When I first started developing information systems at Microsoft, I often looked at Microsoft Excel and lamented that it was not packaged as a collection of reusable components that I could simply pick up and integrate into my applications. At that time, the current version of Excel had a new revolutionary user interface element called a "toolbar," and everyone loved it. When the Microsoft engineers integrated toolbars into the new operating system shell, Microsoft Windows 95, they built the toolbar as a reusable control—part of the Windows common controls. However, Microsoft Office still remained a set of large, monolithic applications, reusable only through cross-process automation. Soon after that, the Office applications integrated Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), allowing developers to build solutions within the applications; however, that did not help developers who were writing custom applications in Microsoft Visual Basic or C++. Those developers needed the power of Excel's recalculation, charting, and PivotTable services inside their applications, hosted on their forms, and integrated with their data.
With the release of Office 2000, this dream of mine has finally become a reality. In this version of Office, our team released a new set of reusable services named the Office Web Components (OWC), which encapsulate the basic data analysis and reporting features found in Excel and Microsoft Access. However, as with most first-version technologies, developers will need help understanding what these components offer and how they can successfully incorporate OWC into their custom solutions. That is why I wrote this book. This book is the definitive resource on the Office Web Components, and it comes straight from a member of the team that built them.