Microsoft offers dev tool beta for 2007 Office system

Microsoft this week released a beta version of Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the 2007 Microsoft Office System, enabling developers to leverage new features in the upcoming Office package.

The official name of the beta release is the Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office Second Edition Beta; the product is being referred to as a second edition because the existing edition works with Office 2003.

Previously code-named "Cypress," the beta serves as an add-in for Visual Studio available for free to all Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition and Visual Studio Tools for Office 2005 users. The Cypress beta is being unveiled in coordination with a refresh of the beta for the 2007 Office System.

"VSTO 2005 SE (Visual Studio Tools for Office 2005 Second Edition) gives developers the power to take advantage of the 2007 Office System as a development platform and create scalable Office-based solutions," said KD Hallman, general manager, Visual Studio Tools for the Microsoft Office System, in her blog.

Developers using the beta get add-in support for building Office applications that leverage Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Visio and InfoPath as well as support for 2007 Office System features. Inclusion of PowerPoint and Visio is new in this release. A developer, for example, could build an application that leverages database information to create a chart in Visio, said Jaye Roxe, group product manager for Visual Studio.

Other features in the beta release include runtime support for the Ribbon UI, custom task panes and InfoPath regions. The Ribbon UI in 2007 Office System replaces the current system of layered menus, toolbars, and task panes with a simpler system of interfaces, according to Microsoft. The interfaces are optimized for efficiency and discoverability.

The general release of Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the 2007 Office System is expected to coincide with the release of the 2007 Office System itself at the end of this year.

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