Programmability of Microsoft Office apps took a leap forward this week when support for Outlook 2003 was added to Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the Microsoft Office System (VSTO). This step is seen as significant by Microsoft watchers in that it adds application-centric development to a toolkit that was heretofore more oriented toward document-centric development.
"Up until now, the [VSTO] beta was for Word, Excel and InfoPath," said BJ Holtgrewe, senior product manager, Microsoft Visual Studio. "Word, Excel and InfoPath are document-centric. Now we have added support for Outlook."
Part of the Visual Studio 2005 suite, VSTO supports the .NET Framework. In effect, it replaces VBA for developers – at least those developers who want to work with the .NET Framework based on managed code, since VBA is a non-.NET kit. With the new add-in support, developers can work in either VB.NET or C# to communicate with the Outlook object model.
Better productivity application integration via VSTO could reduce the need for users to manage multiple windows and incessantly cut and paste. Now, Holtgrewe indicated, "people cut and paste and use their memory [to maintain context and state]."
According to Holtgrewe, developers had lobbied Microsoft to extend Outlook to use managed code, with VSTO serving as a means to program Outlook-oriented systems. Now, he said, development is accelerated, as the toolkit includes Visual Studio snippets and samples for common Outlook development tasks.