For many users, the appearance of Office 2003 has meant a slightly updated version of a familiar tool, another episode in the continuous development of a popular and widely-used piece of software. For some users, however, the appearance of Office 2003 is a herald of tumultuous change. This version of Office liberates the information stored in millions of documents created using Microsoft's Office software over the past 15 years and makes it readily available to a wide variety of software. At the same time, Office 2003 has substantially improved its abilities for working with data that comes from external sources, making it much easier to use Office for the examination and analysis of information that came from other sources.
XML, the Extensible Markup Language, lies at the heart of this new openness. XML has taken much of the world by storm since its publication in 1998 as a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Recommendation. XML provides a standard text-based format for storing labeled structured content. An enormous variety of tools for processing, creating, and storing XML has appeared over the last few years, and XML has become a lingua franca that lets different kinds of computers and different kinds of software communicate with each other all while preserving a substantial level of human accessibility.
This book explores the intersection between Office 2003 and XML in depth, examining how the various products in the Office suite can both produce and consume XML. While this book generally focuses on Office 2003 itself, some supporting technologies will be important pieces of the integration puzzle. Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations (XSLT) and W3C XML Schema (which Microsoft abbreviates XSD, for XML Schema Descriptions) are two critical pieces for teaching various parts of Office about the structures of XML documents, while SOAP (an acronym that no longer means anything) and HTTP will be important supporting technologies for communications between Office and other programs.