Uninstalling Office 2007 Add-Ins

by dboynton 3/30/2008 1:35:00 PM

If you read this blog regularly, I usually try to tackle relatively big topics and wax philosophical on any number of topics, thus the tag line "A Shotgun Approach to architecture." But this post will be different in that I'm actually providing some useful, hands-on information. Imagine that, from an architect even.

RegEditAddinsI've been talking to audiences a lot lately about building customer applications, or add-ins, for Microsoft Office using Visual Studio 2008. In this vastly expanding world of software plus services, Office stands as an excellent example of extending the base functionality of an existing piece of software to meet individual user needs in an environment that is instantly recognizable and comfortable for them.

Installing add-ins for Outlook 2007 using Visual Studio 2008 is a piece of cake -- simply code, build and deploy. In fact, your add-ins are installed into Outlook as part of the debugging process as well.

While this is cool and simple to use, it can have some undesired results, like having half finished or abandoned projects sitting in Outlook throwing errors every time you read or compose email. I actually ran into this problem this last week after doing some demos at the Windows Server/Visual Studio/SQL Server 2008 product launch in Kansas City.

I quickly discovered that there is no automatic way to uninstall these add-ins once they're installed, at least none that I was able to find. Ultimately, I discovered how to remove them and it requires a simple trip into the Windows registry ( oh joy!).

First, you'll need to open the registry editor and drill down to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\Outlook\Addins. When you open this key, you'll see a list of sub-keys, each of which represent an add-in for Outlook.

Simply find the key for the add-in you wish to uninstall and delete it. You will, of course, need to restart Outlook for the change to take place.

And the good news is that the process is identical for Word and Excel as well.

Hopefully add-in management will be better integrated into Office in future version. For now, this simple process should get you where you need to go.

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Resources for Learning to Build Office Applications with Visual Studio 2008

by dboynton 3/25/2008 8:13:00 PM

I had the privilege of presenting Building Instantly Recognizable Applications with the Microsoft Office System at the Windows/Visual Studio/SQL Server 2008 launch in Kansas City, KS today. I had a great time and am grateful to the outstanding audience for your attention and excellent questions.

As I am a man of my word, here are the resource links from my slide deck for those of you wanting to learn more about how to start developing applications for Office:

Also, I had several requests after my talk for my slide deck, so I've made it available for download it here.

If you were at the talk today and have comments or questions, please feel free to email me to post a comment below. Enjoy the materials and thanks again for attending the launch event today!

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Health InfoSTAT Case Study on Software Plus Services Now Available

by dboynton 3/21/2008 11:03:00 AM

logoSolace A few months ago, I wrote a post about a St. Louis start-up called Health InfoSTAT because they adopted a software plus services approach to developing their inaugural product offering, Solace. Basically, Solace is a personal health record management application that allows you to create and maintain profiles for you and members of your family. Downloading and using the client software is free and, for a fee of about $20 a year, you can publish your information securely to Health InfoSTAT's hosted services and make the information available to medical professionals whenever it is needed.

I thought their story was different because their business model evolved around their architectural model of software plus services. That is, they are creating several free client applications available for multiple platforms and devices, most of which are fully functional and stand-alone. Then, for an annual fee, customers can then subscribe to Health InfoSTAT's hosted services and significantly extend the functionality of the client software.

Anyway, Microsoft decided to do a case study on Health InfoSTAT and published it earlier this week. If you've been intrigued by the concept of software plus services but have struggled with the business value proposition, I highly suggest you give it a read.

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"What the hell is a web standard?": Joel Spolsky Nailed It...Again

by dboynton 3/17/2008 3:59:00 PM

JoelSpolsky Like many of you, I've been a big fan of Joel on Software for years. Very few of the blogs I follow get me thinking and laughing out loud like Joel's does. If you've never heard of Joel and his blog, definitely check it out -- you won't be disappointed.

There's been a lot of rumbling lately about web standards, prompted in large part by Microsoft's announcement at MIX '08 a couple of weeks ago that Internet Explorer 8 will support "web standards" by default. This, of course, sounds like something important enough to complete with the invention of sliced bread and the electric razor. Everybody loves standards, right?

