First thoughts on Microsoft Office 2003 beta 2?

So I finally got a copy and installed it on my workstation.
I'm hoping to see what Microsoft have done when it comes to xml, because if the hype is right (very unlikely) it should bring xml to the desktop market.

First things first…
Not much has happened to Office when it comes to installation. Still a real pain. God help anyone who does typical install of office 2003.

Ok so first things first, I loaded a plain xml document into word 2003. Inpressive, it actually knows its xml and will let me author it in the same way as xmetal. Kinda of tag based if you want or non tagged if you like. Seems good enough so far.

But what if I load a xml document with a DTD attached? Ah it does it but doesnt like the DTD, kind of what I expected really. Doing the same with a XML schema fairs better, but it doesnt seem to restrict me from putting in non valid content. Didnt try saving, maybe thats when it does the checking? Also found if you open a xml doc with a xsl also attached it will show the html tags instead of the xml ones.
Could be useful, but I actually thought it would show the final result, so you could almost edit the webpage in word. Because editing the html isnt a good solution for non technical people.

So I started thinking lets have a look at infopath 2003.
It seems very much like xmlspy's stylesheet form editor. But with a little help you can drop a xml schema in. But lo-and-behold it doesnt like my schemas…Why?
My schemas have been checked against many xsd checkers and there not actually that complex. It seems Infopath doesnt like includes and imports at all. I had to revert to a schemas I wrote over a year ago to test it out, and even some of those didnt work. Maybe its the namespaces?
Once I finally got a schema in it a matter of dragging and droping elements and attributes around on the plain page and editing from there. You can add validation rules to the forms and areas but why does it not just add default rules from the datatypes in the xml schema?
If I make the datatype xs:AnyURI, that usually means no numbers to start off with, etc.

Once you preview the final thing it seems pretty good. No idea where the xml goes but it does the validation and nothing much else it seems. Anyway I didnt really test it that much.
Going back to word 2003, seems even when you save it doesnt do the checking against the schema. I even added the schemas to the schema library and it correctly realised there were imported and included schemas attached to the schema I was adding. So why does Infopath have a problem with the same schema?
I really need to read some docs on xml in word to see how it all works rather than fumbling around blindly. Missed the infopath online streaming demo on may 29th but I'm sure they have archived it, would look now but Reservoir Dogs is on tonight and I'm watching that till its finished.

Ah useful Office 2003 Assistance Home.

Ah it seems word 2003 works in the same way as open office. There is one xml file which ties the schemas, xsl, css and xml together. Manifest.xml. Seems you need the Smart Document Software Development Kit to make the whole package? Isnt this what infopath was ment to do?

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.