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Where are the Visual Studio 2008 Tools for Office?

VSTO has been integrated with Visual Studio 2008. It just takes a bit of digging to determine what VS 2008 editions actually contain Visual Studio Tools for Office.

Now that Visual Studio 2008 is out and about, and with the Microsoft Office 2007 development environment increasingly well understood, it's only natural to wonder where and how Visual Studio 2008 Tools for Office (usually abbreviated as VSTO) fit into this edition.

With this question in mind, I started noodling around the Microsoft Web site and dug into the VSTO Developer Portal and also into the Visual Studio 2005 Tools pages.

Much to my surprise, I saw all kinds of interesting descriptions about upcoming capabilities, and tantalizing references to a new VSTO to accompany Visual Studio 2008. However, all that chatter on blogs and forums stopped around October 2007 and never really seemed to pop back up anywhere else to where my search engine skills could lead me.

Naturally curious, and not a little frustrated, I decided to go straight to the horse's mouth and gave Mike Hernandez, the Product Manager for the whole VSTO operation, a phone call to ask him what's up. Perhaps to no one's surprise but my own, I learned that nothing is missing. In fact the VSTO environment has been completely integrated into Visual Studio 2008 -- but there's a catch. VSTO only comes integrated with the Visual Studio Professional and Visual Studio Team System (Team Suite) editions.

As I dug back into the features lists for those two products, here's what I found, though the VSTO terminology is missing:

  • For Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, the language reads, "Use Visual Studio's professional development environment to build Microsoft Office-based solutions that are reliable, scalable, and easy to maintain (available in Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition only)."
  • Microsoft Office capabilities are mentioned in passing in the Team Foundation Server description: "Team Foundation Server includes integration with the Microsoft Office system (Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Project), which provides access for business analysts and project managers using familiar applications, but mostly in the context of SharePoint Server.

Thus perhaps I'm not the only person who will be grateful to Hernandez for helping me to connect the dots and to establish that the new home for VSTO going forward is in these two different Visual Studio 2008 editions. Alas, they do cost more, but it's arguable if not obvious that lots of extra functionality, above and beyond the VSTO realm, comes along for the increase in price.

Hernandez also indicated that a whole slew of new white papers, tutorials, and examples would be forthcoming to explain the VSTO relationship with Visual Studio 2008, just as soon as they get through the Microsoft Office System Developer Conference 2008 (which was February 10-13 in San Jose) and have time to produce and refine these documents and materials for general consumption thereafter.

I am probably only one of many people who've been pondering this relationship in some form or fashion, and will join them in returning to the VSTO Developer Portal for more news on this topic later this month or early next month.

Ed Tittel is a writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security. E-mail with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review. Cool tools rule!

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