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VSTO 2005 Addresses VSTO 2003 Shortcomings, and More!

You ain't seen nothing yet!


I just recently had the privilege of presenting a brief seminar on Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the Microsoft Office System (VSTO 2005) and wanted to take a moment to address your recent editorial. Although your complaints are somewhat justified when applied to VSTO 2003, the developer team up in Redmond has done a bang-up job of enhancing the tools for Visual Studio 2005. Of course, developers who use VSTO will still be leveraging .NET managed extensions that communicate with the Office 2003 primary interop assemblies (PIAs), i.e., COM-interop, but you’ll be glad to know that there have been some significant improvements and additions to VSTO in its upcoming iteration.
  • The application surfaces are now integrated with Microsoft Visual Studio 2005. When you are producing a VSTO solution, you no longer need to have Visual Studio and either Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel open – now the spreadsheet or document will be directly hosted within the Visual Studio environment during design time.
  • Outlook support will be added in VSTO 2005. This was just recently announced at TechEd 2005, so I recommend visiting the VSTO Developer Center (http://msdn.microsoft.com/office/understanding/vsto/default.aspx) for more details.  Since the announcement at TechEd, the site has become quite Outlook-centric.
  • Documentation is quite thorough for this new version, even though it’s still in Beta. In addition to the VSTO Developer Center (see above), check out the Visual Studio 2005 documentation on VSTO (http://msdn2.microsoft.com/library/d2tx7z6d(en-us,vs.80).aspx). I particularly recommend the section entitled Common Tasks in Office Development (http://msdn2.microsoft.com/library/htx7t4k0(en-us,vs.80).aspx).
  • New controls have been added to support common Word and Excel objects, such as bookmarks and named ranges, respectively. Additionally, you can now utilize all of the WinForms controls
  • with ease on the surface of your applications.
  • Action-pane implementation has been significantly simplified, with VSTO 2005 doing the heavy lifting with regard to the ISmartDocument interface and XML expansion pack issues. Action panes now also support WinForms controls, whereas they used to support only ActiveX controls.
  • My personal favorite feature is the new “data island” concept. VSTO 2005 enables programmatic access to the data in a document without requiring a running version of the associated application, e.g., Word.
All told, I think you will find the newest version of VSTO 2005 to resolve many of the frustrations you found with VSTO 2003. Of course, if you are like some other stalwarts, you won’t be happy until we make it to the third generation of the tools – after all, isn’t that always the best version at Microsoft?

Jacob Cynamon

More Stories By Jacob Cynamon

Jacob Cynamon joined Microsoft in 2003 as a Developer Community Champion and has already hosted over 74 in-person events and 25 webcasts for the Midwest community. Jacob is a self-proclaimed C# developer, but dabbles in other languages, from VB .NET and C++ to the more esoteric tongues, including Scheme and Pascal. You can see Jacob at MSDN Events throughout the Midwest - www.msdnevents.com.

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