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Office 2003 XML for Power Users (Books for Professionals by Professionals)

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SINCE ITS INTRODUCTION in the late 1990s, XML has revolutionized the way data is stored, manipulated, and shared. XML has made it possible for applications written in different programming languages (and running on different operating systems) to exchange any type of information. XML also allows different organizations to “glue” together their business processes, so that a purchase order from one company can flow seamlessly into the inventory management system of another. At the same time, a host of XML-related standards has sprung up, defining standards for everything from real estate listings to vector graphics.

Of course, along with all these remarkable developments is one significant catch. If you want to harness the full features of XML, you need to write your own software. For example, if you want to funnel an expense report into an automated payment system, you need to create an application that can read the original format of the expense report (which might be Microsoft Excel or Word), and manually convert it into the appropriate XML representation. This type of application is difficult to create and even more difficult to maintain. It’s also extremely fragile, meaning that minor changes in the layout of the source document can easily lead to conversion errors.

Life becomes even trickier if you want to create a workflow that sends data through several different people. For example, if an expense report needs to be created by an employee, verified by a team leader, and authorized by a supervisor, you’ll need to convert the document to XML and then back to its original Office format several times. The current generation of Office applications just isn’t designed with this type of scenario in mind. Every time you convert Office data to XML, you lose important formatting details, versioning information, macro code, and other Office-specific features. The result is that XML, which is widely touted as a universal language, is used mostly by application programmers—not by knowledge workers and business professionals.

Office 2003 promises to change all this, and bring XML to a whole new audience: Word and Excel power users. These users can now harness the benefits of XML without needing to write conversion macros or full-fledged applications. Of course, you’ll still need to understand the fundamentals of XML, and how they are implemented in Office, which is where this book fits into the picture. In this book, you’ll find a complete introduction to XML and related standards like XML Schema and XML Transformations. You’ll also learn how XML technology is embedded into the Office 2003 application family.
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