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Hello readers!  If you are a Foxit user, please update your reader software to the latest version ASAP.  A recent exploit was found by a security research firm and Foxit turned around an update to their reader within 24 hours.  Bravo to the Foxit team for being very agile and getting this rectified.

After some further research and discussion with the development team it was found that the ActiveX component used in the PDF Preview Handlers might also be vulnerable.  To reconcile this, Foxit has issued a patched (and updated) version of the ActiveX control for the preview handlers.  I have since patched  both the Vista and the XP versions accordingly and tested them on several Vista and XP SP2 machines accordingly.

If you are using these and have installed them PRIOR to 07-MAY-2008), please take a moment to proceed with the following:

    1. Close any instance of Outlook 2007.
    2. Uninstall any versions of the Foxit PDF Preview Handler from your system.
    3. Download the latest version of the PDF Preview Handler (Vista or XP). 
    4. Install the latest version.

Note: that the previous links have been updated with the patched versions as well just in case.

That should do it!  If you find any issues, please report them to me.  Thanks again to Foxit for being responsive and aggressive in this manner and for their support of the PDF Preview Handlers.

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If you develop Office applications, then hopefully you've seen some of the great improvements for developing Office applications using Visual Studio 2008.  I recently spoke about these at an event in Denver and demonstrated some of the capabilities.

Of the many new features in streamlining the process for creating Office applications, there are two that required some extra hoops.  Now granted they are minor, but if you are doing a lot of Open Office XML and Ribbon customization, it was a bit of a snare to always refer back to other applications and documents for reference.

Well, the Office team has released a set of Power Tools for developers.  There are many more features implemented in the power tools downloads, all detailed in the overview document available at the download.  Two that I thought were helpful utilities were being able to open an Office document (i.e., docx) in Visual Studio and see the contents of the Open Office XML format.  Here's a sample of a document I had readily available opened in VS2008:

From this view I can then double-click on any node in the document and perhaps get the document XML to manipulate on the fly for a mail merge or something else.  Helpful.

The other is for Ribbon customization.  Office allows you to use the icon base of their application if you want to provide images in your add-in for applications.  This is implemented by inputting an "ImageMso" value.  Basically a value from an enumeration of the boat-loads of icons available.  The only really good place to find the information was a random Excel document that had a macro in it to show the icons and values.  With the power tools installation you get a tools window that has them all for you:

When you select an icon, it puts it on the clipboard for you to paste into your property pane.  Sure, it would be even cooler to have this pop-up when in the property field for that value, but I'll take the baby steps here.

As I mentioned, there are other features in the power tools that were released.  There is a great overview document in that download (you can download it separate) to learn about the various add-ons available to Office developers.  Go check out the downloads to see if they will be helpful to you!

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thanks to all who came out to the denver devdays big event this week.  this was the first time i've traveled in a while since various family ailments and situations.  i had a good few days in denver with some good peeps.  thanks to beth massi for joining our developer crowd in denver.  she was awesome and had a crowd wherever she was.

i attempted to do justice to office development in one of the sessions.  one of the challenges on that topic is that 'office' now encompasses a lot of things...here's my known short list:

    • word, excel, access, outlook, onenote, infopath, powerpoint
    • smart tags
    • sharepoint
    • communicator
    • excel server
    • workflow
    • groove

so when you have an hour for a developer session, which do you pick.  i chose to pick the office client applications and demonstrate how visual studio 2008 enables writing office client applications easier than ever.  i chose this because doing office client development in the past (even with 2005) wasn't really a no-brainer.  there were still a lot of configurations as well as still some things you couldn't do.  with office 2007 and vs2008, it is a no-brainer now.  vs2008 (professional+) now comes with the office tools built-in...no more needing to download a separate client (or pay for a separate tool).

in my session i attempted to cover four key areas (only three of which we got to).  i wanted to demonstrate the UI customization features, outlook form regions, word content controls and task/action pane development.  the slides for my presentation are at the end of this post (PPT 2007 and PDF) and as promised there is an appendix in there with some information we didn't get to.  the two most important links in the slides are the ones to the Office MsoId sheet and the OfficeImageId worksheet (which you need the developer options to be enabled in Excel to see the gallery options).  get these files.  download.  save.  you'll need them.  and when you can't find them you'll need a mt. dew (or scotch or whatever your calming choice is).  don't ask me why the MsoId's are not enabled in the designers of the office components...i've asked and don't know.

the first thing we covered was the office ui customization.  vs2008 provides a new visual designer for the ribbon.  you can still do the RibbonXML if you're insane you want to.  as we demonstrated, almost everything can be accomplished in the ribbon designer.  intercepting commands (such as FileSave) is something you'd need to much with the RibbonXML for and the designer provides an 'export to ribbon xml' feature so you can do most of it visually.  vs2008 provides a great design-time experience as it provides a ribbon as the design-time experience.  most everything after that is choosing which tab (custom or built-in using one of the idMso values from the worksheet), and adding controls.

this capability enables a rapid development timeline of creating customized ui features that are familiar to your users and integrate with your own application.  i demonstrated my flickr add-in which i install on the TabInsert area of office applications:

in outlook development, vs2008 has made this easier now.  we can now extend the default outlook message class UI implementations (i.e., IPM.Contact, IPM.Appointment, etc.) through designers in visual studio.  the tool enables us to choose how we want our customizations to be as well (replacements, adjoining, etc.).  the image below is the adjoining one we created with integrating virtual earth into the contact form to pinpoint in the contact form the address of the selected contact:

when writing outlook form regions (and as we saw in all other areas as well), the development isn't 'office-ish' at all.  once you've decided where/how the form region is going to interact, now you are just writing managed code.  you can integrate with wcf services, use linq, whatever...it is the same .net framework you know and love.  the office api's are now exposed to you to interact with as well.  as an example, anything in the contact item is easily and readily accessible to the developer to use and/or alter.  the same goes for word, excel, etc.

