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Microsoft Software

Form Filling Through Office 12 186

Qa32 writes "For those chomping at the bit for more Office 12 details, Microsoft offered a tiny peek at the upcoming offering, or offerings, due next year. In what he termed the first public viewing of Office 12, Chris Caposella, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Information Worker Product Management Group, showed off a distributed forms capability that would enable customers to fill in and submit XML forms easily via a browser, without having to run Microsoft InfoPath on their PC."
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Form Filling Through Office 12

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  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eggz128 ( 447435 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:24PM (#13016837)
    Like you can do with PDFs today (and for the past couple of years)?
    • Re:So... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cnettel ( 836611 )
      Via a browser, they could mean "without plugin" in a browser. That is what would make it different from current InfoPath forms. (InfoPath is an Office component.) The point would be easy integration with Office documents, while maintaining a simple and general client side.

      If it requires Office installed, then I of course agree with you.

      • Re:So... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by zaktheduck ( 753102 )
        Via a browser, they could mean "without plugin" in a browser.
        It's likely to be tied directly into IE7 and even more likely to be a Longhorn only feature. What better way to persuade those that want that feature to "upgrade"
      • Re:So... (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by eggz128 ( 447435 )
        Well yes it could, but I doubt it would support anything other than IE, and IE7 (without some sort of plugin) at that. Right now I'd bet OpenOffice.Org 2.0 combined with Mozilla Firefox (1.1?) will beat MS to XForms support.
      • I am reasonably certain you can already do this in with Acrobat with the addition of a small cgi script. Look here, scroll down to where it talks about the "FDF toolkit" API. [adobe.com]

        In order to do this of course you must write your own cgi frontend, so you could say this isn't as much as Office would hypothetically give you. However all Office would be hypothetically giving you here is a prepared drop-in CGI script, and I'm relatively certain were there need for such a thing there would be several free prepared d
        • FYI, the FDF files are nothing more than a "patch" to the original PDF document. The idea is that you download an FDF, then Acrobat uses it to lookup, display, and prefill the original PDF document. As a result, the FDF only works online or when the user has a local copy of the file.

          Those of us in need of a more robust solution use a library like PDFBox [pdfbox.org] to dig through the pseudo-text "Object" structure and fillout the values for the forms. Oh, and we merge all your documents into one nice document structur
      • Are you saying that, somehow, those crazy clever guys at Redmond have, and please, give this the respect it deserves, allowed people to fill out forms in a browser without a plugin! I am sure they must have patented this a million times to secure such a monumental change in the course of computer history.

        Now those 2bit hackers on all those open source programs that include their own web front end (shareaza, VNC apps) (i.e. support 'AitchTeeTeePee' Some mythical, some say made-up, protocol that allows peopl
    • Re:So... (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      PDFs are not widely editable and cannot be used as templates. The whole purpose of this, if you ever have had to fill out forms in document templates, is to easily port information into editable documents. Centralized data input to be dispersed in an automated fashion throughout a larger document, where manual input would be less efficient.

      In the business world, PDFs are used for non-editable documents. Specs, Purchase Orders, Invoices, etc. However Acrobat makes for a relatively featureless word processor
      • " PDFs are not widely editable and cannot be used as templates. "

        Um. Wrong. You're several years out of date.

        "not been accomplished yet by other applications."

        Again, wrong.
    • Re:So... (Score:3, Funny)

      I don't know of this "PDF", so I figured I'd ask the Microsoft assistant to tell me more. Clippy doesn't consider this a valid option - I asked him "How do I fill out forms in PDF?" and he answered "Create forms that users complete in Word". If even Clippy's never heard of it, I'm not going to risk it.

    • PDF's can contain 'sploits for your brain.

      E.g this one [slashdot.org]

      on the page labelled 105 (which is helpfully at page 119 in the PDF file) there's a picture of Margret Thatcher. I grew up in the Thatcher era and it gives me the heebee jeebies.

