Developing Microsoft Office Solutions: Answers for Office 2003, Office XP, Office 2000, and Office 97


Now, there's a practical, easy-to-use guide for every developer and power user who wants to solve real business problems with custom Microsoft Office applications.

Packed with case studies and code examples, this book covers all of Office, not just one application. Ken Bluttman shares more than a decade's experience as an Office developer, demonstrating how to program every recent version, from Office 2003 back to Office 97. Working with Office 2003? You'll discover exactly how ...

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Now, there's a practical, easy-to-use guide for every developer and power user who wants to solve real business problems with custom Microsoft Office applications.

Packed with case studies and code examples, this book covers all of Office, not just one application. Ken Bluttman shares more than a decade's experience as an Office developer, demonstrating how to program every recent version, from Office 2003 back to Office 97. Working with Office 2003? You'll discover exactly how to make the most of its breakthrough XML support--along with improved Smart Tags, task panes, and more!

Everything you need to know to develop custom Office applications:

  • Covers Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Outlook, and InfoPath
  • Clearly explains the Microsoft Office object model
  • Shows how to integrate multiple Office applications into a complete solution
  • Includes a full chapter on making the most of Office 2003 Smart Tags

Includes five chapter-length case studies!

  • Custom mail merge applications with Access and Word
  • Dynamic data delivery via PowerPoint and Excel
  • Generating "on-the-fly" Excel charts from imported XML data
  • Using Word to repurpose raw XML data into useful content
  • Using InfoPath to overcome key XML processing limitations
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201738056
  • Publisher: Pearson Education
  • Publication date: 12/12/2003
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 6.96 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.52 (d)

Table of Contents

Pt. I Office Development 1
Ch. 1 What's New for Developers in Office 2003 3
Ch. 2 Word Solution Development 15
Ch. 3 Excel Solution Development 65
Ch. 4 Access Solution Development 121
Ch. 5 PowerPoint Solution Development 147
Ch. 6 Outlook Solution Development 193
Pt. II Office Technologies 225
Ch. 7 Common Microsoft Office Objects 227
Ch. 8 Microsoft Forms 251
Ch. 9 XML and Office 271
Ch. 10 Smart Tags 331
Ch. 11 Introduction to InfoPath 355
Pt. III Case Studies 399
Ch. 12 Mail Merge Magic 401
Ch. 13 Dynamic Data Delivery 465
Ch. 14 Charting XML Data 485
Ch. 15 Repurposing XML Content 517
Ch. 16 Applying Saved InfoPath Data 553
App.: Resources 567
Index 571
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Walk into any business office in the world. Odds are you will see Microsoft Office sitting on everyone's desktop--from assistants to managers, from directors to corporate officers. The majority of these workers depend on Office for many of their daily tasks. And yet many of these workers use Office in the basic off-the-shelf fashion--Word for writing documents and Excel or PowerPoint for creating spreadsheets and presentations.

Yet there is so much more power behind these Office products. Under the hood are sophisticated technologies that when applied elevate Office to unprecedented custom productive uses. But why use Office at all? Why not just use traditional development tools such as Visual Basic or C++? Isn't developing with Office just an easy way out?

Not one bit! In fact the opposite case can be made. Why use a generic programming tool to duplicate what is already native in Office! If users need to manipulate numbers that are queried from a database, then putting some custom muscle into an Excel workbook fills their need--and rather quickly at that. Using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) and other programming languages available to Office makes it possible to create killer apps in just a fraction of the time it takes with traditional programming tools. Time is money, and users want results. There simply is no point duplicating the functionality already built into Office.

The position and power of Office in the business world is not something that came about by luck or by accident. The functionality offered by each core Office product--Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Outlook--is based on the experience of millions of users over several years. These products aremature, stable, and feature rich. Building solutions on top of this makes for sophisticated applications that do not share the distribution problems or incompatibility issues associated with traditional tool based solutions. In the end, a satisfied user community is the best measure of success.

My Background with Office Development

Through the 1980s I was a sales manager in book publishing. During the time, PCs hit the market. At work, we received x386 processor based computers for desktop use. I received monthly sales reports generated from mainframe computers, that often were missing important sales data or were full of errors. I recall seeing once that an order from a bookstore went through the system with the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) mistakenly entered as the quantity. If you not familiar with what an ISBN is, just look at the back cover of this book. All books have a unique number. The one for this book is 0-201-73805-8. Imagine if your local bookstore were to one day receive 201,738,058 copies of this book!

This sounds humorous but in retrospect it is clear that the order processing system did not have validation built in. This sort of issue led me to develop a custom application built with Lotus 1-2-3 to track my department's sales figures. Quickly I was able to deliver better reports from my PC than were available coming out of the mainframes. I spent more and more time with that PC until eventually I was programming more than anything else.

And that led to a career change. The next decade or so I spent as a contract programmer. My specialty was customization of Office products. The early versions of Microsoft Office products were being used in business. Access was just at version 1 and then had a long run as version 2. VBA was introduced in Excel 5. That single action caused Excel to leapfrog past any competitive spreadsheet product.

I worked for many companies large and small. From mom and pop shops to Fortune 500 companies. In the midst of all this Microsoft Office just grew and grew. I've worked on numerous solutions involving Office, often with Oracle, SQL Server, Sybase, etc. I have programmed, trained, and managed developers on all sorts of interesting projects.

About this Book

The focus of this book is to demonstrate building customs solutions built on the Microsoft Office products. Programming using VBA, XML, and other technologies is key to how solutions are put together. The style of this book may seem a bit different from other programming books. I do not attempt to explain all there is on programming Office. Even if this were possible in one book, it would force each subject area to get just miniscule coverage.

