Product Reviews

A Control Panel for Your Information

Drive your business with Microsoft's new Digital Dashboard.

Microsoft has released the Digital Dashboard Starter Kit as a free download (available from
).  This 10 MB download is worth the connection time for anyone who wants to get an idea of where Microsoft's knowledge management strategy is headed these days.

A Digital Dashboard is, according to Microsoft, "a customized Microsoft Office 2000-based solution for knowledge workers that consolidates personal, team, corporate, and external information with single-click access to analytical and collaborative tools." The Starter Kit includes several sample Digital Dashboards, an avalanche of documentation, and some helpful Office 2000 add-ins to make it easy to create your own. The basic strategy of building a Digital Dashboard is to use FrontPage 2000 to create a custom web page that's then used as the Outlook Today page in Outlook 2000. The result is an HTML-based view of your company's operations that also has access to all of the scheduling and other information already stored in Outlook.

Not since the long-ago Office 4.3 Solutions Development Kit has Microsoft done such a good job of showing how different Microsoft applications can work together for a common goal. If you're a developer, you might have been overwhelmed by all of the releases recently. The documentation alone here is worth the cost of the download in helping you sort out how to make Microsoft products work together. Along with Outlook and Front Page, the components here include SQL Server, OLAP Services, the Office Web Components, IE5, Exchange, and Site Server.

It works. Following the direction in the Starter Kit, I built my own custom Digital Dashboard-with views of my most important email and some statistical information from our web server-in less than an hour. Whether to buy into this Microsoft-only vision of an information infrastructure is something that each IT Department will need to evaluate, but it's definitely impressive.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.

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