However, there a billions and billions (channeling Carl Sagan here) of web pages online, the vast majority of which couldn't spell "standards" no less adhere to them. Let's face it, much of the content online was developed in a time when there weren't a whole lot of standards to work with, and the ones that were defined we half-baked at best.

Joel posted a fantastic piece this morning called Martian Headsets about the upcoming flame war that is going to erupt between the web pragmatists and idealists over web standards adoption and enforcement. It's a look at what exactly web standards are, where they've been, where they're going and what's likely to happen with browser software as a result, all told in Joel's special way.

Enjoy everyone: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/03/17.html

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The Next Step in Interoperability: Open XML

by dboynton 3/17/2008 11:59:00 AM

Interoperability is not just good for technology, it's good for business too. The period in history where software companies built platform-centric silos around their products with wanton disregard to how they would work with other products and platforms is about done. If you're software can't, in some capacity, "play nice" with other applications and platforms, you likely are going to lose a lot of business to other companies' products that will.

Microsoft has been moving its products in this direction for some time, as have the other major vendors like IBM, Novel, Sun and Apple. In fact, Microsoft made an announcement on February 21st concerning our new interoperability principles in our products going forward.

Open XML looks to be a major component in this strategy. If you haven't heard of Open XML before, it's an XML-based format specification for electronic documents like presentations, spreadsheets, charts and word processing documents. Much the way that SOAP creates a common messaging protocol to allow different systems share information, Open XML provides the ability to share business documents between office productivity software. It also provides for custom XML markup in the body of a document, allowing for interoperability with custom or legacy line of business applications.

Creating a standards-based specification for how common business documents are created and shared just makes sense. In the same way that standards have made SOA a viable architectural model for building distributed systems, Open XML has the promise to give customers a wider choice of business productivity software and the confidence that they will be able to share their documents with partners and customers.

Microsoft led the charge with Open XML, submitting the specification to Ecma International for consideration in 2005. Ecma ratified Open XML (Ecma 376) in December 2006, and now Open XML is before the global community for ratification as an international ISO/IEC standard.

The whole history of Microsoft's involvement with the push to make Open XML a standard is outlined in an open letter published yesterday by Microsoft Senior VP, Chris Capossela. For more detailed information on Open XML and what architects and developers should know about it, have a look at the following links:

  • Wikipedia: Good overview on Open XML, as well as licensing and intellectual property information.
  • Ecma Standard 376: The official Ecma-approved standard definition site.
  • OpenXMLDeveloper.com: Great reference resource for developers looking to leverage Open XML in their software.
  • OpenXMLCommunity.org: A hub for all things Open XML, including blog links to experts, resources and technical articles.

While Open XML is not an approved international standard yet, it is getting close to getting the approval it needs. Customers across the globe are beginning to get used to the idea that they can share information seamlessly between applications and systems. Anything we as developers and architects can do to promote and implement that level of interoperability into our products will not only result in happier customers, but will server our industry better as well.

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Software Plus Services and the "Thinner" Client

by dboynton 3/15/2008 2:14:00 PM

About ten years ago, a really interesting exodus took place in the software development world. Architects and developers everywhere ran away, screaming in some cases, from building applications for the desktop to building pure web-bases solutions. Why? One simple reason: Web applications are way easier to deploy and maintain.

This stampede to the data center created some new problems, however:

  • The browser, in many ways, is not the avenue to create rich user experiences
  • Offline capabilities in "occasionally connected" applications went away completely
  • Data and functionality is the desktop silo was simply relocated to a web silo

And thus it has been for the past decade.

The Return of the Client
Financial Analyst Meeting Ray Ozzie talked a lot about software plus services in his keynote address at Microsoft MIX a couple of weeks ago. Ray's vision is a world where key application functionality is written and deployed as hosted services in the cloud that can be consumed by many different application end points running on a multitude of different platforms. This model of "many pieces loosely coupled" allows you access critical data and functionality whenever you need it, wherever you happen to be.

