VSTO in Visual Studio 2010

I am just trying to put my hands into VSTO in VS 2010. This is just an overview of that based on Saurabh Bhatia`s PDC Presentation. Some important points are briefly discussed in this post. Have a look.

One of the biggest hurdles with VSTO is deployment.

As you probably know, the pre-requisites for running a VSTO app (even of the simplest Hello World variety) include:

  • .NET Framework 3.5
  • Primary Interop Assemblies (PIAs)
  • VSTO Runtime
  • (Plus Office of course)

Now, packaging these isn’t the issue, since the Visual Studio team have worked hard to make the ClickOnce process a simple and seamless experience. The issue is the size of the download, plus requiring Admin privileges on the box you are installing on. For developers like you and me this doesn’t sound like much of a problem, but for an IT Manager in charge of rolling a simple VSTO app out across an enterprise this can be a significant headache (although Group policy can solve some of this).

And it doesn’t stop there, because if you have a number of VSTO add-ins going out, each of them needs to be installed separately. Finally there’s limitations with how to control post-install events (Eg copying Word or Excel templates into the proper locations).

The VSTO team have been focusing on deployment and security issues over the last 2 releases, and in the VS2008 release they made significant improvements. The recent SP1 for .NET 3.5 further eased the process.

But, it’s a process that still needs improvement.

Visual Studio 2010Visual Studio 2010

So, it’s good to see that the team are making excellent progress in VS2010. As the recent PDC presentation from Saurabh Bhatia demonstrated (PowerPoint file here), there’s already key functionality increases.

[UPDATE: Removed the embedded presentation as it was preloading and sucking bandwidth – click here to view]

The main points covered are:

  • Multi-project deployment (eg install an Outlook add-in, Excel add-in and Word add-in all at once)
  • Post deployment custom actions (eg moving files to user directories, deleting files during uninstall)
  • No-PIA installs (no need to include the PIAs – achieved via Type Embedding – a feature in CLR 4.0

This is welcome news to VSTO developers (actually probably more so for IT Managers). The pre-requisites are now down to the .NET Framework and the VSTO Runtime, and complex VSTO applications can be installed with a single install and enabled to configure itself.

It’d be so much simpler if the VSTO Runtime was automatically installed with Office or the Framework, but as we know, Microsoft are trying to reduce install sizes these days not add to them. Deployment will always have its pain points – good to see the team are getting close to an acceptable compromise.

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Extended Online Support for VSTO Developers

Happy to tell you that Microsoft has recently revamped the VSTO online learning center. The site provides information and knowledge about VSTO and how to use it to develop Excel, Word and Outlook solutions and also how to deploy the solutions. From my point of view it’s welcoming as I know that many developers are interested in VSTO but lack the basic information and knowledge about VSTO. Considerably, there are very less resources on VSTO on the Internet too. Hope this helps the programmers who are enthusiastic to work with VSTO.

The startpage is available at Office Development with Visual Studio.

The Excel section can be accessed directly via Outlook Solutions with Visual Studio

Perhaps these pages can make VSTO more understandable (and also get a better reputation) in the Excel Development Community? After all, knowledge is the key to all new areas.

Tech War by Hyderabad Techies

Hyderabad Techies is going to conduct “TECH WAR” – non-stop online technical sessions, continuously for 48 hours from 19th to 21st December 2009. This event will start at 2 pm on 19th Dec and end at 2 pm on 21st Dec.

There are many sessions on various technical topics ranging from rudimentary concepts to cutting-edge features of .NET and other Microsoft technologies targeting no-voice to expert levels of audience. Speakers from different countries are going to deliver sessions here. Its noteworthy to tell that Abhishek Kanth is going to deliver the Key Note for the Event.

More Details @ www.hyderabadtechies.info/index.php/world-record-sessions-by-us

Hope to meet you in the Event.

Namaste!