      In Word, I can disable images and thus be protected, by in Acrobat 5.1 I can't. Frankly, I'll take the VBScript worms - you can reformat your PC, but you can't reformat your brain.
  • WTF is InfoPath? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:25PM (#13016851)
    Besides the blurb being simply a quote from the beginning of the article, it doesn't provide any of the background information that we need. There are many of us who are curious enough about the story to justify it being on the front page of Slashdot but who don't know enough about the buzzwords and products named in the blurb to figure out how it affects us.
    • Re:WTF is InfoPath? (Score:5, Informative)

      by MHobbit ( 830388 ) <mhobbit09@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:30PM (#13016900)
      InfoPath is one of the programs in one of the Microsoft Office 2003 packages. It allows XML form creation and editing; you can create forms that people could fill out online.
      • So is info path a new way for customer lock in to occur? The only thing I care about is when will someone write a plugin for OpenDocument that works in the various MS Offices.
      • Is InfoPath the design program, and you use some other program on the client side to fill in the forms? "Online" could mean anything, here, but assuming you mean "with a web browser," what server-side is required? And where does the data go?

        In short: how is this different from PHP/MySQL with a WYSYWIG design component?
        • Infopath doesn't reequire you to be connected to the data source. It has the capability to cache info for the selections in the form and also can cache submissions you have generated until you reconnect (at which point it syncs te information you enetered back to the main db).

          The biggest difference would be the caching and syncing capability. The company trying to sell us on it had several other fairly big features they were touting also, but that was several months ago so I am sort of hazy on the details
    • by VP ( 32928 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:47PM (#13017051)
      InfoPath is to Information what PsychoPath is to the Psyche...
    • Something they wrote, for the single reason that they could advertise that you do not need it if you upgrade to Office 12.

      So upgrade quickly, or one heck of a sack of InfoPath is on its way to you.
  • Uh huh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:27PM (#13016870) Homepage Journal
    A multi-billion dollar company places its best people on creating better office software and we get...

    A reinvention of HTML Forms?

    This is the 21st century! Where are my flying cars? I want flying cars, not "XML Form Things".
    • here you go. [moller.com]
    • We had a flying car [thedukesofhazzard.net] way back in 1979! What more can you want than that?
  • by CdBee ( 742846 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:28PM (#13016876)
    ..would this ability (XML forms thru browser)be limited to Internet Explorer running on Longhorn?
    • Possibly, although it's worth noting that all standard ASP.NET components generate HTML and javascript that work with Gecko-based browsers as well as IE.

      That's no guarantee that these will, of course, but it does demonstrate that MS are at least trying to support alternatives.
  • by Doug Dante ( 22218 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:30PM (#13016895)
    Does this mean the MS Office 12 implements the XForms [w3.org] standard, or that it embraces and extends it in a proprietary way? If so, what's the advantage for users of MS Office 12 over XForms?
  • Microsoft is using an open and robust format (XML) for their office documents - what's wrong with that? Now projects like OpenOffice have an easier time importing and exporting documents. The entire key is portability. (text also compresses better than .doc files)
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:40PM (#13016991)

      Microsoft is using an open and robust format (XML) for their office documents - what's wrong with that?

      Nothing is wrong with that. It's just that none of us actually believe that they will implement an open XML format. Anyone who has been watching MS for the last 10 years knows that the format will be XML with some big chunks of binary data, probably encrypted, and with patents and the DMCA preventing compatibility. I hope they prove me wrong, but at this point I trust them about as far as I can throw their headquarters (which I think is shaped like a giant cobra for some reason). If they want to implement an open XML format the EU and a number of projects have endorsed and implemented the OASIS standard document format. How about adding support for import and export to that format?

      • I hope they prove me wrong, but at this point I trust them about as far as I can throw their headquarters (which I think is shaped like a giant cobra for some reason).

        It all makes sense now. Bill Gates is actually Cobra Commander!
        • Why oh why does this remind me of that hilarious episode of Robot Chicken. Ok - I know - they're ALL hilarious, but the one where Cobra was like a corporation...

