Preface

The target audience for Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) is the "professional developer." This term has several meanings, but the most agreed-upon definition we've heard is "someone who gets paid to write code." In other words, it's his or her primary job. It's not the departmental developer—say, an accountant who writes Excel macros as part of his accounting tasks or an office worker who customizes Word to increase her productivity. Instead, it is the .NET developer who might be interested in using Microsoft Office as a development platform.

We believe that the traditional Office developer is also interested in VSTO. Before joining Microsoft, both of us worked as VBA developers, customizing Office applications, and we were very much interested in learning about managed code. We don't think we were unique in that respect. There are millions of VBA developers, and many of them are interested in learning about this next generation of Office development. Current books and documentation for VSTO typically are not written with VBA developers in mind; it's assumed that the developer is familiar with Visual Studio, object-oriented programming, and the .NET Framework. The focus is (understandably) more on the features of VSTO and how to work with the hefty Office object models.

We wanted to write a book for VBA developers. Although you might not be familiar with .NET programming, you have one important advantage: knowledge of the Office object models. As an Office developer, you most likely have power-user knowledge of the Office application and a lot of experience in manipulating the Office object models. We can't think of a better environment for learning about managed code than in the context of something you are already familiar with: Office development.

VSTO brings Office development to the .NET world, and it has both disadvantages and advantages compared with VBA. You can do some amazing things to customize Word, Excel, and Outlook using VSTO—for example, creating a customized task pane, adding smart tags to a document, and binding objects on a document to a data source. With VSTO 2005 SE, you can create add-ins for six Office applications, customize the new Ribbon feature of the 2007 Microsoft Office system, and create application-level custom task panes.

We've had the advantage of working with the folks who designed, coded, tested, and documented VSTO, and we have learned a great deal from all of them. We've had an insider view of VSTO, and we hope to convey that information to you in an understandable and enjoyable manner.

—Kathleen McGrath

—Paul Stubbs

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