Open XML workshops in Belgium and Slovenia

What a week! I've had the opportunity to discuss Open XML with developers, journalists, and government workers in several European countries, and it's been a very useful and informative 2-way dialog. I showed a bunch of people what Open XML can do and how it works, and a bunch of people showed me how people are using Open XML and what they'd like to see in the future from Microsoft regarding Open XML tools, policies and other topics. Thanks for all the great feedback, which I'll pass it on to all the appropriate folks back in Redmond.

Belgium: Ghent & Brussels

Developer & IT Pro Days took place in Ghent this week, and I was there for the Open XML workshop on Wednesday afternoon. It was fun to start my presentation at a Microsoft conference with a Linux interoperability demo. I heard a few snickers in the audience when that telltale Redhat logo appeared, and was reminded of my presentation at Linux Asia a few weeks ago, when the shoe was on the other foot and we were told it was "both strange and welcome to have Microsoft here." Since you only need XML and ZIP support to work with Open XML, and pretty much every platform supports those these days, I think that kind of interoperability will be commonplace before long but right now it's still a bit of a new concept.

In addition to the workshop, I also collaborated with my colleague Craig Kitterman on a Circle of Media Q&A session with some Belgian journalists, and met with representatives of local user groups. It was great to work with Craig and get to know him a bit better; we're in the same building back in Redmond, but we both travel so much that I've seen more of Craig in Europe than in Redmond over the last few months.

By the way, being a photo nut, I loved this picture that Craig took of me and MOSS superstar Patrick Tisseghem talking between our sessions in Ghent. (Patrick was in the same room immediately before me.) Anyone who knows Patrick or me will easily recognize our profiles in that shot.

Slovenia: Ljubljana

After some 1-on-1 meetings in Brussels Thursday with Microsoft and Belgian government people, my next stop was Ljubljana, Slovenia for an all-day Open XML workshop on Friday. It was great to see the strong turnout there, especially considering the small size of Ljubljana compared to many of the other cities where we're doing these workshops. I met with a couple of local journalists over lunch, and we discussed some of the new capabilities that Open XML brings to developers, especially in the area of custom XML schema support.

As I always say in these workshops, there are lots of ways to make pretty documents, but only Open XML offers full interoperability with other existing schemas through unrestricted custom XML parts and custom XML markup. It's fun to get out and do demos around those concepts with people who haven't seen them before.

Several interesting questions came up in the Slovenia workshop. For example, I talked afterward to two local developers who are looking at how to use content controls and custom XML parts to provide rich reporting options for a project that has limited budget and needs to be delivered quickly. The basic idea is that they'll be generating custom XML parts and embedding them in documents that have bound content controls, so that the users can print good-looking reports from Word without any need to develop custom reports or write out custom documents.

As a nice side-benefit of this architecture, the users will be able to customize the look and feel of the reports by simply editing the template documents, since the custom XML binding is independent of the formatting information. I'm hoping to be able to show off that application in more detail here later, if we can get permission to publicize the details from the appropriate governmental agencies.

Thanks to all my colleagues who organized and managed these events so effectively. I won't try to name everyone because I'll surely forget somebody, but special thanks to Ales Ruzicka in Prague, David Boschmans and Edward Claessens in Ghent, Dave de Bie and Dirk Tombeur in Brussels, and Janko Cajhen in Ljubljana. You guys all made a very busy week come together as planned without a single hitch.

I'm in Munich now, enjoying some R&R with my wife Megan, who traveled all the way from Seattle just to hang out with me a bit. We had been hanging out together in Second Life during the week, but the real thing is even more fun.