Eugene Starostin

Visual Studio 2010, Office 2010 and Add-in Express 2010

Add-in Express™ 2010
for Microsoft® Office

Every time when I set about to write on some topic like this, I am torn by internal strife – whether to develop a theme in such a major-marketing tone, so characteristic of bravura press-releases that have already flooded most of component vendors’ web-sites , or simply publish a post on the blog. To tell you the truth, recently my developer’s nature has always got the upper hand, and I opted again for a blog post rather than a press-release page (well, I am a programmer and has always been… what a poor marketer I am :)

So, our today’s topic is Add-in Express for Office, Generation 2010. Some kind of news from the fields and answers to typical questions…

The upcoming beta 1 – March, 2010

On the floor below my office, the work is humming. Now and then it seems to me that I can really hear the tension radiated by our core developers. They are working on beta 1 that was announced in my previous post. I assume they are a week or two late with the release, but I do not tell them I understood this a couple of weeks ago. I am pretty sure that none of them will ever know that I wrote about it here due to their stirring life ;) Even if I make the entire web-site studded with a bright banner linking to this post, hardly any of them will find time to read to the second paragraph of my post. Nevertheless, beta 1 will appear in March. As promised…

Why isn’t it a release, but just beta?

The answer is simple. For obvious reasons, we are oriented towards the public release of Office 2010 rather than Visual Studio 2010 release. And we will barely be able to develop a stable and quality product until Office itself is at the beta-testing stage. So, it will be just beta for now…

What is included?

Even at this stage I can give a rather detailed description of what exactly will be included our beta 1:

Firstly, and it’s quite naturally, there will be complete support for Visual Studio 2010. From my observations, only great aficionados of Delphi can stick with the same Delphi versions for years, version that was released about a ten years ago (for example, on Delphi 7). Most of Visual Studio developers are not so sluggish, and may be because of this they are more willing to upgrade their Studios from version to version. On the other hand, it must be admitted that nearly every second version of Visual Studio offers quite significant improvements, while Delphi… ouch, let’s drop the policy ;-) By the way… using VS 2005 and Add-in Express 2010, you can create pretty well add-ins for all Office versions, including Office 2010.

Secondly, we added the new msi-based web-enabled deployment (in one of the recent newsletters I jokingly called it ClickTwice :) In principle, we’ve already included it in Add-in Express 2010 for IE, but the whole thing is a bit simpler there. The main task of this technology is to speed up deployment.

Thirdly, beta 1 will support all new features of Office 2010. This is the updated Ribbon UI (including Publisher, Project, Visio and InfoPath), and new context menus, huge and because of this very sophisticated BackStage View, and arguable Fast Outlook Shutdown process, and far-fetched Outlook Solution Module.

Fourthly, (though, it should be firstly), there will be some minor improvements in Add-in Express itself. For example, it will become possible to control the state of the Outlook view and form regions programmatically (normal, minimized, hidden) at last. Plus, we will do away with the limitation in the number of Ribbon-specific components – you will be able to keep your entire RibbonUI for all applications supported by your add-ins in one module. Some components can be temporarily disabled, other enabled and this will add flexibility to those add-ins that create a control-rich GUI for several host apps at once.

Fifthly, there will be added support for Office x86 and x64.

Sixthly, we had to add an extra “super-specific” code for Office 2003 and 2007 (as well as for Office 2010). The reason is simple and its name is Outlook Social Connector. Of course, it’s very flattering for us that Microsoft guys began using the same techniques of embedding into Outlook windows as we employ in our regions, but they haven’t learnt to use them correctly yet. And this is really very strange, strange for two reasons. Firstly, it is bizarre that they fell short of capabilities of their standard regions (yes, you and we have never surmised this ;) Secondly, it is weird that the Windows API became so fierce weapon at the hands of those who actually invented it :) That was the reason why we had to resort to some tricks that let us coexist with that Connector. But! Because of the above reasons, some changes may occur in the behavior of our regions. The complete list of these changes will be available after publishing beta 1 (this code is still in progress).

Well, finally, in beta 1 we will fix a score or two of bugs, which we accumulated in our bug-basins. Some of them turned out to be hard nuts to crack, though hardly reproducible. However, we will certainly add some new bugs, as accepted among all developers living on the globe (would somebody make bold to say that there’s software without bugs? ;)

Nonetheless, all the above is not the main thing. Of course, I should amaze the reader with support for all major Office suites, starting from OpenOffice (it’s a bit of a dll-hell there) and up to Office 2008 for Mac (welcome to AppleScript-hell :). But the time has not come for it yet, though the name of the game is worth mentioning. So, the name of the game is

100% compatibility

Year in year out, starting from the very first version of Add-in Express we’ve been trying to comply with the simple rule – a project built on the prior version of Add-in Express should be 100% compatible with the next Add-in Express version at the source code level. This means that upon installing the new version of Add-in Express, any developer merely opens their project, rebuild it and… that’s it!

Naturally, here we, firstly, are limited by the compatibility of IDE versions (for example, try to open in VS2008 a project created in VS 2003). Secondly, the Office extensibility itself undergoes changes (here we recall a dramatic implementation of the Ribbon UI :). But, what is the most important, nobody ever had to change anything in the existing source code in the part concerning Add-in Express. Yes, you had to add support for the Ribbon UI. Yes, you had to replace the loader with a newer one (now, all the more so because there are two of them: 32-bit and 64-bit). Yes, now you _will have_ to add 2010-specific features (nobody but you will be able to create your tasks for the backstage view). But none of you will have to make any changes in the code that already works in older Add-in Express versions and for older Office versions.

