Microsoft Office Developer Advisory Council

Good news for devs working in the Microsoft Office space. MS have formed an advisory council to focus specifically on the developer story for the next release of Office (codename Office 14 apparently). I can’t really tell you exactly whats involved as

  • a. I don’t know
  • and b. if I did the details would probably be under NDA 

But I can say its a long term thing (think multiple year), its focused on the developer perspective, and I’ll be involved on the Excel side. If anyone else reading this is involved then either leave a comment or drop me an email. Especially if you are off to Seattle in a few weeks (and fancy a beer). From a blog p.o.v. don’t be expecting lots of juicy info (well any info actually), everything will be under NDA.

Hopefully I have made some of my views fairly clear through my previous posts, if you have anything you would like me to pass on to the product teams (other than the ribbon is bobbins) then let me know. Obviously I’m not promising anything, but I am keen to get the Excel/VBA developer view across, so be sure to tell me what you think. It is a public blog anyway of course, so you never know who is reading ;-).

I think this connecting with the community is an excellent move by MS, and should benefit us all, what about you?

cheers

Simon

ps if you’re not from the North of England, you may not have heard of Frank Sidebottom (Francis Siddyb’tem) and his signature song – ‘the Robbins are bobbins’, bobbins does not mean good, and can be used in polite company.

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9 Responses to “Microsoft Office Developer Advisory Council”

  1. Ken Puls Says:

    Well, I’m off to Seattle in one week, but…

    IMHO, MS seems to be pushing developers to use Visual Studio, and seems to be ignoring that much successful development is done entirely within the office suite, without needing fully compiled solutions. The solutions that we can create within the Office products using VBA and the core UI alone are easy to create, maintain and DEPLOY. While VSTO offers some great benefits, I’m told, it is very well documented that the deployment story is an absolute nightmare.

    I’m one of a great many whose programming roots started by recording Excel macros, and I very much appreciate the power that this affords business. I was able to learn at my own speed, and always make sure that I was developing within the lines of our business’s needs and goals. I don’t think that we’d be nearly where we are had we hired a programmer to come in and learn Excel to do this. For one, we couldn’t have afforded it, and second, I don’t think we’d have dreamed of some of the stuff.

    I do know that we certainly we never have gone and purchased a copy of Visual Studio for me to play and learn my craft. I could make a case now, but that’s not the point. There are a huge amount of people out there in the same place I was when I started, and these people grow into some of the best advocates that MS has. My company cannot afford to move away from Office to a competitor at this point, and it’s because of VBA and the ability to develop in the suite.

    Personally, I’d like to see MS realize what they have in the Office trained developer people, and invest in them. I’m not saying that there is no room for VS or VSTO, but they need to continue to invest in the extensibility of the programs. (Not just Excel.) Migrate VBA to VBA.Net, and hook the macro recorder to it. Let us reload the entire custom RibbonUI on the fly. How about a “compile add-in to exe”? Give us some real security at last.

    Microsoft needs to recognize that the Office suite is a powerful development application already, and give us the tools to make Office development even better. That does not mean forcing us into another application suite to develop within when we already have a proven environment to do so.

  2. Simon Says:

    I totally agree Ken
    I’m hoping the next Office will have VSTA integrated, with the .net framework and the VSTO run-times. Then we can code in the language of choice and it will ‘just work’, as per VBA/XLLs now.
    Ease of deployment has made Excel/VBA the success it is (and I accept that causes some security/maintenance headaches, but hey ho…). and thats deployment by users, not sys admins, no special rights needed.
    cheers
    Simon

  3. sam Says:

    Simon,
    It would be nice if Office 14 came with a developer version just like XP or 2000…. I could not understand why MS stopped the developer version from 2003…. And yes do push for a Classic UI option…
    It would be really convient if we could save a file XLS file as XLL or as DLL..in addition to XLA.This would be a big help and there would be not need to develop in C/C++ or VB

    Regards
    Sam

  4. Harlan Grove Says:

    The big question is price. A developer version would ensure that only current developers would buy it, and not necessarily all of them. I doubt whether development tools capable of producing XLLs (how long will there be XLLs rather than COM DLLs?) would be bundled into all Office versions.

