NOTE: This is based on the BETA1 release of Office 12. Some features may be altered or cut entirely prior to the final release.
Office 12 is the next release of the Microsoft Office System. It consists of both client and server-side elements.
The Office client (a full refresh of the current office suite) features a revolutionary new user interface. The new interface is intended to open up the functionality in Office by making relevant functions available at the right time depending on what the user is doing (i.e. show all the table format functions when the user is working on a table).
To compliment the Office client, there is also a new server offering. The server (currently referred to as ‘Office Server’) constitutes of the next version of the following products:
- SharePoint Portal Server 2003
- Content Management Server 2002
- Office Server is based on a new version of Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 (or WSS)
Office Server builds on the capabilities of SharePoint 2003 by offering significantly improved DM capabilities. The concepts of sites and document libraries remain the same, but the following new features apply:
- Full item-level security
- Central metadata control (Column templates)
- Content types (the ability to provide users with a selection of content types to choose from. Content types drive the document template, workflow, metadata and many more settings)
- Major-minor version control with draft visibility control
- Document publication and auto-update
- Integrated workflow
- Recycle bin
- Offline capabilities (through Outlook or My Documents)
- Vastly improved integration between client and server
- Change auditing
- Email support (users can email content into document libraries)
Based on the core document management capabilities, Microsoft has introduced a record management capability in Office 12 called the ‘Official File Repository’. This is a place where official files get sent, organised, maintained and ultimately disposed of.
Files in the official repository have policies that govern their retention and disposal in addition to normal record management capabilities such as holds.
Office 12 builds on top of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF) by adding WWF integration into all Office 12 lists and libraries in addition to several out-of-the-box document-based workflows, including:
- Document Approval
- Document Sign-off
- Document Feedback Gathering
- Document Moderation
- Disposition Approval
- Issue Tracking
To compliment the WWF, Microsoft has introduced InfoPath Forms Server as part of Office Server. Infopath server provides online renditions of Infopath forms and directly plugs into the workflows that run within Office 12.
Web Content Management
Office 12 Server is the combination of what we currently know as SharePoint and CMS. Therefore it inherits all of the capabilities of CMS 2003, which include:
- Online web content management
- Content change workflow (provided by WWF)
- Page version control and publication (same as documents)
- Multiple versions of a site (multi-lingual, accessibility)
- Images and resource galleries (provided by lists)
- Centrally controlled structure
- Full control over layout and graphics (via improvements in ASP.net such as Master Pages and navigation controls)
Search, Retrieval and People
Building on the search capabilities of SharePoint 2003 and knowledge gained from the public the MSN search utility, Microsoft have significantly improved the search capability for Office 12. The search will index a plethora of content sources including Websites, SharePoint Portals, File Systems and Relational Databases (and more) and make their content searchable from within the main portal.
The results themselves are much more relevant than the 2003 version, this is from several improvements to the core algorithm and additional features including ‘did you mean’, de-duplication and query term highlighting.
As with Sharepoint 2003, people are a core objects in Office Server, but their profiles are now much richer and the server will automatically calculate social distance, working relationships and working patterns for people.
Just a few of the key differentiators between V2 and V3:
- List Item Security (including versioning) is implemented in V3 allowing increased flexibility and granularity. Lists and document libraries also have a recycle bin functionality where as in V2 these Recycle Bins were constructed by ISVs.
- The introduction of Windows Workflow Foundation (WF). WF will serve as the core for anything workflow related in future releases of windows and at some point will see integration with BizTalk (WF will eventually handle BizTalk Orchestration). Out Of The Box workflows exist within the Office 12 Server and simple workflows can be created with little technical knowledge using FrontPage. WF is highly extensible and allows any competent developer to create their own workflows and activities (not just for Office 12, but for pretty much any application)
- As mentioned above, the new Office 12 Server will consist of and combines CMS and Sharepoint Portal Server.
- Something not mentioned above is the new Excel Server, adding the ability to store and manage Excel spreadsheets from a central server, allowing the creation of rules to determine who can access what and how. Calculations and formulae can also be performed on the server.