Microsoft Office Is About the Tools Too

Microsoft's Office 2007 is a developer platform as much as anything else, a company general manager claims.

SAN FRANCISCO—Microsofts Office is a development platform, and dont you forget it.

KD Hallman, a general manager in Microsofts Visual Studio division, delivered a keynote address at the VSLive conference here extolling the benefits of Office 2007 and it components for developers.

Microsoft announced a new SDK (software development kit) for VSTA (Visual Studio Tools for Applications), a key tool in the Office repertoire.

VSTA is the successor to VBA (Visual Basic for Applications). And VBA is an embedded integration tool that has been in the market for 10 years and used by some 20 million developers, Hallman said.

But the technology began to show its age. "The industry has changed, and VSTA is VBAs successor built on the .Net Framework," she said. "It improves on the VBA concept. And its shipping in Office and being released to the ISV [independent software vendor] community."

Indeed, Microsoft is releasing VSTA through Office InfoPath 2007, Hallman said.

/zimages/5/28571.gifMicrosoft releases an SDK for its Visual Studio Tools for Applications tool set. Click here to read more.

Of InfoPath, Hallman said: "I specifically picked the best application in Office to use [VSTA] on first. InfoPath is a development tool in itself."

Microsoft will continue to support VBA for ISVs who use it, but the company is encouraging the use of VSTA.

VSTA is built on the same architecture as VSTO (Visual Studio Tools for Office). This means applications built by departmental workers using VSTA can be transferred to the IT staff and extended through VSTO for broader scale use in the enterprise, Hallman said.

Moreover, VSTO will become a part of the Visual Studio tool set with the upcoming "Orcas" release of the technology. Specifically, VSTO will become part of the Visual Studio Professional Edition.

Hallman said early adopters of VSTA have reported gains of up to 30 percent in efficiency using VSTA over VBA.

In a demonstration, Eric Carter, a development manager for the VSTO team at Microsoft, showed a WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) control he had designed using Microsofts Expression Blend design tool, and using the Office tool set he plopped it right into an Office application.

Hallman noted that her team is currently working on VSTA Version 2, which will feature support for WPF and Windows Communication Foundation.

And Hallman said Microsoft will continue to create Office Business Applications for vertical markets using the Office tool set, while also providing the same platform to its customers so that they can create similar applications that suit their business.

"We eat our own dog food," Hallman said, using a popular Microsoft term for Microsoft employees using the companys own technology to create new products or simply to do their everyday work.

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