          Oh crap - if you don't know what I am talking about, then go watch some adult swim!
      • If I remember correctly, what they're actually going to do is store documents like Word's in standard zip file format. The text and formatting will be xml, images and other binaries will be associated files in the zip document. The zip format also aids in the compression of the somewhat repetitive xml document structure.

        They will have to be a "little" creative, after all, to support things like embedding an excel table into a word document.

    • The simple answer is its fun.

      The longer answer is that MS has a poor track record with actually implementing the standards they are "embracing". They take the standard, tack on a bunch of crap that isn't part of it, make that proprietary and part of their default build tools. Thus, stuff built by their software becomes unusable or annoying on other software even though it's using the "standard".

      Short verion of the long answer, they've hijacked any stanard they embraced in the past.
    • Microsoft is using an open and robust format (XML) for their office documents
      No, they are not. They are using a proprietary XML format to represent electronic forms. The standard way to implement forms in XML is XForms [w3.org] which has been around since 2003.
  • by greymond ( 539980 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:35PM (#13016941) Homepage Journal
    I don't use it often, since my job requires more design based software (read: Illustrator, Photoshop, Indesign, Dreamweaver, etc..) However every year my work spends quite a lot of money making sure I have the newest version, yet I don't really know what changes.

    We primarily use Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, and with small exceptions of where commands are located and the icons "bubbly-ness", I haven't noticed much of a difference between the 95, 2k, XP, and 2k3 versions. In fact the only difference that really pops out at me is what programs are considered as part of "Office Pro".

    It used to be that 95 and 2k came with Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and Access. Then XP came out with those plus Publisher (which IIRC was someone elses product that was purchased by MS) Then 2k3 came out and is the same but with Visio (which I know was someone elses product but bought by MS).

    So does each version just add a new software to the bundle or are there really changes? (changes being more than buubly icons and moving the location of th email-merge command)
    • Yeah, they bump the system requirements up a bit each time. Another thing I've noticed in Word 2003 is better crash recovery. Of course, it would be better if it didn't crash at all. On the positive side, there are also improvements in things like having a document open on another machine, while you disconnect from the network.

      If you develop custom apps, you might like their current XML export capabilities. It might simplify report generation in a MS-only environment.

      So, is it worth it? I wouldn't say so

    • Whether or not Microsoft bought Publisher from someone, it was part of the Office 95 suite for Windows.(i think it was Office 95 Pro)
  • by banglogic ( 702448 ) * <Ken.Knicker@NoSPAM.nuveen.com> on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:37PM (#13016958) Homepage
    ... this capability. Yes, PDF forms have allowed this for quite some time. But, like it or lump it, MS is the leader when it comes to productivity apps. This ability expands the Office line further into the general web and closer to the world of open standards. Seems to me like one of the few useful features they have introduced in a long time. Besides, it's not like they have a choice. OpenOffice 2.0 (beta 1.9) is looking sweet and is finally starting to represent an actual threat to the Evil Empire.
  • by ChipMonk ( 711367 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:41PM (#13017002) Journal
    And it's leverage enabled for system empowerment!
  • I hope Office 12 has ways to turn off all the auto-fill, auto-format, auto-magically do-what-you-don't-want "features" that turn Office users into sobbing heaps. I've spent many an hour rooting around in Office Prefs (which for some reason you can only do when a document is open despite the fact that the prefs aren't document-specific?!?!?!) and have tried to lobotomize Office, but it keeps finding ways to auto-fsck my documents.

    Office's "intelligent" features have a horrible accuracy rate for me, but t
    • I once had a long talk with a developer of Corel Word Perfect and asked that they please put in a master on/off button for the Auto Fuckup features, since it causes problems with legal documents which have no rhyme or reason to the numbering. He promissed they would add one but I don't think they ever did, despite always claiming to be lawyer friendly.
  • Puh-leeeze... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DreadfulGrape ( 398188 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:48PM (#13017056)
    98 percent of Office users won't use any of this new crap. 75 percent won't even upgrade.

