OSCON: Microsoft Office 2003 and XML

Microsoft Office 2003 and XML, Simon St. Laurent

2:34 PM: Jean Paoli and his Microsoft team generated real excitement at the XML 2002 conference with his announcement that XML would be at the heart of future Office development, and the demonstrations – which ran badly overtime – convinced a lot of us that this was real.

2:35 PM: Reaching the Desktop: XML has done really well for a lot of people in a lot of circumstances, but it’s primarily been a server-side technology, hampered by relatively weak desktop implementations and programs that didn’t speak XML at all.

2:37 PM: Building the foundation: Microsoft has talked for years about how crucial XML was to their plans.

2:38 PM: Freedom at last? As both Microsoft and the OpenOffice team were discussing…

2:39 PM: Backpedaling on the core: It’s still unclear whether saving files in Standard will strip XML features from files created in Professional.

2:40 PM: Xdocs to InfoPath to Enterprise-Only: Xdocs, which seemed to be Microsoft’s answer to form wars, has faded from a great demo to an Enterprise-only technology.

2:41 PM: Word now has WordML. Excel has SpreadsheetML. Powerpoint has no XML functionality (yay!). Access ahs some XML support but it’s rough. InfoPath is a new form-building and processing toolkit that uses XML, XSLT, etc. FrontPage adds a lot of tools for generating HTML-generating XSLT.

2:44 PM: Users may never encounter WordML directly. A basic understanding of WordML is necessary to create Word XML solutions of any flavor.

2:46 PM: XSLT serves as a buffer between Word’s own data structures and those of the rest of the world.

2:47 PM: A new markup interface provides access to writing schemas.

2:48 PM: Documentation of WordML is terrible but experimentation has proven that consistent results are possible, which is good news.

2:49 PM: Microsoft has been using a processing instruction to distinguish
Word .xml files from Excel .xml files.

2:50 PM: Looking at a WordML example: Produces some very interesting xpaths, convoluted. But the good news is that at least it’s consistent.

2:51 PM: How does WordML store graphics? Basically it encodes all of its binary information into Base64. Yikes! (Audience whistles and laughs).

2:52 PM: Word and XSLT: WordML should be of interest to anybody who has to deal with Word in a programmatic way.

2:58 PM: SpreadsheetML: Problem is that it does not include charts or Visual Basic for Applications.

2:59 PM: Excel lets you separate the spreadsheet data from the spreadsheet logic. This is an excellent practice and other competitors should follow.

3:00 PM: Can easily import standard XML-structured data.

3:02 PM: Access XML Features: Relational databases and XML share one key feature – they both let you name your own data fields.

3:03 PM: Creative use of XSLT is probably your best bet, and it is relatively easy to automate into Access applications.

3:04 PM: InfoPath is basically a GUI front-end that lets you create forms- basically a reinvention of XForms.

3:06 PM: The guts of InfoPath are Javascript, XML and CSS. Designed as a workflow application.

3:07 PM: This is very much a version 1.0, therefore you can’t rely on it much and should expect it to change. It’s going to take a few revisions to sort out the details.

3:09 PM: It’s not clear who all of these things are for because Microsoft has not clarified its marketing. Developers? Writers? Editors? Or is Microsoft just trying to make us upgrade our licenses?

3:10 PM: OpenOffice! OO files are zipped-up XML with supporting binary files (for images, etc.) when needed. Uses a standards-based process, going through OASIS.

3:12 PM: Everyone should be using XML, even Microsoft the great “locker of data”. It is the end of the “desktop island” moving us towards an interoperability.

Posted by Cameron Barrett at July 9, 2003 05:41 PM