the last area was the task/action panes.  to clarify the terms:

    • task pane: an implementation of a pane that is application-wide -- every document will be able to use the pane
    • actions pane: document-specific panes that are a part of a document/template but not installed as add-in to the global

the distinction between these two is pretty much at that level above.  there are some subtle differences, but for the most part that is the major difference you need to know.  the panes are implemented as user controls for your app/doc add-in now.  so as a developer you now have a user control surface where you can add controls, interact with the document to get values, etc.  to add your custom pane you would write code like this (using excel as an example and a task pane):

private void ThisAddIn_Startup(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
{
      CustomTaskPane ctp = this.CustomTaskPanes.Add(new UserControl1(), "Pane Title");
      ctp.Visible = true;
      ctp.Width = 250;
}

the UserControl1 would be whatever your user control representing the task pane you want to display.  remember, that each add-in has that "ThisAddIn" stub generated for you.  there can be multiple task panes for an app/document.  so if you need more you can go nuts.  but i'd be sure you take into account the user experience and ensure that you aren't crowding the main focus of the functionality (the document) for the user.  panes are dockable through the DockPosition property.  if i wanted my pane to be docked on the bottom i could use:

ctp.DockPosition = Microsoft.Office.Core.MsoCTPDockPosition.msoCTPDockPositionBottom;

but one thing to keep in mind is other properties.  for example, if i added the line above to my initial code and had the width property, i'd get an exception.  i'm trying to set a width when a bottom-docked item fills the user's width -- no can do.  of course i should probably implement better checking and simply handle that scenario.

the action panes are no different (other than how they are added is via a different class instead of CustomTaskPane) and simply are scoped to the document.  both are implemented as user controls and you can put windows controls on there and interact in code however you want.  in fact we demonstrated how we could implement XAML into a task pane.  here's a screen shot of the task pane with a XAML rectangle (which animates, but hey, it's a screenshot) and an embedded media element of a video.  you could think of documents that might be handbooks/trainings and include video with it so as the reader (or form-filler-outer) is looking at the document they might get live help via video:

i didn't get to the word content controls in my session, apologies.  we also didn't talk about sharepoint development, etc.  i think you could spend a whole time on that.  you tell me, what concerns you about sharepoint development?

i mentioned a few developer tips as well that i'll emit here:

    • remember 'Globals'
    • create a stub mail profile (control panel -- Mail) so when writing outlook applications you aren't constantly trying to connect with a real mail system.
    • click the 'office circle' and go to application options, add-ins, manage com add-ins to remove/clean up your developer litter

here are the slide decks: PPT 2007 and PDF

i hope that those who attended learned at least one thing new.  some of my demos weren't cooperating despite me staying up until 3am doing them three times.  such is life.  thanks again to those who came.  be sure to check out beth's post as she used VB XML literals to leverage Office Open XML to write a mail merge in XML code which generate word documents...it was pretty slick.

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miss the days of devdays?  me too.  my team is trying to bring a little of that spark back!  on my team has organized a full-day of developer and architect goodness.  we'll be hosting two events, one in the phoenix, arizona metro area and one in the denver, colorado metro area.  here's the gist:

keynote: microsoft patterns and practices is being shipped in to talk about what they've produced and the logic behind it!

developer track:

    • exposing and consuming data using the microsoft stack (): take a look at the ado.net entity framework, linq and the ado.net data services (project 'astoria').
    • office as a developer platform (tim heuer): didn't know you could easily write office applications using managed code?  let me show you how easy it is and what visual studio 2008 has done to enable this and make it even easier.
    • what is new in visual basic 9 (): that's right.  beth massi -- if you are a vb'er, you've no doubt heard the name from the vb team.  we convinced her that she needed to be a part of this and she agreed!  come learn from beth all the new goodness that is VB9: xml literals, object initializers, anonymous types, extension methods, lambda expressions and some wicked intellisense improvements!

architect track:

    • why user experience matters: face it, developers are not good at defining user interfaces and thus it is often an aspect that is left out.  let's discuss the reason this needs to change and how attention to the user experience affects application adoption.
    • agile development at microsoft: the team from patterns and practices will discuss how they have fully adopted agile methods in their development team and their learnings over the years.
    • the Windows Live platform: think windows live is just virtual earth?  think again!  come hear about the services available to you as service-based building blocks that microsoft has exposed for your use!

this is going to be a great day and a must-see event.  it is completely free to attend.  come hang out with us.  we will also have a couple of surprises throughout the day and some fun stuff to show as well.

register for your event today:

PHOENIX 29 JAN REGISTER HERE

DENVER 31 JAN REGISTER HERE

do not miss out on this opportunity to hear from some locals as well as some people we are dragging out from redmond and the product teams!

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one of my favorite network shows is 'the office' (other than that i think the reality shows suck.  damages (on fx network) season finale was pretty decent by the way, not great, but decent.

anywhoo... it seems second life is making it's way all over the entertainment world.  apparently csi:ny had second life on it and then on the latest episode of 'the office' my favorite character (other than creed), dwight shrute, pursues second life.  in his words:

"second life is not a game...it doesn't have points, scores, it doesn't have winners or losers." (jim: 'oh it has losers')

dwight then goes on to say:

"i signed up for second life about a year ago.  back then my life was so great that i literally wanted a second one.  in my second life i was also a paper salesman, and was also named dwight. absolutely everything was the same...except i could fly."

the show is hilarous...you can watch it on nbc.com for free after 2PM tomorrow apparently (i love how networks are doing this now).  later in the show dwight's world is discovered where he has acquired land in second life and called it "second second life."

brilliant.