Microsoft Office 2003 Editions: Overview of Developer TechnologiesSeptember 2004
Microsoft has a long history of innovation with regard to delivering tools for developers to build custom solutions that extend Office. As previous Office technologies have made developers more productive, Microsoft continues to focus on ensuring that Office is a leading-edge solutions platform for professional developers of all levels and skills. Microsoft advances that commitment with Office 2003 Editions, enabling you to use it across the enterprise by exposing new interfaces, extending support for open standard technologies, and allowing you to make choices with regard to tool sets, languages and application architectures.
InfoPath 2003 is a new program in the Microsoft Office System that allows developers to easily build rich, dynamic forms with which organizations can capture information in an industry standard XML format. An example is shown in Figure 7. The collected information can be integrated with a broad range of business processes and business systems because InfoPath supports any customer-defined XML schema and integrates with Web services. InfoPath provides a WYSIWYG design environment that builds off an XML schema or data source to simplify the form layout. InfoPath forms can include data and business rule validation, conditional formatting, rich text fields, optional and repeating elements, ActiveX controls, and custom code developed with Visual Studio .NET. InfoPath forms can be deployed by using a shared network folder or Web server, integrated with a Windows SharePoint Services form library, or sent by e-mail. Solutions can be kept up-to-date using silent and automatic downloads. Users of InfoPath solutions must have InfoPath on their desktops, and InfoPath forms can be used off-line, unlike Web forms.
Figure 7. A sample InfoPath 2003 form being filled out
InfoPath 2003 Benefits
For users, InfoPath forms have the familiar feel of an Office interface, including rich interactive controls and authoring features like the spelling checker, font formatting, and other familiar tools. Forms are dynamic, allowing optional sections and repeating structures that allow users to efficiently enter information that needs to be captured. Organizations can be sure that captured information is valid through enforced data types and business rules. InfoPath forms can save data offline allowing users to conveniently fill out more complex forms on their computer, over time, and submit them to a process when connected.
Developers can easily build InfoPath forms based on existing data sources such as a custom XML schema using a WYSIWYG form designer. Straightforward wizards make it easy to add rules and customized formatting to a form to create a good user experience and ensure data is captured as needed. Developers can deploy InfoPath solutions from a server providing silent and automatic downloads to be sure that users always have the most up-to-date form. Rich programmability with Visual Studio .NET allows robust enterprise solutions to be built to use the benefits of the .NET Framework.
InfoPath 2003 Technology
InfoPath 2003 is a desktop program for creating rich forms-based solutions for capturing information. InfoPath contains a design and runtime environment. You must install it on the desktop of those who will use the forms. InfoPath 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP 1, released July 2004) adds a number of key development features, some of which are described in this section.
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