Microsoft opens up Visio schemas

A goal is to enable more dynamic interaction with Visio diagrams

Microsoft on Thursday announced it has released documentation that allows corporate and third-party developers to take full advantage of the XML-based schemas, called DatadiagramML, in its Office Visio diagramming tool.

The move will make it significantly easier for users to access information residing in their Visio diagrams and to share that information with server-based CRM and ERP applications from companies such as SAP and PeopleSoft. This makes it easier for corporate users to integrate that data into their core business processes, company officials believe.

"We have always had support for user-defined schemas. But this will better allow our partners who work with users to build solutions so that their diagrams will no longer be static. It gives users and their partners a starting place to begin reusing code to create repeatable solutions," said Bobby Moore, Microsoft's product manager for Visio.

One example of making Visio diagrams more dynamic would be working with an organizational chart within Visio and "lock it" into a backend database so that any new information put into the database would in turn automatically update the information in the diagram to reflect those changes, Moore said.

Making the documentation freely available, which is under a royalty-free license, can also improve users' ability to search for information in data diagrams and e-mail files, according to Moore.

"When you can save something as XML, it allows you to build better index queries and to get back better search results. It also makes it better in terms of sharing files, but even more importantly it helps with making Visio more of a smart client in terms of data visualization," Moore said.

Moore said a number of developers and solution providers are now beginning to put together a range of solutions using Visio 2003, including HRW Consulting and the Swiss Post Office, called Schweizerische Post AG. Post Office officials claim the product's XML support has helped them to more easily share information across its entire operation. One user, at least, said he agreed.

"A great deal of the work we do involves a variety of people in different parts of the organization. Being able to share information broadly has been a boon to the overall business," said Dan Miller, in charge of resource management at Schweizersche Post AG.

Microsoft has already made documentation available for XML schemas in three other Office System applications including Word, Excel, and InfoPath.

Corporate and third-party developers who want the documentation on DatadiagramML schema can download it as part of the company's royalty-free licensing plan from the Microsoft Office Developer Center on MSDN. For more information on Microsoft's licensing program for XML schemas, go to http://www.microsoft.com/office/xml/default.mspx.

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