    MS Office -- stick a fork in it -- it's done.

    • For better or worse, Office is the de facto standard for interchange of documents amongst the great unwashed masses. Like or not, you have to learn to interoperate with whatever the Evil Empire puts out. Deal with it!
      • For better or worse, Office is the de facto standard for interchange of documents amongst the great unwashed masses. Like or not, you have to learn to interoperate with whatever the Evil Empire puts out. Deal with it!

        Really? Compared to most (using Office 97) I'm pretty darn current with my Office 2000 (Win) and Office v.X (OS X) rollouts. Sure, I know of a few that have/use Office 2003 (Win) and Office 2004 (OS X). After evaluating those packages myself I saw absolutely NO need or want to upgrade with th
        • Oh come on, Outlook 2003 is a pretty major upgrade in usuability from previous versions, and Enterage 2004 provides exchange connectivity (which Office X didn't). Access also added a lot of improvement.

          Word and Excel? Not so much, but to claim that there's no improvement in office is not very accurate.

        • There is one compelling reason to upgrade: some weasel with a new computer is sure to send you a document created with Office 2003 that simply won't display properly with Office97. Yes, if you could get everybody in the world you communicate with to freeze on a specific revision of Office, life would be much easier... but that ain't gonna happen!
    • 75% (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nurb432 ( 527695 )
      Will still eventually upgrade.. Can only put off the compatibility issue so long.

      It creeps up on you slowly. First one vendor upgrades, then another, then you find you cant 'talk' to your customers, and voila.. you upgrade..

      Happens to the best of us..
    • Re:Puh-leeeze... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jp10558 ( 748604 )
      I know. While there might be some additions to be done to Access, the rest I don't see. What more could possibly be added to Word? I mean, wordprocessing is done. It is, it's a solved problem. Heck, my Lotus WordPro 9.8 from 2001 or whatever is fine. It does everything with wordprocessing (except a dashed underline, which I have only ever needed to do once in my life - I got a pen for that one underline lol).

      Anything much more than what can be done in any wordprocesser today pretty much ought to be done in
  • One thing I would like to see, now that the formats is XML, is the ability to fail gracefully. That is, when an old format is read, or when a file is slight corrupt, word will still try to display what it can, ignoring all unknown tags.

    What really made me stop buying Office, and for me it is not a huge expense, was the incompatibilities between versions. Yes, things could be converted. Yes, it mostly worked. But what irked me is that things had to be converted. There did not seem to be any thought th

  • How is this news? I've been using Office 12 for months already. You can buy it online right here [wordperfect.com].
  • Wake me up... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thomas.me ( 864466 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:51PM (#13017086)
    ...when Microsoft stops talking about what they are going to reinvent next year, and releases something new .

    Yawn. Never saw a more boring company.
  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @06:10PM (#13017229)
    Could somebody please summarize what in the hell an "XML Form" is? XML is, quite simply, a way of formatting flat data. Saying "XML Form" is like saying "Comma-delimited Form". What in the hell does this mean?
  • Having used a little XML at work, I was under the impression that the data is text based... yet from the FAQ:

    Q. Why did Microsoft change the file formats for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint?
    A. ... By creating a new robust, yet compact, structure based on industry standards such as XML and ZIP, the new default file formats speed document creation while reducing the size of (Office) files and improving data recovery in corrupted files.

    Do you think this means that they are going to create an XML file that is
    • Re:XML and ZIP... (Score:3, Informative)

      by VP ( 32928 )
      They are just copying what OpenOffice.org is doing - representing the document as a set of XML files, and compressing them all into a single ZIP archive.
      • Too bad Microsoft hasn't copied Apples concept of bundled files (i'm not positive of the exact term) that act as a single file. It really is nice. (and it is used by their 'pages' software in the same way microsoft is zipping files together).

