Proving you can create Office 2000 solutions for this exam requires thinking outside the product box.
The official title of this exam suggests
that it tests your knowledge of Office 2000 and VBA. That’s
both too inclusive and too narrow. On the narrow side,
the Office knowledge is focused on Excel and Word; you
need not have more than a passing acquaintance with Access
or Outlook, and PowerPoint, FrontPage, Publisher, and
PhotoDraw (all members of Office Premier) aren’t covered
at all. You also don’t have to worry too much about your
VBA skills. This exam continues the trend of MCSD exams
concentrating on high-level skills rather than language
syntax. What that means is that you don’t need to know
much about the actual nuts and bolts of the language.
You won’t find any items testing your knowledge of looping
and branching constructs, string and date functions, data
types, or many other core language features.
On the other hand, if all you know is Office, you’re
in trouble. You should interpret “Solutions with Microsoft
Office 2000” to mean solutions that use components from
Office 2000, but not necessarily only components
from Office 2000. You need to have at least a basic understanding
of the capabilities of SQL Server, Index Server, and Internet
Information Server to pass this exam.
Rating: “Be prepared for an exam
that goes well beyond its title and requires
more reading than usual.”
Designing and Implementing Solutions
with Microsoft Office 2000 and Microsoft
Visual Basic for Applications.
Number of questions:
100 on beta; fewer on actual exam.
3 hours and 30 minutes for beta;
expect around 2 hours for the live exam.
Live as of December 1999.
Who should take
it? This exam counts as an elective
toward the MCSD certification. If you’re
an Office or VB developer pursuing your
MCSD, this is an obvious elective.
prepare you? Self-paced courses
1013, “Mastering Microsoft Visual Basic
6 Development,” and 1301, “Microsoft
Mastering: Microsoft Office 2000 Development.”
Lots of Reading
The case study questions present a
business situation, a list of goals, and a list of actions.
You’re expected to pick out which goals are satisfied
by the listed actions. These (and some other items on
the exam) are “pick all that apply,” so the scope for
guessing is considerably lessened over the old “pick exactly
two answers” items. With some items having up to seven
possible answers, it will be interesting to see which
ones survive the beta process. Particularly with the high-level
analysis items, the answers seemed to me to be very subjective.
You’ll want to read the exam preparation guide carefully
to make sure you understand how terms such as “maintainability”
and “security” are defined in the context of this exam.
Know Data Access
Not surprisingly, data access technologies
play a relatively large part in the test, since most solutions
involve storing data somewhere. This doesn’t mean you
need to know how Access and SQL Server work in detail.
But you should have an understanding of how to select
a proper data engine for a solution, and of the APIs to
use to retrieve data from it. Active Data Objects (ADO)
is clearly the most important data access API these days,
but make sure you know what the alternatives are.
You’ll also want to know something
about the parts of a database. Make sure you understand
the differences between tables, views, and stored procedures.
Give some thought, too, to ways to move data around between
different Office applications. When would you want to
use a method of a Word or Excel object? When would you
want to use an Active Server Page?
Useful Resource, But Not For This Exam
Microsoft Office 2000 Visual
Basic for Applications Fundamentals
By David Boctor
Microsoft Press, 1999, $39.99, ISBN
From the title of this book you might
think it’s the perfect study guide for
the Office VBA exam. Unfortunately for
this notion, the book (unlike the exam)
is actually about Office VBA. Boctor
introduces all of the key VBA language
concepts and shows how to use them in
the context of Office solutions. He’s
especially strong in showing the parallels
between operations in different Office
applications. For example, selecting
content in Word, Excel, and Outlook
is fundamentally similar, and by exposing
these similarities, this book makes
it easier to build a mental model of
the way Office works.
Another strong point of the book is
in its attention to user interface design.
Boctor does a good job of explaining
UserForms and event-driven programming,
but he also delves into programming
the Office Assistant, creating and using
custom menus and toolbars, and building
Wizards and COM Add-Ins to simplify
everyday tasks. Since the author is
a program manager on the Office team,
it’s not surprising that his approach
leads to solutions that look and feel
like part of Office itself.
As far as a study guide goes, the mastering
of this book will help you with the
exam topics on Excel, Word, the Assistant,
and COM Add-Ins—perhaps a third of the
exam. For the rest, you’ll need to look
Deploy That Solution
Office 2000 solutions don’t end with
design, development, and debugging. Deployment is an important
component of this exam. If you haven’t looked at the Package
and Deployment Wizard in Microsoft Office 2000 Developer,
you’d better remedy that lack before trying to pass. You
should understand the choices to be made when running
the Wizard, as well as what will happen on the end user’s
computer when your setup program is run.
