Exam Reviews

Total Teamwork

Proving you know how to create collaborative solutions with Outlook 2000 and Exchange Server 5.5 means understanding VB, ASP, COM, and CDO, among other technologies.

If the length of an exam’s title is any indication of its complexity, then you shouldn’t be surprised by this latest offering from Microsoft. Covering several areas, including Visual Basic, Active Server Pages, the Outlook object model, and several BackOffice products, this exam is not for the faint-hearted. But if you want to prove to clients or employers that you really know how to customize Outlook and develop feature-rich, database-driven Exchange applications, passing this exam is a big step in the right direction. What kind of applications are we talking about here? Everything from simple Outlook forms that implement some type of business logic to extensive public folder applications designed to facilitate collaboration.

Outlook 2000/Exchange Server 5.5 (70-105)
Reviewers’ Rating: “To get through this one, code several Outlook applications and use as many different Microsoft technologies as possible.”

Title: Designing and Implementing Collaborative Solutions with Microsoft Outlook 2000 and Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5.

Number of questions: 125 on beta; probably about half that on actual exam.

Time allowed: 4 hours for beta; expect around 90 minutes for the live exam.

Current Status: Live as of December 1999.

Who should take it? This exam counts as an elective toward the MCSD certification.

What classes prepare you?

  • 1593: Building Collaborative Solutions Using Microsoft Outlook 2000; 5 days, instructor-led.
  • 1153: Overview of Microsoft Exchange Collaboration Development; 2 days, instructor-led.
  • 1251: Programming with Microsoft Exchange Collaboration Data Objects; 2 days, instructor-led.

Object Oriented?

From the exam’s title I expected a lot of Exchange Server- and Outlook-specific questions. Interestingly, few questions actually dealt with pure Exchange Server; I suppose Microsoft prefers to save those for test 70-081. But you should expect to know something about Visual Basic programming, the Outlook object model, and CDO and COM objects.

Although I didn’t study for this exam per se, I did prepare myself by reviewing the Outlook object model and looking at the source code of several existing Outlook/Exchange applications. I also have a fair amount of experience working with Visual Basic in one form or another. I would have thought that all this, coupled with my hands-on Exchange experience, would have sufficiently prepared me to take this exam.

You can understand my surprise when I encountered questions on Microsoft Site Server, SQL Server, Internet Information Server, and even Systems Management Server. Even though these questions represented a small fraction of the test, I’m sure I missed a few of them, which won’t help my chances of passing.

Tip: Make sure you’re familiar with all of Microsoft’s products targeted for the Internet/intranet environment. These include IIS, SQL Server, Site Server, Index Server, and Transaction Server, as well as Exchange. Know how each product works and when you would use them.

This is a Developer’s Test, After All

Even though I expected to be tested on VB, I was still surprised at how many questions dealt with syntax and programming constructs. This seems to be a trend with Microsoft. It keeps enhancing its development products with things like wizards and context-sensitive syntax completion, yet expects would-be MCPs to know this stuff cold. I have grown to depend on the nifty features of the various VB development environments, like getting a drop-down list of all available properties and methods for an object after typing the period. Consequently, I’ve gotten a bit lazy in remembering the specific rules regarding syntax. If you have this habit too, it’s time to hit the code!

But even if you have the syntax down pat, your chances of passing will greatly improve if you’re also familiar with the design aspects of developing an Outlook solution. It’s not that there are a lot of test questions that deal specifically with design issues; but knowing the why behind the various test scenarios will help ascertain the how.

This test also expects you to know the Outlook object model. Several questions presented a particular requirement, like checking the Inbox for messages with a certain subject line and then acting upon them. From the code fragments offered as ways to meet the requirement, you’re supposed to choose which ones will work. I found myself guessing at many of these, not knowing off the top of my head the myriad objects, methods, and properties available in Outlook.

Tip: Real-world experience would definitely help here, but you still need to know the object model and VB syntax inside and out. Try coding several routines in Notepad instead of your regular development environment. This will force you to do everything “by hand.”

CDO, ADO, COM, and Other TLAs (Three-Letter Acronyms)

It’s possible to create complex, database-driven applications in Outlook and Exchange without ever having to create a component object model (COM) object or use a single active database object (ADO) call. But apparently Microsoft really wants you to use these and other technologies; they surfaced repeatedly on the beta exam.

Although the most attention was given to collaborative data objects (CDO), ADO, and COM, I also faced questions on active server pages (ASP), SQL queries, and even ActiveX controls (sorry, there’s no TLA for these. I found some questions more difficult than ones I have encountered in other tests, including the IIS 4.0 and IEAK 4.0 exams.

A typical exam scenario would involve an application that used custom-written ActiveX controls and COM objects inside of an Outlook form that gathered some of its information from an Exchange public folder and other information from a SQL Server database. If you’ve already developed an application like this, you’re well on your way to passing this exam; if not, plan to try your hand at it.

Tip: Create and incorporate a few COM objects into an application. Know how the various object properties work. Understand the difference between CDO and ADO objects and when you would use one over the other.

Where’s the Exchange?

I expected coverage of topics like using the Administrator program, dealing with Exchange services, or working with site design issues. From my own experience, I know that custom programs can impact these areas. A custom public folder application, for example, needs to take into consideration how public folder replication and affinity are configured.

Exchange Server wasn’t totally absent from the exam, however. To get through successfully, make sure you know object names, like how to refer to a particular mailbox on a particular server.

Tip: Knowing how Exchange handles public and private information stores, as well as how the various recipient containers are configured, can help on this test. Also make sure you know the x.400-naming schema, as used by Exchange.

Routing Objects, Web Forms, and Other Arcane Issues

There were several questions involving Routing Objects, dealing with things like creating routing maps and using routing objects to gather information about items and their properties. There were also a few questions on creating HTML forms from Outlook forms. Add in the questions about Transaction Server, deploying COM objects and Active X controls, and how to best distribute a complete application, and you’re starting to get a feel for the breadth of this exam.

At the Microsoft Exchange Conference I attended soon after taking this exam, I saw a perfect example of these technologies in action. The Comm network available to conference attendees provided email, scheduling, event information, discussion forums, and Internet access via several banks of PCs. After logging into any one of the PCs, you’d get both an Outlook view and a Web-based view of your information.

Let’s say I wanted to know what breakout sessions were happening on a particular afternoon. I could go to Outlook and check out the conference schedule in a public folder or click on a link on the Web page. Once I found the session I wanted, I could open a form describing the session in detail. On the form was a button that would add the session to my personal calendar in Outlook. As I was thinking how impressed I was with the consultants who developed this system, I figured they’d be a shoe-in to pass this exam!

Additional Information

Passing Words

Want to pass this daunting exam? Code several Outlook applications and use as many different Microsoft technologies as possible. For example, try writing an app that uses an Outlook form coupled with a public folder to route helpdesk requests to appropriate mailboxes, based on a set of criteria stored in an SQL database. You could put a COM object on the form to query the database, while creating a Web page view for the public folder that stores the requests. As you code, try to accomplish the same functionality in different ways (by using the different syntax forms for editing properties, for instance). Put a poster of the Outlook object model on your wall and study it while you’re on hold with a client. And when you pass, make sure you charge an extra $25 an hour for your time!

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