Eric Richards' place of techno (as in technology) happiness, rants, and corporate love.

Browsing Posts published in February, 2006

Joe Wilcox, over at the Microsoft Monitor blog in the post Microsoft Monitor: What is Life Changing?, makes the following observation (bold mine):

Microsoft has a history of releasing products that sometimes are hard to categorize or to explain. Outlook combined e-mail, calendaring, contacts and forms, something totally new in 1996. And the approach made Outlook difficult to describe. How about InfoPath? People still don’t really understand what it is. There’s a presumption that somehow InfoPath is a forms product. Well, yes, but absolutely no.

Looks like we’ve got some work to do.

Hey, guess what’s new with Wired 14.03: Wired Magazine Issue 14.03?

Well, you’re not going to be able to tell online. What’s new is that there’s a lot less to Wired magazine now, physically. And I’m not talking about a lack of bloat from all of the Web 2.0 companies advertising.

No… it’s smaller this way: (from the end of rants + raves): “The magazine you’re holding is a smidge smaller than previous issues – we took an inch off the side, to be exact.”

Wha!?! Sometimes an inch is a smidge, and sometimes it’s not. Sigh. First they kick-out their patron saint and his monthly quotes, lose the whacky styling, and now they get smaller.

I’ve been reading Wired since the very first issue. I guess I don’t deal with change well.

As pointed to off of Dare’s blog: Simon Willison: Yahoo! UI JavaScript treats continues to show that HTML is all new again. By doing some old stuff.

Thank goodness for Firefox. Once Firefox / Mozilla decided that the XMLHttpRequest object was a good idea (thank you, AlexHop) a new level of buzzy innovation got kicked off.

On my to-do list:

  • Try out Yahoo’s stuff.
  • Try out Atlas.
  • Do some mash-ups with Live Local and Google Maps.
  • Maybe even upgrade my server here to .Net 2.0 (but then hopefully not have to starting buying a whole new series of books).

I recently purchased a Dell Axim 51v running Windows Mobile 5.0.

It hasn’t exactly been a breathless love affair.

I am disappointed at a number of issues still present by default in the PocketPC OS. I had one of the very first Jornada’s. Then a later Jornada. Then I stopped buying from HP after they ditched the Jornada and decided only iPaqs would be upgradeable to the next OS.

I think I’ll need to try out Magic Button from to deal with one thing that continues to burn my bisquits: most default WM apps don’t provide you with a “Quit” option. I don’t want to keep all those programs running, hogging up resources. I want them to close. So Dell ships the earnest but buggy task-switcher. It sometimes stops working and it’s on my suspect list of causing some recent problems requiring a soft-reboot (man, I reboot this thing way too much).

So I’ll try the little magic button as a way to help those lingering apps exit and move on, but I really wish I didn’t need it in the first place.

A review of the O’Reilly hacks books from The Financial Express: It’s time to hone your hacking skills, legally

As much as I’d like to, I’m not buying the O’Reilly hacks books.

I recently looked through two of the hack titles: Mapping Hacks and Google Maps Hacks (I’m interested in learning more about mapping technology so that I can write a GPS app for my Windows Mobile device).

To be in a neutral territory, most of the hack titles that involve code have decided to work mostly with Linux-based software, some of which might work for Windows (e.g., some perl scripts might just run).

Or sometimes they use Java.

And of course, this is completely within O’Reilly’s right to decide on what technology to use as the foundation of their titles. I first used O’Reilly titles when I was an X11 Windows System widget-based GUI guy. Loved them books.

But now the cash in my pocket stays where it is more often then not when I’m flipping through the latest O’Reilly book. I can’t use it and life is getting so incredibly complex that I no longer engage in the joy of porting code from one platform to work on another. I think that O’Reilly is missing out.

And as soon as another publisher brings out quality work that I can use in my world of Windows and IE, the cash is going to spring right out of my pocket and into their pocket.

Are you ready for a deep sneak peak at InfoPath 2007′s new level of integration with Outlook? Here you go: InfoPath 12 – Tudor Toma : Using InfoPath e-mail forms

The current version of InfoPath allows you to send your form via email. What you get is an HTML version of the form and the XML as an attachment. You can then open that attachment up in InfoPath and go from there.

That’s a fine experience, but it’s sort of a disconnected. Good, but with lots of room to grow.

Thanks to a lot of good thinking, we’ve integrated InfoPath forms into Outlook to where it’s a first class Outlook item. When you receive an InfoPath email form and open it, it opens directly in InfoPath. Any changes you make can be saved back to the original item.

And the biggest, greatest, get-ready-to-pick-up-your-socks-coz-I’m-about-to-knock-them-clear-off feature is InfoPath folders: you can create an InfoPath folder associated with a particular form, set-up a rule to route forms of that type into the folder, and then promote columns out of the XML forms into your Outlook folder view.