I've always been a big fan of the client application, and have spent the better part of my career writing these types of applications. This concept of software on the computer or device significantly leveraging hosted services has been a major component of my work lately. However, in talking to people about it, I get a fairly consistent comment back when discussing this:

I don't want to go back to building fat clients again. What a pain.

This got me thinking: Is this whole S+S thing moving us backward? Are we going to end up with the same deployment and maintenance problems we had before the web came along?

 

The "Thinner" Client
In a world of software and services, we need to think about the role of the client-side software differently than we did before. Without a doubt, local software will need to be smarter than your pure web applications ("thin" clients). Likewise, many of the features that we would normally need to build into a completely local piece of software ("fat" client) are going to be managed by services in the cloud.

As this kind of application isn't "fat" or "thin," I propose the concept of the thinner client -- fatter than a thin client, but thinner than a fat client.

The thinner client is a fully functional piece of software that can:

  • Provide a compelling user experience because it can leverage the normally untapped processing powers of the client machine and fully take advantage of the strengths of the local OS software
  • It can manage and organize data online or offline
  • It provides users a piece of mind from a security perspective, sharing non-sensitive data online while locking-down sensitive data on the local machine
  • Manage and automatically install software updates via services
  • The innate extensibility of services facilitates multiple client "heads" for any particular application -- desktops, mobile devices, cell phones, game consoles, you name it

Thus, the thinner client manages only the work it needs to on the client machine, leaning on the hosted services for the rest of the required functionality.

 

 

Real World Thinner Clients at Work
TwhirlThe simplest example I can think of to illustrate this architecture is the subject of my last post: Twitter. At its core, Twitter is a hosted service that provides a communication hub, allowing people to post updates on what they're doing any time they like and people who are interested to receive those updates in near real time.

To start using Twitter, you create an account for yourself on the web site. From that point on, there is a multitude of different applications you can use to access the hosted service. As I write this, I have twhirl running on my machine pulling updates down for me. From my cell phone, I can either access a mobile friendly version of the Twitter web site or use TinyTwitter, a client application written for Windows Mobile on top of the .NET compact framework. And these are only a few examples. If you really want to get a feel for how many channels there are to distribute content from Twitter, just have a look at the Twitter Fan Wiki.

The core functionality of Twitter is exposed in its hosted services. This single architectural decision enables large scale extensibility of content delivery channels. These thinner clients offload the work of managing the stream of communications to hosted services and focus on delivering content in a way appropriate to a specific platform.

 

 

The Thinner Client In Practice
While Twitter certainly won't every be accused of being a business system, it certainly provides a solid example of how this architecture can grow and extend to meet many different user needs. Imagine this type of architecture flexibility in the line-of-business applications you're working on today.

Imagine you're working for a manufacturing company. A sales person is at your biggest customer's office and they make the decision to place a large order with you and have a very aggressive timeline for delivery. The sales person has a mobile device on which he/she can enter the order information. The data is entered, but their wireless Internet connection is not available right then and there, so the mobile application persists the data locally. As the sales person leaves the customer site, the Internet connection becomes available and the application automatically pushes the data to a service hosted in your company's data center. This service sends the data into the sales system and then forwards it on to the ERP system which queues up the order for production line processing. Production floor personnel, viewing the order via a PC based application consuming the same set of services, can then see the priority of the order and act accordingly.

At the same time, sales managers at your company are getting notifications on their cell phones alerting them to this major deal. At this point, they can send feedback via the system back to the sales person on site, generate reports to get the information to upper management or notify key personnel in the manufacturing part of the company to raise visibility of the ongoing activity.

And there's a good chance that all of this has happened while the sales person is still in their car on their way back to the office.

Hosted services in this case provide a continuity of experience for users at all client endpoints. Client applications are consuming a consistent set of functions and data based on need, priority and the role of the end user. Centralization of service-level functionality provides one version of the truth, instilling confidence that everyone involved in the process if fulfilling the order is working with the correct information in to correct portion of the workflow.

