Microsoft bundles Office System developer tools

Microsoft Corp. plans to sell a new bundle of tools for developers who create custom applications on top of Microsoft’s Office System products.

Called Visual Studio Tools for the Microsoft Office System, the bundle will include the Visual Studio tools for Office announced last December plus Access 2003 Developer Extensions, Visual Basic .Net Standard Edition and SQL Server 2000 Developer Edition, the company said Monday.

The set of tools will allow developers who use Visual Studio to create applications for Office using Visual Basic .Net and Visual C# .Net and allow Access developers to start learning Visual Basic .Net and use it to develop applications for Office, said Robert Green, lead product manager for Visual Studio at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash.

The announcement builds on the Visual Studio Tools for Office announcement in December last year. That technology announcement was limited to tools that allow developers to use Visual Studio .Net to create applications on top of Word and Excel.

Developers have been able to customize Word and Excel using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), which ships as part of Office and is the Office language that macros are written in. Examples of such customizations are expense reporting in Excel and company directories in Word.

Visual Studio .Net is Microsoft’s main developer environment. It offers more options and benefits than VBA, including better security and the ability to make use of full-featured programming languages. There is also the advantage that code created with Visual Studio can sit on a server or in some central location, while VBA code has to be part of the document, Green said.

Although Microsoft has now released packaging information for its Visual Studio Tools for Office, no pricing information is available. The product will be available through the regular channels shortly after the release of Office 2003, which is planned for the third quarter.