Instead, I have modeled this book on my years of business experience. Subjectively I have culled what I feel are the key things to know within the focus of each chapter. I am not trying to teach Visual Basic for Applications in this book. I assume you are familiar enough with VB or VBA to follow along. Sometimes I will use typical programming techniques, such as implementing an error trap, other times I have not. Teaching programming is not the point of the book. Teaching how to program Office is the point of the book. Take what is explained in the book and combine with what you know. And for the areas in which you need further information, there is a list of further resources at the back of the book.

XML is a key technology used in the book. XML is not something that can be taught here. I suggest that readers become familiar with XML technologies through additional study. The concepts and syntax can be difficult to learn at first, especially for schemas and transformations, but the knowledge is key to using the new XML features in Office 2003.

Which leads me to discuss the different versions of Office. Most of this book applies to any version of Office. Office 97 and Office 2000 are similar, whereas Office XP was more of a departure from Office 2000. XP had the introduction of the task pane, an updated mail merge interface, and the introduction of some XML functionality. A few areas of course are unique to the latest version--Office 2003. In particular, Chapter Nine, XML and Office, and Chapter Eleven, Introduction to InfoPath, are completely based on Office 2003. Where applicable is a notice about version limitations.

Also I must mention that I wrote the book using a beta version (Beta 2) of Microsoft Office 2003. Most of the screen shots are from the beta version. Odds are some functionality and some screens will change with the release of the final product.

This book is segregated into three parts. The first part devotes a chapter each to what I subjectively call the core Office products. These chapters introduce the key objects and how to program them using their particular properties and methods. Useful programming examples are given throughout to demonstrate how the objects can be used in reasonable and solution oriented ways. Nearly all of Part I applies universally to any version of Office.

A particular comment about Access belongs here. Access holds a unique place within the Office product family. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook have a default usage path, by which I mean that each of these can be used without any customization. For example, a document can be typed in Word simply by starting up Word. A blank document is ready for entry.

In contrast Access cannot be used until customization has been implemented. There is no default blank Access database. Even the simplest Access database is the work of customization. A book such as this, where each product receives a piece but not all of the spotlight, led me to include a discussion of key Access objects while avoiding coverage of any general Access or database design fundamentals.

The second part of the book delves into the technologies that are integrated with Office. In particular, Chapter Seven, Common Microsoft Office Objects, explains the workings of search features, dialogs, and customized command bars that can be applied to any of the Office products. Chapter Eight, Microsoft Forms, covers a great supportive technology available to all Office products and all versions of Office.

Chapter Nine, XML and Office, gives a detailed overview of the new XML features in Office 2003. Chapter Ten, Smart Tags, demonstrates using simple smart tags in Office XP and Office 2003. And to complete this part of the book, Chapter Eleven, Introduction to InfoPath, gives an overview of this exciting new Microsoft Office product.

The third part of the book presents five case studies, each designed to demonstrate particular techniques. Some case studies are built upon real projects I have been tasked with over the years, and others are hypothetical to showcase how new Office 2003 technologies are likely to be integrated into solutions moving forward.

Finally the book is rounded out with a list of further resources for the various technologies and products, and a list of key tems (on the inside front and back covers).

Code Listings and Conventions

Plenty of programming code is included in the book, and some is rather lengthy. The code samples are available as a download from the Office VBA Developer web site. Check there too for corrections and updates to the book.

Many places in the book are examples that simulate real business information, such as a customer list. All personal and business names, and addresses, are fictional. Any similarity to real people or companies is not intentional. Over the years I have so often had to create test data for database projects, that I have created a utility to easily generate such test records. All test data has been created with this tool, Records2Go. Please visit if you are interested in this tool. I am preparing Records2Go for commercial release in the near future.

Your comments are welcome! Thanks and enjoy!

Ken Bluttman
September 2003

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2004

    Using XML to hook to new applications?

    Why did Excel outrun its competitors (remember them)? Bluttman suggests that the crucial point came in Excel 5, when you could now use Visual Basic to build quick, simple applications on top of Excel. It is along these lines that he motivates this book. What he attempts to show is how you can easily customise each of the MS Office products, through relatively straightforward programming. He systematically goes through MS Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and Outlook. For each, he gives examples of how to extend the functionality. Typically, these are done through Visual Basic. Now, VB does have its limitations. Fundamentally, it is a procedural language in which it is hard to write large programs. But it turns out that when you extend an Office product, the amount of coding is usually not that much. The basic reason is that the bulk of the complexity in what you want to do often already resides in Office. What you need customised is a few simple steps to tie various parts of [eg] your spreadsheet together. The OTHER major point of the book is how to use the new XML capabilities in Office. You can now save data in an XML format, instead of it being buried in a Microsoft proprietary binary format. What is the big deal? Well, this now opens the way to much easier integration with non-Microsoft applications. The Visual Basic customisation discussed above really only can be run on top of Office. It has a strength and a weakness. The strength is that it can let you be a consultant, say, to companies that need these customisations. (Apparently, Bluttman was quite successful at this!) But this very strength can be a weakness. Typically, those customisations are client-specific. There is little code reuse. Sure, you may be able to command a nice hourly rate. But all you can transfer between clients is your expertise. Nice, but labour intensive. By contrast, you now have a way to build a separate, full standalone application that can take advantage of Office. The use of XML for data interchange opens entirely new vistas. Given the worldwide distribution of Office, this enables a potentially enormous third party market for you, if you can implement a novel enough application with broad appeal. Maybe there is a business here for you?

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    Posted August 27, 2009

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