With the ability to leverage computing cycles on the fringe, run effectively in an occasionally connected world and automatically update themselves when new updates and patches become available, thinner clients represent an extremely viable alternative to pure web applications. They leverage what is best about client-side applications with the agility of the of the web to provide an engaging and valuable experience to users.

"Thinner" is the new "fat."

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Twitter and The New Social

by dboynton 3/7/2008 6:56:00 PM

When I first met Josh Holmes, we had a really interesting conversation about the role technology has played in human society since its dawning about 10,000 years ago. For the longest time, people were born into a community and, because of tradition and the limited ability to travel far beyond their immediate geography, they tended to remain in that community for the rest of their lives.

As technological advances like transoceanic shipping, railroads, the automobile and airplanes came of age, people felt began to move away from their home towns,  and of course, this had the effect of distancing people from each other. Many people who immigrated to America in the late 19th and early 20th century said goodbye to their families in "the old country," never to see them again.

As the ability to travel greater distances in shorter periods of time was developing, along came the telegraph, followed by the telephone and, eventually, the Internet. Once again, technology swings the social pendulum back in the other direction. Today, using an online social networking service like Twitter, people once separated by thousands of miles can feel like they're in the same place, enjoying a moment together any time, day or night.

How can this be anything but good? I recently saw an example that exemplified both the fantastic potential and a possible dark side of this ubiquitously connected world we live in.

 

Dinner With Some Friends
I was in Seattle for an internal Microsoft conference a few weeks ago and, on Tuesday night, I found myself downtown at the Tap House with a small group of softies having dinner. There were five people at the table besides myself: Brian Goldfarb, Larry Clarkin, Josh Holmes, Brian Moore, Scott Barnes and myself. As I recall, Larry was telling a story that was actually quite funny. While Larry was talking, my phone alerted me that a new message had arrived, so I very unconsciously reached down to my holster, grabbed the phone and to see what had arrived. 

Twitter It turns out that I had received an SMS message via Twitter from Dave Bost, who happened to be sitting at the table next to us. He'd "tweeted" (posted an update to Twitter) on something someone said at his table and wanted to share it with his "tweeps" (those folks who follow his posts on Twitter). As I finished reading that post from Dave, Brian Moore said something very funny and I thought, as long as I was on my phone anyway, I'd share it with my tweeps. So, I wrote up a quick note and sent it.

It was then that I looked up from my phone and realized that everyone at my table (except Larry, who was still telling his story) was doing the same thing as me. All five of us had the dull, alluring glow of our cell phone backlights reflecting in our pupils. It struck me that, though only one of us was actually speaking, there were multiple silent conversations happening all around me with people unseen.

 

The New Social
In the social circles in which I hang, the scenario above certainly isn't all that unusual. Geeks like myself tend to travel in herds and do so with handheld devices about four inches from our faces.

What was really interesting about what I observed at the Tap House that night was how we were all compelled to share what was happening with us at that moment with people far beyond the restaurant walls. It wasn't enough to maintain the conversation at the table. The most interesting points of our "in-person experience" were distributed via Twitter and shared with people elsewhere in the world who are, apparently, interested in such things.

Certainly online communication is nothing new or novel at all. It's the blending of our real world experiences with our social networks online that strikes me as being a new dynamic, something I call "the new social."

Another perfect example of this phenomenon happened just yesterday. I had customer meeting during the big Day One keynote at the MIX conference in Las Vegas and missed the opportunity to watch it live on the MIX web site. However, about half the people I follow on Twitter were in the audience for the keynote and were tweeting every time Ray or Scott made an announcement. By the time I got to the on-demand video yesterday afternoon, I already knew everything that had been announced. I even knew which demos to pay particular attention to because I'd already read the reviews.

The whole experience made me feel like I was there, and it wasn't the dry, marketing experience I got when I went to look at the post on the MIX site. It was real people sharing their thoughts and impressions about what they were seeing right there and then, as if I were in the chair next to them and they whispered it in my ear.

This is the real power of the new social. Expanding your personal experiences to those who can't always be with you. It certainly make the world feel like a much smaller place and all of us feel more connected.

