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Day one at Office Dev Con 2006 was full of information. On the non-technical side, the people are great, the wifi is pervasive, the food is decent and plentiful and the fabled Microsoft coolers full of pop, juice and other beverages are always magically full. Perhaps they employ gnomes or house elfs?


If I had one complaint is was distributing the Office 2007 beta 1 refresh to us via BetaPlace. We are on  day two and we still don’t have our welcome emails so we can access the builds. For me, one of the most powerful things about the conference would have been to be able to load the code on our laptops, run our apps and customizations on it and then be able to leverage being here with the Office team to provide feedback and ask questions. A simple DVD on our seats at the keynote or in our bags would have been great. I don’t know the logistics of churning out 1000 DVD's but if anyone can do it, Microsoft can. I registered on BetaPlace and filled out the survey literally minutes after getting my welcome email.


The keynote was the usual Bill Gates vision talk. I was glad to see him do a Q&A after. You wont get that at TechEd. Everyone got a chuckle when someone asked him about the Google\Writely acquisition. He announced the launch of A website dedicated to community around XML. Apparently Apple and Intel have signed up as well. Bill said it has his two favorite words: Open and XML. That brought another huge laugh. Then Kurt Delbene came up and did a deeper drill-down on all the Office System pieces. Nothing ground breaking though if you live this stuff everyday.


I spent most of my time in the sessions around the new XML format of the Office file types. As an infrastructure engineer moving to information worker, I am not yet technically skilled enough to get something out of some of the sessions that dived deep in to certain Sharepoint features. However, the information in the sessions I attended was very powerful. The new XML file format for Office delivers a lot of new functionality as well as a whole new way to interact with Office file types programmatically. If you take any document saved in the new file format (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx, etc.) and rename the extension to .zip, you can then open it up via the Windows shell and access and modify its contents. The "file" is broken up logically in to several folders that contain the XML bits that are then parsed in to the file you get in Office. However, you can take all the files out of all the folders and save them in the root and the file will function just fine once renamed back to its Office extension (eg. .docx).


The XML files are also broken up into functions  for any particular document. For example headers and footers in a Word document, comments in a PowerPoint slide deck, etc. This allows you to manually or programmatically edit parts of a file without having to wade through one large XML file. Another good example is wanting to delete all of the comments from a PowerPoint slide deck. Just delete the XML file.

Want to change the header on 500 word files? No problemo. Modify a style? Change the spacing? Change the slide master? And on and on. You get the picture.


Tomorrow is all InfoPath! And as luck would have it all the sessions  I was  really jazzed about are after my flights leaves! I guess I will have to wait for the DVD.

Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 10:05 AM | Back to top

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