I was really looking forward to the Local Web Storage System (LWSS) and Office Designer in Office 10 and the ability to build great applications on top of Exchange 2000 Server and Document Management and Search Server (codenamed Tahoe). I was also hoping that Exchange and Outlook would finally be synched up. Oh well, we'll have to wait. Last week, Microsoft quietly let the press know that LWSS and Office Designer will be absent from Office 10 when it releases in early 2001. Both the LWSS and the Office Designer are designed to take advantage of the Web Storage System (WSS) that Microsoft provides in Exchange 2000 and the forthcoming Tahoe.

With the LWSS, Office 10 applications will be able to use WSS data stored locally on the client machine that is essentially an offline copy of the WSS running on the server. The LWSS will provide much more than the offline (.ost) files many of us have used since Outlook 97. This local store will enable dynamic offline Web applications on the client via Office 10 using data residing on the client that has been cached from the server copy of the data. Applications running locally can still access the data using their method of choice (Messaging API—MAPI, ADO, Collaboration Data Objects—CDO, OLEDB, application service providers—ASPs, or HTTP) giving developers many options without forcing them to give up MAPI immediately. Access between the server WSS and the LWSS will be via a more efficient HTTP.

Office Designer provides a quick-start tool for everyone from power Office users to Visual Studio (VS) developers. The tool lets you build collaborative Web applications that specifically leverage the WSS. These Office Designer applications let you easily put together collaborative solutions such as idea sharing, issue tracking, and document sharing using a document-based model. Office Designer has application templates for things such as project tracking, discussion forums, surveys, document libraries, and workflow. Office Designer is also supposed to closely mirror the visual environment that is available to Visual Basic (VB) and VS for tasks such as editing and form and schema registration. The WSS-LWSS connection also lets Office Designer users design and debug these applications either online or offline without needing a different code for each case.

Unfortunately, these two great features won't be final in time for Office 10's release. Microsoft looked at the customer feedback and evaluated the development and testing requirements that would be necessary to deliver a quality product and decided to wait. I'm all for Microsoft doing good development and testing in the interests of producing a quality product; however, I'm a little disappointed in this news. Office 10 was supposed to be the release where Exchange Server and Outlook finally got in synch. I guess we all thought it might be too good to be true. In the meantime, all hope is not lost: Developers will still be able to use the WSS for building applications, relying on their existing skills with VS, Office, ADO/OLEDB, and XML, but they'll have to do so without the LWSS.