 

The Down Side
As with anything, there can some downsides to all this universal sharing and goodness. The good news is that I think they are relatively easy to overcome if you know what to look for.

TypicalMicrosoftMeeting Love the One You're With
Back to my story about about dinner in Seattle a couple of weeks ago. I remember very clearly the tweets I sent and read at the table. I remember the comments I thought were worth sharing with my network. I remember sound bytes for our conversation.

I don't remember what Larry was talking about.

I've tried, and I can't for the life of me remember what Larry was saying when I went to my phone. This is the downside to this new social. It's easy to get so swept up in what other people everywhere but where you are are doing that you forget to pay attention to what's happening right in front of you.

In a sense, this technology can bring us closer to people we rarely (or never) see, but distance us from those we happen to be sitting at a table having a nice dinner with.

Know When to Say When
The key is to not try and share every last aspect of your life with your online network. I don't think Larry will be offended when I tell him I don't remember what he was saying at the table that night because he uses the technology as well. He understands.

However, we have to stay conscious of the fact that the majority of the people in our lives don't interact with technology like people such as myself do and likely will not understand. My wife, who is no technical slouch herself, gets really annoyed when I pick up my phone and start doing something during one of our rare lunch dates without the kids, and she has every right to be. It's not that she doesn't get it, it's that I should wait until that moment of personal interaction is over before I try to share it with a group of people she doesn't know.

 

The New Social, Same as the Old Social
So technology unites and technology divides, but it doesn't have to. We need to develop a kind of Twitiquette to help us understand how we can leverage is powerful capability without endangering the most important relationships in our lives. Here are a few ideas I'll throw out there to get the ball rolling:

  • Tell the person you're with that you want to share something with your online network instead of just grabbing your phone or PC and going to it. They might actually think it's pretty cool and it's a great opportunity for you to show them how it all works -- they might want to start doing it to!
  • Don't ninja tweet, or tweet something someone said without telling them you're going to do it.
  • Focus on the person in front of you now, tweet on it (a little) later. Remember that Twitter keeps a complete history of updates you can check at any time. The person you're with right now, that moment will be gone as soon as you part ways and will stay gone forever.

I'm sure there are more, but these three points might go a long way to maximizing the unifying benefits that Twitter and online social networking application can provide while reducing some of the drawbacks. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

In fact, look me up on Twitter. My ID is @dboynton. Just don't do it while having lunch with your spouse.

 

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Three Things Every Web Developer and Designer Should Know About Silverlight

by dboynton 3/7/2008 6:52:00 PM

SilverlightLogoBig I attended the "Light Up Your Brand" event sponsored by the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) in Minneapolis-St. Paul a month or so ago and had a great opportunity to talk to a lot of software developers and designers at the reception that evening. I was asked to come and provide some demonstrations of Silverlight and Photosynth and chat with the attendees while we sipped Silverlight martinis (yeah, they were really good). I was surprised how many folks had either not heard of Silverlight or had heard of it but had no idea what it was. After an hour or two, I realized that I had been repeating a few features/benefits of Silverlight multiple times each time I started a new conversation.

So here it is. If you're already deep into Silverlight development, then I don't think that the rest of this post will be of much use to you as I'm going to be covering a lot of the basics. However, if you are one of those folks who have heard of Silverlight and just don't see what all the hoopla is about, read on. Hopefully you'll discover it here.

 

Number 1: Designers Are First Class Citizens in the Development Process
My wife is a graphic designer. We've worked on many projects together over the years, her designing the UI and my making it do stuff. In each case, she mocks-up the UI and sends me an image file with the instructions to replicate the design in my development tools.

Now, I have a couple of challenges in this space:

  1. I have the design skills of a palsied muskrat
  2. My development tools are really good at writing code that talks to databases, calls web services and other functions like that, not at making the UI look good

Having spoken to a lot of designers out there, I'm confident that this is not all that unusual of a practice. However, having designers simply mocking-up up the UI excludes them from being a functioning member of the development team. Ultimately, developers who have to try and bring their vision for the UI to life are going to ask them to compromise because it is difficult or impractical to replicate said vision in their tools. And may times, if you're asking the designer to compromise, you're probably asking the customer to compromise as well.

