BP309: Extreme Integration - Techniques for Advanced Integration of Office and OpenOffice with IBM Lotus Notes and Domino

January 25 2006

My session is over, and I think it was one of my best ever. I showed a Word solution, built once with COM and a second time with Web Services. Same result, completely different technologies. I showed how Excel can consume XML from a Domino agent. I displayed how a WinForm application, built in Visual Studio.NET can work with the same data via a web service. I then moved on to show how VSTO has issues (anyone from Microsoft want to help fix it?). I also showed mail merge with OpenOffice Writer and the Notes Personal Address Book. Last, I introduced my soon to be released OpenNTF.org project which will allow Office and OpenOffice templates to be pushed to users.

When I do this session, I typically fill the room and the overflow rooms. This year, they gave me the biggest room at the Swan. It was filled and people were on the floor. But no one was in an overflow room. I hate overflows. You hear the speaker and see the slides, but you do not see the speaker. So I am very glad that we got everyone in the room.

Rob McDonagh, or as we know him as Captain Oblivious, live blogged from the session. Yes, I did give Microsoft props for VS.NET. It rocks.

Live blogging. Because, well, I can. So there.

John Head's doing his usual magic with integrating Notes/Domino with office productivity tools. Starting with COM/OLE and working up to XML, Web Services, and Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO).

The COM stuff shouldn't be news to many people, and there are plenty of examples available, but there are issues (needs the Notes client, requires in depth knowledge of Notes/Domino data structures and object model).

Web Services have advantages over COM in terms of interoperability (and there's no need for a Notes client), but there are also issues in this area (it's a different sort of development than most Notes developers have done, and the performance of Web Services handling large amounts of data is even worse than COM/OLE performance). Office 2003 has some handy XML support, with Excel importing well formed XML and neatly arranging the date into the right columns, leading into an Excel chart generated with basically no code.

John just gave Micro$oft props for Visual Studio.NET, which truly is a killer IDE. Yeah, M$ has a product or two that's worth using. Note for the technically impaired: you will never hear me include Exchange or Sharepoint in that list. VSTO, by the way, could conveivably be similarly useful, but there is a minor problem: it doesn't appear to work yet. I know, it's shocking that our friends in Redmond released something that wasn't fully baked.

OpenOffice - John's showing the OpenOffice mail merge and there's code in the demos to generate PDFs as well. The idea of dumping Office is pretty appealing. In my case, I have a bunch of users who don't even have Office licenses because of the cost. We give them the free viewers from M$, which are useful as long as the users never need to create, you know, that crazy content stuff. So giving them OpenOffice would make them much more productive. Not the main focus of the session, but worth bearing in mind.

Ultimately, there are many different ways to get to the end result. This session walked us through several ways to make your Notes environment "play nice" with your office productivity suite. Basically, it's all about expanding our toolkits and being able to solve the various problems with the right tool at the right time.

Thanks for the comments and everyone who came.

Slides: BP309 Slides.zip
Demo Files: BP309Samples.zip

Updated 1/27 with the urls to the slides and demo files