        Personally, I think they setled on zip because their xml was so bloated they needed the compression!!
        • Too bad Microsoft hasn't copied Apples concept of bundled files (i'm not positive of the exact term) that act as a single file. It really is nice. (and it is used by their 'pages' software in the same way microsoft is zipping files together).

          Microsoft has had 'paired' folders and files since like Win2k. Windows also can treat a Zip Binary as a single archive folder.

          Do you just assume every feature on a Mac is unique to a Mac or don't get out in the real world much?

          No offense to other Mac fans.
        • There actually are separate streams in NTFS and something called "compound documents" (I think) that every Office file uses. In those, you can have several different files and there are general OLE APIs for manipulating them. In some of the W2K betas, it was even mapped directly to the NTFS streams. They retracted the file system mapping as a default setting, as too many tools manipulating the files simply didn't understand that there was more to it than the single normal data stream.

          The point in leaving t

  • by zanderredux ( 564003 ) * on Friday July 08, 2005 @06:48PM (#13017488)
    Well, I'm not impressed about this new functionality. At all.

    Actually, it might become yet another monstruous security hole, given MS's <sarcarsm> amazing security record </sarcarsm>.

    The problem I have with MS is that they're so eager to give power to users -- in a haphazardly way -- that it completely overlooks security. Or corporate IT policy compliance, depending of where you work at.

    For an evidence of this behavior, take a look at this comment [slashdot.org] on MS hiring practices and the respective reply [slashdot.org]. Basically, they're loaded with marketeers, who grasp some of IT, enough to sell stuff and are, somehow, empowered to make technical decisions at the expense of standards.

    At this point, I have to praise Apple. IMHO they make good calls on the question of how to give power to users without seriously compromising security. Heck, I really believe that if Apple became a cell phone operator [slashdot.org] they could make cell phones and network more secure and more powerful.


    InfoPath works *great* but since I can't embed it in a browser window, all of my users end up with an additional login box, and lots more buttons on their screen than they need. It's made training people to use my forms driven app more difficult, and they find the extra login box to be irritating.

    (Before someone comments about the login prompt: The login box occurs because InfoPath launches in a different process, so the session / auth cookie is no longer present)

    I would have
  • Perhaps Office 12 will support standard typsetting features like ligatures and offer better hyphenation support. Then again, it's probably wishful thinking to hope a word processor can generate properly typset documents.
    • Ok, could you explain what you mean? What are ligatures, and why would I care about them in typing up a letter?

      And I'm not sure what's missing - can't you just hit that button next to the + sign on all US keyboards for a hyphen?

      I mean, Word is supposed to be an enhanced typewriter, not a DTP program.
      • What are ligatures, and why would I care about them in typing up a letter?

        Ligatures are actually something the poster would NOT want, so I assume they mean more advanced recognition of ligatures and kerning adjustment.

        Ligatures are when non-propotional fonts spacing have two letters that interfere with each other. A common example would be 'fi' notice that the dot on the i may run into the f, and it shouldn't.

        Basically Word only uses the standard Font system that is built into the OS, and OS font system
    • If you are typsetting in Word, then I truly feel sorry for you, there are so many good DTP applications that handle text flow and text formating much much better.

      When we don't even have OSes that support Font features to correct font errors like ligatures, how can we expect Glorified word processors to do so.

      I actually hope the updated font system in Longhorn takes us a step into the future of onscreen typography. Even the Mac font rendering capabilities are pathetic and they pretend to cater to the grap
  • by Mr2001 ( 90979 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @07:49PM (#13017854) Homepage Journal
    Thank God someone finally implemented this great idea. I'm so sick of having to telnet into servers and type in POST queries by hand to submit forms. Now, at long last, we'll be able to post comments on Slashdot just by typing text in a box and clicking a button!
  • "For those chomping at the bit for more Office 12 details" Surely this includes all of MS-loving Slashdot. I know I'm chomping. Chomp chomp chomp...

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears