Office developer helps get the job done

Microsoft Corp.'s goals for Microsoft Office Developer (MOD) 2000 were to deliver a product that increases the productivity of developers, makes it easy to provide database access to any Office application and makes it simple to maintain and deploy resulting solutions. From our perspective, having used previous versions of Office and having tried to develop solutions without the benefit of the Developers Edition, the precursor to MOD 2000, we'd say the company has done well on all three counts.

One obvious reason for the newfound effectiveness of MOD 2000 is the across-the-board implementation of Visual Basic for Applications in all of Office 2000's applications. VBA is the core component for developing applications with any of the Office 2000 products, and Office 2000 is the first Office suite release that employs VBA in all its applications. As a result, code written for one application can be used in any of the other applications. A utility written for Word, for example, can be used with Outlook or FrontPage.

MOD 2000 comes with and installs on top of the Office 2000 Premium product. MOD 2000 includes many of the tools you'd expect to see in a true program development environment. At the top of the list is a full version of Visual SourceSafe (VSS) for tracking multiple versions of VBA programs. MOD 2000 provides tight integration with VSS for complete source-code control.

Another add-on we found especially useful is the Code Librarian. The Code Librarian makes a library of code snippets available for inclusion in any project. Examples of code include file-handling routines, complex math operations and statistics. Adding any routines in the library to a project is a simple drag-and-drop operation. We found many routines that would have made our jobs a lot easier if we'd had them around a year or so ago.

Visual Basic for Applications 6.0 includes many of the features found in the current version of its big brother, Visual Basic 6.0. Key productivity features such as Intellisense, which attempts to finish a partially typed command, and the Code Librarian make it a real joy to use. Other add-ons, such as the code commentor, error handler, string editor and the WinAPI viewer, take away all excuses for producing poorly documented and underperforming programs. The COM Add-In Designer serves as a tool for developing extensions to any Office application.

Microsoft has included several new features and capabilities for database access. From a development perspective, the new Data Environment Designer makes it easy to incorporate virtually any type of data source, from text files to SQL Server 7.0. For example, users can pull a table from Access into a Word document.

Microsoft boosts performance by shipping the new Microsoft Data Engine (MSDE) as a replacement to the Jet database data engine. MSDE is a SQL Server-compatible data engine providing all the functionality of the full-blown SQL Server 7.0 product with the exception of some of the high-end multiprocessor features. The product also comes with an improved Jet engine should you choose to stick with that program.

Maintaining and deploying applications of any type often is the costliest part of any software development project, and Microsoft has provided a set of tools to help make this process more manageable. The Package and Deployment Wizard eases the task of building high-quality installation packages with very little effort. MOD 2000 still ships with the Access Run Time for deploying applications based on Access 2000 to machines that don't have Access 2000 installed. Other tools, such as the HTML Help Workshop, round out the package nicely.

MOD 2000 includes a printed manual that offers detailed information beneficial to all developers. The product also includes a special version of Microsoft Developers Network CD-ROMs, with content specifically for developing applications with MOD 2000. Both printed and online documentation provide a good level of information for the novice as well as the accomplished developer.

If your organization is trying to build or support solutions developed around Microsoft Office, you'll want to give the latest release of MOD 2000 a good look. It might just provide the tools you'll need to get the job done right the first time.

--Ferrill, based at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is a principal engineer at Avionics Test & Analysis Corp. He can be reached at pferrill@fwb.gulf.net.

***

Microsoft Corp.

(425) 882-8080

www.microsoft.com

Price and Availability

Microsoft Office Developer 2000 is available on the General Services Administration schedule, but Microsoft does not release GSA price information for this product. The estimated retail price for a new user is $999. It's $649 for a competitive upgrade and $609 for a version upgrade after a $40 in-box rebate.

Remarks

Microsoft Office Developer 2000 makes developing and delivering applications based upon the Microsoft Office platform a snap. New features such as the Code Librarian and the Package and Deployment Wizard make the programmer's job much easier. The inclusion of a full version of

Visual SourceSafe puts MOD 2000 in the same class with other development tools from Microsoft. Solid documentation and a wealth of examples make this product a great buy for any organization looking to deliver solutions using Microsoft Office 2000.

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