." It also allows standard schema for reporting things such as financial information. That data can then be immediately accessed without it first having to be massaged, he said.

Arbitrary schemas, also known as "open" or "customer" schemas, let users define their own tags in a way that suits their businesses. In Office 11, applications will be able to interact with customer-defined schemas—unlike Office XP, in which Excel 2002 uses Spreadsheet XML.

Joseph Rovine, a software engineer at eRoom Technology Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass., said these innovations will be a boon for Office, as they will enable the suite to read the schemas and figure out from them how to represent the structured data to users.

"This would give you something like a live Web site where up-to-date information is displayed but without the Web browser," Rovine said, adding that its too early to tell if Office will get any attention as an XML development platform.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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