The Basics of Collaboration

Need a reference point for learning collaborative application development?

Messaging and collaboration are at the heart of business. Whether you're dealing with appointments, tasks or simply communication via e-mail, you're using a messaging infrastructure. Building a collaborative application with Microsoft Exchange is much easier than creating one from scratch. Most of the infrastructure for what you want to do is already there, and your users already know how to use Outlook. Using Collaborative Data Objects (CDO) and the Messaging API (MAPI), you can capitalize on this knowledge.

Writing mail-enabled applications is no easy task. Sometimes adding a feature such as collaboration can involve more work than you thought. Fortunately, with the right resource, this seemingly daunting task can be much easier. Enter CDO & MAPI Programming with Visual Basic. This book can be an invaluable resource to anyone charged with writing collaborative applications for the first time.

It begins as many technical books do, with a history of the technology and an overview of what's to come. Next, the author goes into some detail on the underlying architecture of MAPI and CDO then introduces you to Simple MAPI, which, as the author points out, is practically useless unless you're dealing with legacy systems. The next subject is CDO, showing the object model and tidbits of code. In Chapters 6 and 7, the author demonstrates how to create an e-mail application and covers some advanced topics such as folders, filters and address books. Chapters 8 through 10 cover Calendar, Tasks and Contact Folders. Chapter 11, entitled "Web Applications," introduces some of the things that CDO can do to display data on the Web. Then, in less than 20 pages, the author takes a quick look at CDO for Windows 2000.

If you're writing an application in a pre-Exchange 2000 shop, this book will be a fine addition to your library. The target audience is developers who are new to COM and fairly new to VB. The information in the book that dealt with larger issues was, at times, remedial. The Web Applications chapter covers configuring IIS and an overview of ASP and its functions in just a few pages. I would have liked to have seen more in-depth coverage of the ASP side of things. The author should also have provided more information on CDONTS and the latest version of CDO; as it is, he barely mentions it. I was also disappointed by the lack of information regarding Exchange 2000's Web storage system. However this book was apparently written prior to the release date of Exchange 2000.

All in all, this book's usefulness depends highly on the reader's needs. If you're looking to master CDO 1.21 for Exchange 5.5 and earlier or need to keep up with legacy systems using MAPI, this book is an excellent place to start. But if you're an experienced Visual Basic programmer, you'll find yourself skimming for the meat while skipping the information you learned when you started using VB.

About the Author

Brian M. Reisman, MCAD, MCDBA, MCSD, MCSE, MCT, is author of MCAD/MCSD: Visual Basic .NET Windows and Web Applications Study Guide (Sybex).


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