    But that begs the question whether all the macros and even macro-free spreadsheet models in use that were developed by regular business users rather than ‘developers’ have been a good thing or a bad thing. If a good thing, then there’s no good reason not to continue to provide the tools to everyone (and create management procedures to ensure that what’s produced should become widely used). If a bad idea, there’s no good reason to perpetuate a bad situation. IOW, either put much more capable tools into Excel itself (so into all Office versions), or pull VBA and XLM out of Excel and the other Office applications. Compromising on leaving more-or-less the current VBA and VBE in place is accepting a muddle.

    This could have some political baggage. Only Excel and Access could be called developer platforms. (InfoPath is a forms applet, not in the same class.) Excel and Access have different needs than Word, PowerPoint and Outlook, but since the majority of Office users use Word, PPT and Outlook much more than Excel (and likely never use Access), how would they react to being implicitly categorized as unsophisticated Office users? IOW I suspect Excel’s developer facilities won’t be allowed to exceed Word’s to any great extent. If so, better tools will only come via VSTO and the like as separate products.

  5. Simon Says:

    Sam – I assume they pulled the dev edition because sales were poor, but I could be wrong. (Also I think the xp dev edition works with 2003 – it seems to on my machine anyway). Dennis has some great book publisher comment here:
    http://xldennis.wordpress.com/2007/02/10/books-on-vsto/#comments
    (about Excel devs being tight mainly)
    I like the idea of a migration path away from xls to xll, dll or exe or something, not sure MS are going to rush to develop anything that reduces the need for their prods though.
    Harlan – xlls are here to stay I reckon. COM will never have the required performance, and of course is superceeded by .net, which will also never have the required performance. I can’t see Excel ever being re-writted in .net, which is the only way I can see of getting the performance.

    good/bad is an interesting question indeed, I think decent migration features is the key. Spreadsheets strength is that business users can actually use them, unlike almost any other tool before (SQL was for business users). That does not mean they can create production standard systems though.

    I wonder what would need to be in the next Excel for us all to say, thats the one, upgrade ASAP?
    I’m not sure I can think of anything that would make it a definite, and there is a diffreence between me upgrading for dev work and clients upgrading. A few nice dev tools and decent compatibility and I would upgrade, it would need different stuff for me to advise clients to move.
    what about you?
    cheers
    Simon

  6. Ross Says:

    Excellent use of the word Bobbins Simon!

    MS are dam cunning with code names eh!

    dev versions past XP stopped becuase MS have been pushing the VSTO story? 2003 was the first version to be targeted by VSTO, i guess this kinda adds up?

    I cant think of anything that you would not already be awear of Simon, but if i do, I’ll let you know.

  7. Simon Says:

    Ross
    Doh! how did I miss that dev version/VSTO issue – well spotted.

    If we club together and chuck FS a few quid he would probably re-record the robbins are bobbins, as the ribbon is bobbins!
    he re-released it as the robbins aren’t bobbins when they got promoted.
    cheers
    Simon

  8. Charles Davies Says:

    Ay up Sim!! Long time no beer!

    Hope you, your good lady and your offspring are well.

    I’ve just come across your blog, even though I’ve read a lot of your comments on the Daily Dose of Excel website which I frequently read for some unknown reason given that I no longer do Excel consulting!

    Nowt wrong wiv being north’n lad!

    Cheers
    Charles

  9. Simon Says:

    Hi Charles
    Great to hear from you, I was thinking of you when Jon was asking about MSAS V Essbase – thats roughly your area isn’t it? or do you do pure BO these days?
    I’ll email you off line
    thanks for dropping by
    cheers
    Simon

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