Earlier this month, Microsoft released to manufacturing a couple of technologies that will be key for developers interested in writing applications that will run on top of Windows Vista and Office 2007: The .Net Framework 3.0 and Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) 2005 Second Edition (SE).
Not everyone waited for RTM (release to manufacturing) before starting to write Vista and Office 2007 apps and sites, however. There have been a few intrepid developers who’ve been using Community Technology Previews (CTPs) and beta releases to make sure they’d have Vista- and Office-2007-ready offerings right out of the chute.
I had a chance to chat with some of these in-the-trenches developers over the past few weeks to get their feedback on what’s working and what isn’t with the .Net Framework 3.0 and VSTO 2005 SE.
On the .Net FX 3.0 front, cutting-edge developers found it challenging to juggle the different CTPs of different products that were all in development at the same time. In addition, “while developers can and have been using current Visual Studio releases in building their .NET FX 3.0-centric applications, the family of tools optimized for the new framework isn't done yet,” developers told me.
Visual Studio “Orcas,” which is due out in 2007 (at latest count), is the tool suite that’s really tailored for .NET FX 3.0. “Other .NET FX 3.0-specific development tools, such as Visual Studio Designer (code-named ‘Cider’), which will complement WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), are still in testing. Microsoft has hinted that there will be other, as-yet-unannounced modeling and development tools that will be customized for specific .NET FX 3.0 subsystems, such as WCF (Windows Communication Foundation) and WF (Windows Workflow Foundation),” developers added.
"The main 'gotcha' that we've seen has been the relative lack of development tools in the ecosystem specifically ready for WPF," says Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock Corp., a Plymouth, Mich., ISV best known for its software for customizing the look and feel of Windows.
On the VSTO 2005 SE front, Microsoft also is touting 2007 as the year when Office 2007 developers will get more robust tools into which they’ll be able to sink their teeth.
As Microsoft officials have acknowledged, VSTO 2005 SE adds a lot of new and needed capabilities to VSTO, but there are still some shortcomings. For one, there still is no visual designer customized to work with the new Office 2007 features. And VSTO 2005 SE also does not support document-based add-ins for Office 2007 applications.
“I would like to see much better designer support for creating interfaces and events,” said Charles Steinhardt, CTO at Venture Architects, a New York City provider of startup-focused services. “No offense, but Microsoft is reminding me of how old I am! I feel like it’s a time warp to 1993 using Microsoft C++ and hand-coding toolbar resources. What is up with that?”
The VSTO “Orcas” release, which Microsoft expects to ship around the same time as Visual Studio Orcas, will provide many of the missing pieces that developers interested in writing Office-2007-based apps need, the Softies say.