Business Connectivity Services in Microsoft Office 2010
Published: May 2010
Through Business Connectivity Services Rich Client Extensions, users can interact with external systems from the following Microsoft Office 2010 client applications: Outlook 2010, Word 2010, SharePoint Workspace 2010, Microsoft InfoPath 2010, and Microsoft Access 2010.
Business Connectivity Services Rich Client Extensions provide the following user interface (UI) elements that you can use in your solutions:
External Data Parts Windows Forms controls that show details of a single item or a list of items belonging to an external content type.
Layouts One or more external data parts arranged in a one-dimensional or two-dimensional way to display information to a user. After you define layouts, you can host them in the following surfaces:
Task pane in Outlook 2010
Form region in Outlook 2010
Actions Can be URL-based or code-based and can be exposed as buttons on the Server ribbon in the Office application that can be used to navigate to a URL or execute a piece of code when clicked.
Integration with Office clients is only available in Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010.
Microsoft SharePoint Workspace 2010 provides functionality to do the following:
Take an external list offline from SharePoint Server 2010.
Enable users to add, edit, and delete items in the offline list and see the sync status associated with an item.
Autogenerate InfoPath forms if the external list uses default browser forms.
Preserve customizations done to the InfoPath forms on the server when taking them offline.
Respect the view schema (sorting and grouping, and data source filters) of the external list on the server.
Enable run-time filtering, grouping, and searching by end users in SharePoint Workspace.
Provide basic error and conflict resolution.
The Business Connectivity Services Rich Client Extensions on the client enable Outlook 2010 to expose external data using the native UI of the host application. A solution you create by using Business Connectivity Services integrated with Outlook can provide a seamless integration with external systems and user experience to view and edit external data. Figure 1 shows how customers in the Northwind sample database appear inside Outlook just as native contact items do.
External content types can be deeply integrated into the Outlook user interface. You can customize the Outlook ribbon, create custom views and forms, and host layouts in task panes and inside Outlook forms. External data is also available offline in Outlook, and you can perform read/write operations against cached items that are synchronized when connection to the external system becomes available. Through a simple tooling experience, you can map fields of an external content type to native Outlook item properties, such as Contact Name and Address. The following figure shows how customers in the Northwind sample database show up inside Outlook just like native contact items. Notice how the contact name, phone number, and address automatically show up in the Contact view. If a field of an external content type does not map to a native Outlook item property, then Business Connectivity Services displays the additional external data using in an adjoining or a separate form. Figure 2 shows how the customer details are displayed in a separate form in the Outlook inspector for an external item.
Business Connectivity Services also supports declarative extensibility in Outlook, which means you can customize your solutions with task panes, external data parts, and actions.
In Microsoft Office Word 2007, external data that was embedded in a document from a SharePoint document library could be shown only in the property panel at the top of the document. In Word 2010, Business Connectivity Services provides the opportunity to expose external data in the body of the document in the form of content controls, thus creating a seamless user experience with the document. Business Connectivity Services uses the external data column feature and makes any external data column in a SharePoint document library available as a content control in Word 2010. The content control also provides picking and resolving capabilities. External data that is exposed in content controls is read-only in the document; however, Business Connectivity Services supports binding a workflow to the SharePoint document library that contains the external data column. Figure 3 shows how Word displays the external data columns as content controls.
Business Connectivity Services uses InfoPath as a forms technology to enable rich form customizations and symmetry between client and server. You can upsize the autogenerated SharePoint browser forms of an external list to InfoPath. In SharePoint Workspace, InfoPath forms are autogenerated if the external list uses default browser forms.
Using SharePoint Designer 2010, you can drag an External Data Picker onto a regular InfoPath form, add a secondary data adapter to an existing InfoPath form, and choose the data source to be an external list to enable users to read and write external data from InfoPath forms.