Saturday, November 5, 2011

Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO)-Introduction

This blog post is an extract of VSTO for Dummies. VSTO isn' t a replacement technology for Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). VSTO is a set of tools that you can use with Visual Studio to supercharge Office.
Put simply, VSTO offers tools to -
1. Build add-ins
2. Build customised documents
for Office Applications like Word and Excel.

  • Add your custom functionality to existing Office applications, via add-ins.
  • Leverage all the existing Office functionality in your applications, like
    Word document layout and Excel formulas, through communicating with
    those add-ins
  • Make documents that integrate fully with existing applications and databases
  • Use Microsoft SharePoint to increase communications between knowledge workers with add-ins and documents that communicate.

At their core, Customized Documents are document-level only, while add-ins are application-level and can apply to all documents used by that installation of Office.

Four important features are available in VSTO-
Customized Documents are regular Office documents (like an Excel spreadsheet) that have a .NET DLL associated with them that give them special powers. You can use code in the back-end of the document to fill in fields from a database, validate data, or respond to certain user requests.

If you are used to VBA, VSTO is very different from what you’re used to. It’s not script code in a macro or in a Visual Basic for Applications project. After you make a document a Customized Document, it’s a compiled project, just like a Windows application. VBA is also part of the document, while the code from a VSTO project is in a DLL linked to the document

From the programmer’s point of view, add-ins are just Windows applications that have a special home — an Office application. You can use VSTO to build add-ins, just as you could use Visual Basic 6 and other programming applications before VSTO. Add-ins have been around a long time. VSTO allows you to use managed code (for example, the .NET Framework) for the first time.

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