Also remember that computing environments
are getting more varied. There are two ways to look at
this variation. One is to consider what components you
need to include with your solution to make sure it works
for the user. The other is to look at what functionality
will be available to a user who’s installed, say, Internet
Explorer 3 and doesn’t want to upgrade to Internet Explorer
5. Understanding what the Office Server Extensions offer
for intranets and what they require of end users is a
key piece of this puzzle as well.
You should also be familiar with setting
up the components of Office 2000 itself. There’s more
to this than just running the setup program for Office.
Be sure you know what’s in the Microsoft Office Developer
box and what you have to do to configure the various add-ins
it makes available. Do you know how to use source code
control with Office 2000? Do you know how to create COM
Add-Ins? Microsoft apparently wants to make sure you’re
familiar with both of these topics.
Finally, make sure you can set up the
Microsoft Database Engine (MSDE). Given a requirement
for particular behavior on the part of this piece of software,
what choices should you make during its setup?
A Few Good Objects
Office 2000 contains 30 or so object
models. Fortunately, you can ignore most of them for the
exam. Almost all of the object model questions concern
Word or Excel objects. The only other object model you
need to be familiar with at all is the one exposed by
the Office Assistant, which figures in several items about
providing user assistance.
As far as Word and Excel go, you can
concentrate on the most important objects. Know the differences
between the Workbook, Worksheet, and Chart objects in
Excel, and the Section and Range objects in Word. Know
when AutoNew macros run and when you want to declare an
Application object WithEvents. The exam preparation guide
is, again, your friend here, as it narrows down the hundreds
of programming tasks involving Word and Excel objects
to just a few that you’re expected to know.
On the Server Side
You won’t have to answer detailed syntax
questions about non-Office software. But you’re definitely
expected to know how various pieces of Microsoft server
software fit into an Office solution. You should understand
the process of using Microsoft Index Server to index Office
documents, and know how users can use this index to find
particular documents. You should understand the interactions
between Microsoft SQL Server and ADO, Windows NT, and
client software. You should also be familiar with the
basic capabilities of IIS and Active Server Pages. All
of these topics could come up during the exam’s case studies.
You’ll find some helpful information
on how Office 2000 interacts with these other technologies
in the Office 2000 Developer documentation that ships
with Microsoft Office Developer, and in the Office Resource
Kit. All of this documentation is included on the quarterly
MSDN CDs starting in July 1999.
User Interfaces and Add-Ins
Certification exams tend to focus on
new technologies, and this one is no exception. For example,
the new COM Add-In feature that lets you write one add-in
for multiple Office hosts comes in for major use here.
Understanding how to create such an add-in, how to deploy
it, and what you can do with it will definitely make your
test-taking experience easier.
And while you’re thinking about those
add-ins, think about their user interface. You’ll be expected
to understand the basics of using UserForms, including
what events will happen in various circumstances. As I’ve
already mentioned, you should know what the Office Assistant
can do for your solutions, and when and how to implement
part of your user interface in a Web browser.
The Best Way To Pass
Although the exam preparation guide
states that the exam may include adaptive testing and
simulation items, there were no simulations on the beta.
I’m not positive, but common sense would indicate that
this means there won’t be any on the live exam either,
unless they’re being tested in some other fashion. As
for adaptive questions, that has to wait until sufficient
people have taken the exam to give the certification folks
a good baseline for which items have the most predictive
One thing to note about this exam is that it’s getting
harder than it used to be to get enough information to
pass the exam without knowing the material. When exam
items were along the lines of, “How many miles is it from
Detroit to Cleveland?” someone could take the exam, then
tell you the exact question and answer. Rewritten as a
case study, the same item would bury the city names in
three pages of text along with information about the speed
limit, model of automobile, phase of the moon, and brand
of gasoline used—more than anyone can remember when they
leave the testing center.
So don’t count on waiting a few months
and then asking around to figure out what you need to
know to pass. As always, the best way to pass the exam
is to have actual real-world knowledge of the technologies
it tests on. In this case, that means your best preparation
would be to deploy a solution that makes heavy use of
Word and Excel on your corporate intranet. Failing that,
you should at least use the Microsoft Office Developer
Edition enough to understand the wide variety of powerful
software that it contains.