Summing up: Add-in Express 2010 will still be 100% compatible with all available Office versions, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2010.

What editions will beta 1 be available for?

In March, 2010 beta 1 is going to be published for 2 editions of Add-in Express for Office – .net and VCL. The VSTO edition will be published much later.

Who does beta 1 address?

I could write it like this – all persons concerned. But I’d particularly point out those developers, whose customers have already started to inquire about the compatibility of their add-ins with Office 2010. Don’t lose your customers because of late support for Office 2010. To all appearance, this version is going to be much more popular than the previous one, especially among large corporations that have preferred Office 2003 so far. Surely, an evident trend of switching from Windows XP to Windows 7 will be complemented by upgrading from Office 2003 to Office 2010.

Have more questions?

Just ask them in comments to this post or use the feedback form on my personal page, I will answer asap…

8 Comments

  • https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/0b726f84b521d43e352c96a4a4f5f376?s=32&d=https%3A%2F%2Fsecure.gravatar.com%2Favatar%2Fad516503a11cd5ca435acc9bb6523536%3Fs%3D32&r=G Dennis Wallentin says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for an interesting article about the next versions. What I highly appreach is the compatibility between versions as it save a significant number of hours.

    Because we will face a scenario where both 32-bit and 64-bit version of Excel will be used within corporates it rase a question how Add-in Express .NET/VSTO will handle projects; will we be able to develop solutions in one project for both versions as well having to setups projects in one? The alternative is to work with two solutions side-by-side which is always a less good situation.

    Any clients that will rush into 64-bit may put them in a less good position. For instance interacting with MDBs (i.e. “Access” databasaes) on a 64-bit platform will require a 64-bit driver. At present it’s not available. My point is that it will be better for us all if we all move slowly to the 64-bit.

    Yes, I agree that corporates may move to Office 2010 from the 2003 versions. All inidications among my clients point to that direction as it fit in to their LCC-models. The same can probably be said about moving from XP to Windows 7.

    Anyway, keep up the good work!

    Kind regards,
    Dennis gards,
    Dennis

  • https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/359eb842254a7b7d7498cfb16dc2a4c8?s=32&d=https%3A%2F%2Fsecure.gravatar.com%2Favatar%2Fad516503a11cd5ca435acc9bb6523536%3Fs%3D32&r=G Eugene Starostin says:

    Hello Dennis,

    Glad to hear from you :-)

    We gave a dry run to development and deployment on our Add-in Express for IE (there are also two versions of IE, 32- and 64-bit) – one project and one setup project. The latter includes two loaders (32-bit and 64-bit) and installs / registers your add-in automatically depending on installed Office. As for the add-in project, it is compiled for any CPU. So, the only thing you need to do is to write bit-neutral code if you use WinAPI tricks or the like (the core of Add-in Express is redesigned bit-neutral).

  • https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/0b726f84b521d43e352c96a4a4f5f376?s=32&d=https%3A%2F%2Fsecure.gravatar.com%2Favatar%2Fad516503a11cd5ca435acc9bb6523536%3Fs%3D32&r=G Dennis Wallentin says:

    Eugene,

    I hope things are well with just like it is with me :)

    That looks like an excellent solution to me so I’m really looking forward to use the next version.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  • https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/f0b0c24e14767541f059da7d25f7b657?s=32&d=https%3A%2F%2Fsecure.gravatar.com%2Favatar%2Fad516503a11cd5ca435acc9bb6523536%3Fs%3D32&r=G John West says:

    Will Office 2010 allow you to instal Excel x32 and Excel x64 side-by-side? If so, will ADX install both versions of the addin?

  • https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/359eb842254a7b7d7498cfb16dc2a4c8?s=32&d=https%3A%2F%2Fsecure.gravatar.com%2Favatar%2Fad516503a11cd5ca435acc9bb6523536%3Fs%3D32&r=G Eugene Starostin says:

    John,

    No, you can install only one Office version. By MS design. So, Add-in Express will install your add-in for installed Office :)

    BTW. On TechNet there is an interesting post about Office 2010 x64 – http://blogs.technet.com/office2010/archive/2010/02/23/understanding-64-bit-office.aspx

  • https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/491362e1150c585328c52583576abeaa?s=32&d=https%3A%2F%2Fsecure.gravatar.com%2Favatar%2Fad516503a11cd5ca435acc9bb6523536%3Fs%3D32&r=G Aaron says:

    Eugene,

    You mention above that the “The VSTO edition will be published much later”. The Roadmap says this will be in April. Can you please confirm that this WILL be the case, as this is what we use for our Products.

    Thanks,

    Aaron.

  • https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/359eb842254a7b7d7498cfb16dc2a4c8?s=32&d=https%3A%2F%2Fsecure.gravatar.com%2Favatar%2Fad516503a11cd5ca435acc9bb6523536%3Fs%3D32&r=G Eugene Starostin says:

    Aaron,

    I cannot give you a 100% guarantee for VSTO. In addition to VS 2010 and Office 2010 problems, there are some critical issues in VSTO itself. So, we are waiting for Office and VSTO RTMs to see what we can finally get of it. This is the reason why the stand-alone .net and vcl editions will be released earlier.

  • https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/17606088c0b90dbc1bbbef225e6ff1f0?s=32&d=https%3A%2F%2Fsecure.gravatar.com%2Favatar%2Fad516503a11cd5ca435acc9bb6523536%3Fs%3D32&r=G Ryan Farley says:

    Excellent stuff. Really looking forward to ADX 2010.

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