Have you tried InfoPath on SharePoint? You can promote properties (fields) out of your form design into column on SharePoint to get a quick view into the data (or to sort columns or such based on the data).

That same promotion information is now used by Outlook to promote values from each form into an Outlook column. Once promoted, too, you can unleash the power of Outlook to do further manipulation.

It’s like having your very own SharePoint folder inside of Outlook to do with as you like… online, offline, whatever.

Plus we’ve made it easy to fill-out InfoPath forms while you’re inside of Outlook by writing a smaller version of the InfoPath “fill-out-a-form” dashboard inside of Outlook.

One last thing to call out: analysis. You can select a bunch of InfoPath forms, either as regular items or items in an InfoPath folder, and export them to Excel. You can also take that selection and merge the forms together into a single InfoPath file.

Oh, and one last last thing to call out, too: Access uses InfoPath email forms as one of its data collection features. The items go out as an InfoPath email form and then are collected using Access’ special add-in to roll all your responses together.

InfoPath technology is spreading through more and more of the core Office applications. Now is the best time to start coming up to speed on how to design, distribute, and use InfoPath forms so that you’re ready to leverage Office 2007 to the fullest when it’s released.

But remember, I’m biased.

Rule #4 here is the most challenging (9 tips for running more productive meetings 43 Folders) at Microsoft:

4. No electronic grazing. Period. – Laptops closed. Phones off. Blackberries left back in the cube. You’re either at the meeting or you’re not at the meeting, and few things are more distracting or disruptive than the guy who has to check his damned email every five minutes.

I feel bad for some folks up in-front of an important audience and ready to do a big presentation or demo and all of the audience is staring at their screens.

This usually leads to the “huh-wha?” moment when something important enough is said to get a person’s attention and now they are busy coming back up to speed on everything that’s been said.

You can’t do email and pay attention at the same time. I’d be damn happy for it to start being a requirement that the laptops are closed when the meeting begins, or at least folded downwards for easy access should you need to look up something relevant to what the room is discussing.

The link you can download the rocking video from: Download details: Expense Reports Made Easy with Microsoft Office Solutions

As a member of the InfoPath team, I certainly use InfoPath all the time to make little dogfoody examples of InfoPath forms (and, you know, quickly edit OPML and such).

Occasionally, I have the opportunity to behold InfoPath form solutions that just plain amaze me. Sometimes it’s because the form designer put in that last little straw that caused the bulkheads to collapse and we need to fix a problem, othertimes it’s because people have basically replaced the need to write a complex client or web application with an InfoPath form template.

Check out MSExpense to see one of the more complicated InfoPath form templates. If you’re filling out your travel expenses and such, you now use InfoPath. And you can do it offline once you have opened the form at least once and have a cached version on your machine.


Eli Robillard asks Where did forms go in Word 12? and I want to paste in my comment to his post regarding additional InfoPath form technology integrated into Word 2007:

Hi – Eric Richards from the InfoPath dev team here. I’m not answering your question off hand – there’s lots of UI that’s been moved around. Be sure that you have your “Developer” tab turned on first for the options of the application where you’re trying to do something whizzy. More complicated UI has been turned off by default.

And as for forms and InfoPath – note that there’s a new feature called… oh, what’s the official name, Document Information Panel? When you view the properties for a document, you’re seeing an embedded, autogenerated InfoPath form.

This gets more interesting when you go and open the Office 2007 document from SharePoint. You can see the SharePoint properties in this InfoPath form, too.

Now the fun part: you can customize this form to add rules, calculations, validation, etc, etc (or just make it look snazzy).

For the new Office format, we also provide a feature where you can add a customized InfoPath form into the document (running against XML content in the docx file).

One cool thing for advanced Word devs out there: both Word and InfoPath can run against the same XML in the docx at the same time, meaning that you can easily drop SharePoint properties into your Word doc and see both InfoPath and Word handling changes in either place. So, you can have structured information with all sorts of easy to write declarative validation and calculations in the InfoPath form and just drop it into Word and have everything continue working.

This way, you can focus on your structured, validated data in the InfoPath portion of your document and the more free flowing unstructured info in your traditional Word canvas.

Note that PowerPoint and Excel also have the new InfoPath Document Information Properties but it is not nearly as integrated as Word.


== Eric

I ran into this today while reading a new Engadget entry: Ask Engadget: What’s the best gadget bag? – Engadget

Bad thing about giving into gadget lust? How to carry all those flipping gadgets around. No e-vest for me. Nor am I Batman with the utility belt from hell.

I ended up quite happy with an Eddie Bauer tote. It’s very well designed. It’s like a small courier bag. You can run your ear phones through a specifically designed duck logo and have two mesh pockets on the side ideal for slipping your phone or a bottle into. There’s a big main pocket and a smaller pocket, ideal for big gadgets and little gadgets, along with a slip area in the big pocket.

I probably only utilize 50% of the bag.

I initially called it my Man Purse but have recently upgraded its name to my Man Pack.