Office 2007

I regularly sync my Windows Mobile phone with Outlook 2007 using ActiveSync/Vista Sync Center. I don't know what causes this, but every so often I end up with duplicate contacts and calendar items. This happens especially with recurring items like birthdays. If I am not quick enough to remove the duplicates, I end up with 2, 4 or even 8 of them!

In the past I have used the Duplicates Remover for Outlook from MAPILab for this. I used the trial edition that works for 30-days. It is limited to removing 10 items at a time, so I had to run it multiple times. I didn't use it often enough to shell out the $24/€19 to buy it.

Today I tried version 2.5.2 of this Outlook add-in. It has a wizard-like interface that is easy to use. I got my contact list and calendar cleaned up again.

[Full disclosure: By writing this review I am eligible for a free license for this Outlook add-in. This does not effect my opinion about this tool. Obviously, if I wouldn't find it useful, I wouldn't want to have a license.]

Roughly a year ago I wrote a post titled "Microsoft Office and the CLR don't get along?". But parts of the Office team do use the Common Language Runtime (i.e., .NET technology). They even use Windows Presentation Foundation!

Through Tim Sneath's blog I found a preview of a tool called the Calendar Printing Assistant for Outlook 2007. It works with Outlook 2007 Beta 2 and it requires Beta 2 of the WinFX Runtime Components (now known as .NET Framework 3.0). Fortunately I still have Beta 2 of WinFX on my home machine so I could check out this tool. Installing it takes some time since the installer NGENs the assemblies. After that the application runs quite smoothly.

The application is one of the few applications released so far by Microsoft that uses the Windows Presentation Foundation. Check out Tim's blog entry for a screenshot.

The application has a "Publish as XPS" menu item. I wonder if Adobe will force Microsoft to remove this feature here as well. That would be shame, since XPS fits WPF like a glove: XPS is a subset of XAML for WPF.

Unlike Microsoft Expression Interactive Designer, the Calender Printing Assistant uses HWND interop quite heavily. So its user interface uses Win32 in combination with WPF. You can see this if you dig in using the Microsoft Spy++ tool, which can be found in the "Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 | Visual Studio Tools" folder in the Start menu.

You can see the WPF parts of the window as HwndWrapper[CPAO.EXE;;GUID] window classes.

I have attached a sample (zipped) XPS file for my agenda on August 17, 2006 to this post. You can view it if you have the .NET Framework 3.0 installed.

Microsoft’s Brian Jones has an excellent blog post explaining the reasons behind opening up the Office file formats through the standardization of the so-called Office Open XML Formats. These formats are described extensively in a 4000 page document. This document is work in progress for the ECMA standardization committee.

Brian also argues pretty well why Microsoft decided to create its own XML formats and decided not to use the Open Document Format. Microsoft wanted 100% fidelity in saving all the features of its Word, PowerPoint and Excel applications as XML. There are also performance reasons for keeping the XML tag names short.

Also of interest is the beta of the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats. This add-on for Office XP and Office 2003 allows you to use those older versions to create new documents and open, edit and save documents in the new file formats.

Okay, so I had to cheat a bit on my first entry that I published from Word 2007. I got a publishing error at first. Digging in at the HTTP traffic with the Fiddler HTTP Debugging Proxy, I discovered that this was due to a compatibility problem in formatting the creation date time between Word 2007 and the MetaWeblogAPI running at bloggingabout.net.

Fiddler is a powerful tool that allows you to resend HTTP requests (even POSTs) after fiddling with them. After I changed the date time format from 2006-05-23T19:18:28Z to 20060523T19:18:28, the MetaWeblogAPI accepted my blog post. I found the correct format in this MSDN article.

I am really glad to get all the features of Word back when composing a blog entry, like grammar and spell checking. Previously I started out in Word but had to do a lot of tweaking when pasting the entry into the FCKeditor HTML editor control on bloggingabout.net.

Also very cool is that you can open previous blog posts from within Word by using the “Open Existing” feature.

Below you can see what the first blog entry looked like after I republished it. BTW, I didn’t have to fiddle with the HTTP traffic on republishing. I did notice that the post wasn’t syndicated on the main feed by default, so I had to enable this option through the web site after publishing.

The release of Windows Vista Beta 2 was indeed imminent. The beta 2 wave has hit! Microsoft simultaneously released the beta 2 of Windows Vista, "Longhorn" Server, WinFX and Office 2007.

Build 5384 of Windows Vista and "Longhorn" Server can be downloaded if you have an MSDN Subscription. The MSDN Subscriber Download Center has been fully geared up for the Windows Vista downloads. I am seeing download speeds > 500 kB/s. At that rate the 3200 MB download for Windows Vista Beta 2 should take me about 1.5 hours.

The WinFX related components can be downloaded by everyone. They also run on Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 SP1.

The Office System 2007 can be download from here. You have to register with a Microsoft PassportWindows Live ID. After that you can download the SmartSource for Microsoft Office Downloads application. It's a download manager to download separate client and server components of Office 2007.

This is a screenshot of the SmartSource for Microsoft Office Downloads application:
Screenshot of the SmartSource for Microsoft Office Downloads application that is required for downloading Office 2007.

Yesterday I managed to get Outlook "12" running. I had some trouble in getting it installed earlier. The new version is very unstable on my machine. It repeatedly crashed on closing. After a couple of crashes a new application showed up: Microsoft Office Diagnostics. It offered to check my machine for possible problems. This is what is looked like:

Screenshot of Microsoft Office Diagnostics

It reported two conflicting versions of Outlook. That was a bit strange, because I had only one other Outlook version installed. Outlook 2003 was no longer able to download mail. Also ActiveSync was no longer able to synchronize calendar items and contacts with my PocketPC. So Outlook "12" had to go.

After deinstalling Outlook "12", Outlook 2003 auto-repaired on start up and is working fine again. Phew...

1 Comment

Better late than never, but today the DVD with Beta 1 of Office "12" that was promised at PDC05 arrived.

I decided not to go with the default "upgrade" option, because that removes all Office 2003 components. Installing side-by-side went pretty smooth. The installation stalls at about 90% in the progress bar, so it has the usual Microsoft  Progress Bar Syndrome. That's okay because I am used to it 😉

The only strange thing was that Outlook was selected to be installed at the top level in the list of install options. But it wasn't present after installation. I reran setup and manually selected the main Outlook "12" components. After that the version 12 binaries were present. But this new Outlook version quits on startup after complaining that MAPI cannot load mspst.dll. I guess Outlook doesn't support running side-by-side with an older version. Too bad, I like living on the edge, but handing over my PSTs to a beta 1 version is a bit over the edge for me.

Since the PDC I have been reading the blog of Jensen Harris. He tells a lot about the history of Office and where the product suite is going. It's amazing how much usability work has gone into Office "12" and how refreshing the new UI is. I am hooked already!