Eugene Starostin

Add-in Express 2009 – Beta 1 zero-visibility

If someone all of a sudden decides to read through whatsnew.txt from the Add-in Express 2009 distributive, they may run into a mysterious point: IMPROVED: Advanced form and view regions for Microsoft Outlook. Here is what it means.

The problem

This problem existed for a long time in the implementation of our advanced Outlook view and form regions. Suppose we have one form region containing 4 forms:

Several forms in one Outlook region

Note. What you see on this page is Outlook 2007 screenshots, but please keep in mind that we talk about all Office versions, since Add-in Express 2009 is as before 100% compatible with Office 2000, 2002, 2003 and Office 2007.

By using a barely visible button on the splitter (it turns orange when pointed by the mouse), we make the region hidden:

Outlook region splitter button

And here is the result:

Hidden Outlook region

See a slightly bulging vertical strip of 5px width on the left side of the form? A full four forms are hidden there. A double click on the strip – the region unfolds. Well, you can hover the mouse pointer over the strip, the “thing” becomes orange:

Highlighted hidden Outlook region

That’s it. Zero-visibility. And what if we place real-time data into one of the forms, so when any change happens we need to somehow point it out for the user? And nothing. Until now there has been no other solution but showing the entire form.

The solution

Like in Outlook 2007 To-Do Bar, add the Minimize button:

Outlook region Minimize button

Use it as intended:

Minimized Outlook Region

At the very moment when we need to draw the user's attention to the event without maximizing the full-size form, execute the code: MyForm.Caption = “Hey, click me!”

And voilà – the docked form header is highlighted:

Highlighted caption of the Outlook form

When the end-user clicks the highlighted caption, the form maximizes to its full size, but the region is not expanded:

Expanded Outlook Form

Once the form loses focus, it is hidden automatically. Here you will notice an evident similarity to the way this behavior is realized in the To-Do Bar and Navigation Pane in Outlook 2007. Though, we’ve made some enhancements by removing a couple of clicks in some places that, in our opinion, were excess.

The result

Now any region can be in one of three states: normal, hidden (collapsed to a 5px wide strip), minimized (reduced to the size of the built-in forms’ captions). The word combination “any region” should to be understood literally.

Around an Outlook view:

Regions around Outlook Explorer Folder view

Over the Reading Pane:

Regions around the Outlook Reading pane

At the bottom of the Navigation Pane and To-Do bar:

Outlook regions at the bottom of the Navigation pane and To-Do bar

Inside of Outlook forms:

Form regions in Outlook inspector

 That's all for today. But that’s not the half of improved Outlook view and form regions.

Post a comment

Have any questions? Ask us right now!