Enter eXtensible Application Markup Language, or XAML. XAML is a strongly typed XML-based language that allows a designer to actually develop the UI, not just mock it up. If you like coding HTML, then coding in XAML will feel pretty natural to you once you learn it. For those of you who prefer to design visually, the good news is that there are several XAML design tools on the market, as well as a plug-in Adobe Illustrator that will render your artwork out to XAML.

boxShot_Blend If you choose to design XAML using Expression Blend 2, then you're actually working in a Visual Studio project format, allowing your .NET developers to import your design code into their development tools and build the necessary underlying code. This brings designers front-and-center into the software development process and allows developers focus on writing the functional code for the application and not worry about minutia in the UI. Essentially, it lets developers and designers focus on their core competencies and makes the overall process much more efficient.

 

Number 2: Silverlight Uses Technology Your Developers Already Know (for the most part)
The velocity of developing a piece of software is directly impacted by the overall knowledge base of the development team. Therefore, if you're using technology that the development team already knows, you can make the assumption that you can begin working on the project faster than if you are using something completely unknown to your team.

<SoapboxTangent>
A quick aside on this point: I am not an advocate of deciding a technological solution based strictly on the technical competency of the group of developers with whom you happen to be working. To often I see the absolutely wrong solution implemented on absolutely the wrong platform because the folks tasked with building that application happen to know one technology or another. I do, however, try to keep my feet planted in the real world and understand that resources for software development in all organizations are limited, so I think this is a fair thing to consider when approaching a new project, but it certainly should not be the driving factor in the technological solution.
</SoapboxTangent>

With this in mind, it's important to understand that Silverlight 1.0 leverages JavaScript as the programming language, a language that is familiar to the vast majority of web developers in the world. This should significantly lower the bar of entry to building rich Internet applications (RIAs) using Silverlight.

If your organization is building web application in ASP.NET, then you should know that Silverlight 2.0 will actually ship with a subset of the .NET common language runtime (CLR) built into it, allowing designers to continue to build the UI piece of the application in XAML, but giving developers the ability to write functional code in managed program languages like VB.NET and C#. Besides the vastly improved performance you achieve by running managed code inside of Silverlight in the browser, this will take the programming bar of entry for .NET developers and toss it out the back door. And, if you don't have .NET developers on your staff, Silverlight 2.0 will still support developing in JavaScript as well.

The key takeaway here is that, which the exception of XAML which will be assuredly be new for most people working with Silverlight for the first time, the technology that you're using is familiar and accessible to just about everybody who's done some web development before. You'll eventually enjoy better velocity on projects from tapping into the technical skill sets you already have and by implementing a tightly integrated platform solution.

 

Number 3: Silverlight Works on Multiple Operating Systems and Browsers
One of the items that I heard over and over again at the event last month was that, for those folks who'd heard of Silverlight, they were concerned about adopting a technology for their RIA development that only ran in Windows. I thought that Silverlight's cross-browser, cross-platform compatibility would have been one of the first things people would have heard about Silverlight. Apparently, this message has not been touted enough, so let me reiterate here:

  • Silverlight runs on Windows and the MacOS natively, with support extended to Linux via the Moonlight project
  • Silverlight will run in Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera, and support for other popular browsers are slotted for future releases

'Nuff said.

 

Forward Looking Bonus Item: XAML Search Engine Indexing
One of the biggest downsides to using Flash for building RIAs is that, because they are deployed as binaries, they cannot be indexed properly by search engines like Live Search or Google. In fact, a large customer that I work with called a senior level executive meeting a few months back to figure out why their flagship brands were not showing up at the top of the result list on Google searches. Yeah, you guessed it, all their external facing sites are done in Flash.

While the capability for the major search engines to index XAML is not there yet, the chances of it happening are significantly better than the same ever happening for Flash. This is because the XAML files, which are essentially just XML files, are deployed to the server with the rest of the site and rendered at runtime. The fact that the XAML is in a text file would allow it to be indexed just like any other text-based content online.

