Archive for December, 2007

Integrating the ATK with Powerpoint – Part 1

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

During my recent trip to the Lexalytics offices in Amherst a topic of conversation came up around the integration of the data from the ATK and Powerpoint.  I had already demonstrated that you could just embed a direct URL to a widget image in a powerpoint slide that you could then refresh with a simple click, but you still had to go into the browser to define the widget etc. and then copy and paste the URL into your powerpoint slide.  Surely this was more onerous than it needed to be – time to see if we could just integrate directly into powerpoint.

A quick trip to MSDN later and I discovered the joys of the delightfully named ‘Visual Studio Tools for Office 2005‘ or VSTO for short.  These are a set of .NET assemblies that just drop into your VS2005 environment, providing some C# project templates that you can create, such as Powerpoint Addin – just what I was looking for.  Now I’ve been programming for a while and the last time I tried to make an addin for an office product (Word IIRC) I had to muck about creating COM objects, handling all the registration myself and ensuring that I provided implementations for half a dozen methods.  Now I had to do none of this.  All I needed to do was choose the correct project type and a fully usable C# framework was generated for me, ready to go, leaving me to get on with actually programming the add in, rather than worrying about plumbing.

So on with the project for which I had 3 main aims

  1. Make the process of inserting a graph into Powerpoint as painless as possible
  2. Give the user enough control that they can produce meaningful graphs, but not so much that they hang themselves
  3. Work within the customer workflow, rather than making them learn a new way of working

This seemed to me to imply a nice easy wizard interface – I mean everybody loves wizard interfaces – and in part 2 I’ll explain what we did in detail.

Google Charts API

Friday, December 7th, 2007

Saw via the BBC Backstage mailing list (and James Cridlands personal blog) that Google have released a simple charting API. 


It does a nice job on simple graphs and has a decent amount of graph types but for me the lack of clickthroughs (and ability to make an image map) makes it a non starter in our products.

Still if you have some simple graphing needs then it worth checking out, and I’ll probably put an example of how to take the output from the ATK and push it into a chart.