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In this issue, I start a new feature: software reviews. If you are interested in having your Visio add-on reviewed in this e-newsletter, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
So here's the scenario, believe it or not: HTML/XML is the
new Office presentation layer and the browser is its display device.
Except for Internet Explorer, 32-bit Windows is gone. With HTML
Office, the hard work happens at the other end of the wire on
a Windows 2000 server, probably using the platform's Internet
Information Server (IIS) and Microsoft's SQL Server database.
And, if history is any guide, the company will find some way of leveraging its Exchange Server into the bargain under the "knowledge management" banner. So if HTML Office ever sees the light of day, it could be the forerunner of Office.NET.
On .NET's universal canvas, Word and Excel are completely merged, a bit like old Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) but live online. In other words, I would guess clicking on an Office.NET table embedded in a Web page creates a connection to an already-running Excel engine, sending the table's XML data stored in SQL Server to one of many engines on hot standby in a pool managed by Microsoft's Transaction Server.
-- Reported by Eric Wilson
Along with building Office 10, Microsoft is simultaneously
developing an entirely new version of Office as part of its .Net
strategy. Office.Net, expected to debut in 2002, will feature
a "natural user interface," such as handwriting and
speech recognition, and will be completely Web-based.
Bub Muglia, head of the business productivity group at Microsoft,
said the company's upcoming Office.Net technology, a Web-deployable
version of Office, will be targeted at small businesses and consumers.
Muglia said the company would continue to offer the existing shrink-wrapped
Office bundle. Before Office.Net debuts next year, Microsoft plans
to ship an updated version of the current Office bundle. Microsoft
has not disclosed a name or version number for the next release.
The new version, set to ship sometime early next year, will include integrated instant messenger software and new search capabilities for finding documents, email files, and other information. Other new features include technology for recovering work in the event of a system crash and "smart tags," which lets user click on a word or name within a document to send email, schedule a meeting or find an address.
The upcoming XML-based document management server software is code-named Tahoe, and adds workgroup functions Microsoft's existing software. Tahoe, which will ship early next year, will allow businesses to set up a central meeting area on the Web to collaborate and share information on projects. Microsoft says Tahoe can be used to build a company-wide or workgroup portal for organizing documents and data to be shared. It's based on Microsoft's existing Digital Dashboard software. Digital Dashboard technology uses Microsoft's Outlook email software to permit companies to give its employees one piece of software that in theory serves as a window to access email, company resources and information from the Web.
New Visio Book:
Visio 2000 Developer's Survival Guide by Graham Wideman
List price: US$49.95; 344 pages.
Published by Trafford Publishing
One of the tough things about being a third-party developer
is competing with the Mother Corporation. Visio, for example,
encourages you to develop solutions specific to your needs. And
you might find other people willing to pay for your programming
efforts. But when Visio decides to market a similar product, or
include features found in your product in the core Visio software,
then you get into competition with Visio. This scenario has happened
over and over again among other application and operating system
Altima Technologies is one company that has decided to compete with an existing add-on offered by Visio. Its NetZoom software competes with Visio Network Equipment add-on (VNE). Both products provide you with tens of thousands of network shapes specific to dozens of vendors.
To compete against the Mother Corp, though, your product needs to be significantly better. Better price, better features, and better user interface. After testing NetZOOM 2000, I found it better than VNE in most ways, but not in all. Here's what I found:
Price: At US$99 (download price) NetZoom 2000 is cheaper than VNE. You can download updates (US$79 for 12 months) from the www.altimatech.com Web site, a feature not yet available for VNE. And, if you want to pay even less, it's US$49 from Amazon.Com's auction site. Comparable prices I found at Web sites for VNE were US$380 - $410. Note that Visio Enterprise (US999) includes VNE.
Features: In providing 35,000 network shapes from 750
manufacturers, NetZoom takes a radically different approach from
VNE. VNE takes the brut force approach: every one of its network
shapes is a master, using up over 250MB of disk space, depending
the number of stencils you choose to install. In contrast, all
of NetZoom's shapes require just 50MB of disk space. That's because
NetZoom stores the parameters in a database (called EQ Server).
The drawback, I found, is that NetZoom feels slower than VNE when
dragging shapes onto the page, because the shape is being generated
on-the-fly. (The only other problem I encountered was during installation;
my recommendation is to close down all applications before installing
NetZoom on a Windows 98 PC.)
Whereas VNE provides only front views of network equipment, NetZoom often includes other views, such as the side, top, and/or back views.
I particularly liked NetZoom's "port level properties." Hovering the cursor over a port displays a tooltip describing the port. After making a connection, tooltip colors report whether the connection is valid (green), might not work (orange), or is invalid (red).
Although the level of detail almost got tedious to me, NetZoom goes much further than VNE in its ability to define custom properties for each equipment shape.
User Interface: NetZoom's "user interface" superficially looks like VNE's, but is more powerful. It consists of a menu bar, search panel, palette (stencil), and additional functions. There isn't room here to go through all the details -- as did NetZoom's Mgs Yadav for me -- other than to note that it includes an Export function for creating an equipment report in a spreadsheet.
Altima Technologies continues to add to their library of shapes. In the near future, they hope to make shape downloads vendor-specific. You can download a demo from http://www.altimatech.com/altimatech/products/downvisio.htm
A Check with http://www.intellicad.org and http://www.cadopia.com.
Tip #49: Gluing Four Walls
Q: "Why am I having difficulty gluing four walls together when forming a room from wall elements? I get the red glued connection point for three of the intersections, but I can't the get final corner to glue."
- Dougal Scott Wilson
A: Examining the VSD file you sent, I see that you actually have six walls -- two are overlapping two others. Erase the two extra walls. In addition, there are a couple of keystrokes that might help you:
When two shapes won't glue, I find it is often due to the snap overwhelming the glue. Use the Tools | Snap & Glue command to turn off Snap.
Tip #50: Dragging Glued Walls
Q: "Many thanks for your reply, but I'm still struggling with the glue feature. The four walls seem to form a room, but the walls don't seem to be glued. When one wall is moved, it does not drag with it the supposedly connected walls. What am I doing wrong?"
A: That sort of behavior only works with 1D connectors. To keep the walls together, turn them in a group.
Puzzled about Visio? Got an idea on how to make Visio work better? Send your questions and tips to email@example.com .
The editor replies: They used to have a Visio Map product, but it was more for geographic maps. With Visio being part of Microsoft, and Microsoft having its own mapping software for planning driving trips, I doubt that Visio will get into the GIS arena. GIS is a smaller market than CAD, and Microsoft has not gotten into CAD.
Re: Visio for Facilities Management
"Is Visio 2000 Technical a viable tool to use in a CAFM [computer-aided facilities management] application? So far I am not confident that the program will function as we need for it to, but I hope it will. We have 14-floor CAD plans, and we'd like to link Visio with an Access or Peoplesoft application for the personnel/address aspect.
"We've looked at Aperture and Perigrine but their cost is astronomical. If Visio2000 is a possibility, we'll be very happy."
-- Don Wade
The editor replies: Visio can be used for FM, but I am not sure how far you want to take it. Visio Technical 2000 has some useful CAFM features, such as reporting the floor area of rooms (or other areas) and includes stencils of furniture shapes. Other than that, Visio Standard is just as good. Some things that Visio (any flavor) can do for CAFM are:
Possible drawbacks are:
Mr Wade replies: "Some of our buildings have 60,000 square feet per floor, so we'll have to see how that works out."