Monday, April 21, 2008

Blogging from DevConnections

I'm at DevConnections in Orlando, Florida, learning about .NET 3.5, Visual Studio 2008, and SharePoint 2007.

The first breakout session I went to this morning was "Understanding How to Develop Office Business Applications from the Client to SharePoint and Beyond". This session was presented by Steve Fox from Microsoft.

Steve broke the Office Platform down into 4 general categories:

1. Servers

  • SharePoint
  • OCS
  • Exchange

2. Tools

  • VSTO
  • SharePoint Designer

3. Services

  • Search
  • Workflow

4. Applications

  • Excel
  • Word
  • Outlook, etc.

He stated that the goal of OBAs (Office Business Applications) is to unlock Line of Business Data and get it to the right people.

There was a bit of discussion about InfoPath vs. Smart Clients. Basically, InfoPath is a thin Web Service client, does not provide rich client functionality.

4 Key pieces when developing OBAs:

1. Smart Client

Smart Clients are Extensions for Office Client Applications. They can be developed in VS.NET. Visual Studio .NET has a Ribbon Designer. Custom Ribbons can be developed for Office 2007 applications. There is a Power Pack for VS.NET that includes a number of icons for custom Ribbons.

2. Smart Client Deployment

In earlier versions, deployment was a blocker. Now, with VS.NET 2008 and Office 2007, we can deploy a Smart Client from a share using ClickOnce Deployment. This will handle all the dependencies and put a simple Setup.exe on a share that will install the Smart Client. The User will need permission to get to the share. On the user's machine, he or she will need to go into MS Office -> Word Options -> Trusted Locations, and provide the shared drive as a trusted location. Then ClickOnce Deployment from the share can occur.

If there are thousands of users, the addition of the share to the trusted locations can be done as part of a startup or configuration script managed by IT.

3. Smart Client & SharePoint Integration

We went through a demo where we have a Document Library in SharePoint and a user comes in and clicks "New" on a particular document type. ContentType is used to integrate a Smart Client OBA with SharePoint.

4. SharePoint BDC (Business Data Catalog)

This appears to have been very problematic in the past (based on banter from the speaker and audience feedback). It was only touched upon briefly, but there is a BDC Editor that is a free giveaway in the SDK which can be used to create the App Def File (ADF).

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