Let me repeat: This isn't current state and I'm not involved in any of the decision making processes at any of the major search engines. However, as XAML-based sites begin to proliferate on the Internet, it could be reasonably assumed that, at some point, the major search sites are going to have to start indexing XAML just like HTML.

As a web designer, this should really appeal to you. If you build your site in Silverlight, you'll be able to get the rich UI functionality that you're looking for and you'll have an excellent opportunity for your RIA to be properly indexed by the major search engines in the future, increasing you and your client's web presence.

 

Wrap-Up
Hopefully this has clarified some of the common misconceptions about Silverlight for you. Silverlight is very new technology, so it was bound to happen. Here's a quick list of some other resources you might want to check out if you want to dive a little deeper:

  • Silverlight.net: The site for Silverlight resources. You can get all the tools, link to all the blogs and check out all the great examples of Silverlight applications that have been built by the community in the Gallery section of the site.
  • Josh Holmes' Blog: Josh is a RIA architect for Microsoft based in Detroit. Josh regularly discusses the next generation of web applications on his blog. Definitely worth adding to your RSS aggregator.
  • DesignThinkingDigest: This is the blog of Chris Bernard, a User Experience evangelist for Microsoft based in Chicago. Chris is a designer by trade and is working on not only connecting with designers about what Microsoft is doing in that space, but also providing feedback to the product teams on how they can improve the tools for designers building for the Microsoft platform.
  • Design at Microsoft: The official Microsoft site addressing the questions and concerns of the designer community.

 

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Have You Written 'Weird Code?'

by dboynton 3/7/2008 6:49:00 PM

I got a lot of really positive feedback on the pilot of my podcast show, Weird Code, when I posted it late last year, and it was a lot of fun to put together.

I have another episode that I'm working on right now and plan to post in the near future. But I need your help.

Have you done something "off center" with technology? Something even weird, perhaps? Do you know someone who has?

If so, then please drop me a note. I would love to get you on a future episode of Weird Code and show of your creations and contraptions. If you're interested, please post a comment below or drop me an email at Denny.Boynton@microsoft.com.

Thanks, and stay weird.

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FedEx Joins Bill Gates on Stage at the ODC

by dboynton 3/7/2008 6:44:00 PM

For those who've followed my posts on this blog in the past, you know that I'm a strong proponent of the so-called "software+services" model of software architecture. In fact, I highlighted a start-up last year that has found a very creative way to build a business model around what is normally a pretty technical subject.

One of the reasons I feel so strongly about S+S is that, by moving functionality that really belongs on the client machine, the overall performance of the application can be enhanced as well as providing a better, more familiar software experience for the user. This can be especially true when a custom application is delivered via Microsoft Office. I mean, let's face it, most information workers spend the vast majority of their day in Outlook or Excel, right? What could facilitate a better user experience than letting these users access your custom line-of-business applications in these applications? It creates a seamless experience and can truly make people more efficient in their work.

On February 12th, two of my esteemed colleagues, Jon Box and John Mullinax, were in San Jose, California for the Office System Developers Conference where FedEx Corporate VP, David Zanca joined Bill Gates on stage to talk about their delivery of QuickShip as an add-in application to Microsoft Outlook. For the full story, John has a great write-up on his blog, including a video of Bill's keynote and an overview of the QuickShip solution.

I think this is a tremendous example of how far customizing Microsoft Office applications has come. Please understand, I've written my share of VBA macros over the years, and the scars have never really healed. But I can tell you definitively that the landscape has changed 180 degrees with Visual Studio 2008. The Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) is completely integrated into the IDE and building rich applications in Outlook and/or Excel begins by just creating the project. That's it!

I'll be following-up in the coming weeks on more news from the S+S world and rest assured, Office Business Applications (OBA) will be a big part of it.

Congratulations, John and Jon.

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Denny Boynton Denny Boynton
Microsoft Architect Evangelist by day, wannabe rock 'n roll star by night! Want more? Here's my bio.

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