Creating Smart Interfaces with Smart Tags and VFP 7
As developers, we're used to data sitting in tables and databases.However, this is not how data exists in the real world?it's merely how developers want data to appear. Typically, data resides in documents and forms, emails and spreadsheets. Smart Tags are Microsoft's first serious attempt to utilize that kind of information and make it available to knowledge workers in a sensible fashion.
A full bio can be found on the web at: www.eps-software.com/MarkusEgger
With Office XP, Microsoft introduced a new technology called Smart Tags. No doubt this technology is fascinating, but that also left me wondering what to do with it. I watched Microsoft demo Smart Tags on several occasions; typically, the presenter demonstrated Smart Tags by typing a stock symbol (such as "MSFT") into Microsoft Word. Word then recognized the symbol and underlined the symbol using a red dotted line. When the mouse was moved over the symbol, a little icon appeared and, when clicked, it presented a menu with action items that are related to trading stock (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Microsoft's stock symbol Smart Tag at work (a second symbol is hidden right under the popup menu).
While this is very cool, I always wondered how much use it would be to me. First of all, I hardly ever receive documents or emails that have stock symbols in them. Secondly, even if they did, who says I wanted to use Microsoft's stock site (which is where the action items would take me). No, to me, this was not useful at all.
But, as Microsoft claimed, this was just an example. There were other things Word would recognize as well, such as dates and times. This would allow me to directly schedule meetings if someone sent me an email proposing one. That seemed to make more sense, although most of the meeting requests I get already utilize Outlook's (or Exchange's) meeting features. So all this Smart Tag stuff was kind of like supermodels: sexy, but of no direct use to me.
The technology itself, however, had me intrigued, especially the ability to build more useful Smart Tags myself. Think about it: what are the chances that Microsoft will embed SmartTags that directly make sense for your business? However, what if you could get Word, Excel or Outlook to recognize product names that are linked to your order fulfillment system? What if your users could place, fulfill and track customer orders right from within their email? You could provide a whole new user experience. There is little doubt in my mind that users would be more productive in this kind of environment.
By: Markus Egger
Markus is the founder and publisher of CODE Magazine and EPS' President and Chief Software Architect. He is also a Microsoft RD (Regional Director) and the one of the longest (if not THE longest) running Microsoft MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals). Markus is also a renowned speaker and author.
Markus' spends most of his time writing production code. The projects Markus has worked on include efforts for some of the world's largest companies including many Fortune 500 companies. Markus has also worked as a contractor for Microsoft (including the Visual Studio team). Markus has presented at many industry events, ranging from local user groups to major events such as MS TechEd. Markus' written work has been published extensively and in magazine ranging from MSDN Magazine, to Visual Studio Magazine, and of course in Markus' own CODE Magazine and much more. Markus is a supporter of communities in North America, Europe, and sometimes even beyond.
Markus currently focuses on development in .NET (Windows, Web, Windows Phone, and WinRT) as well as Android and iOS. He is passionate about overall application architecture, SOA, user interfaces and general development productivity and building maintainable and reusable systems.
In his spare time, Markus is an avid windsurfer, scuba diver, ice hockey player and world traveler. On a rainy day, he is known to enjoy a good game on his PC or Xbox.
Custom Smart Tags allow the developer to link words and phrases in Microsoft Office XP and Internet Explorer to custom actions. All the developer has to do is write a recognizer that finds significant phrases and link them to some kind of action.