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Microsoft touts its Web Parts for XML data transforms

Although they have been around for a few years, Web Parts are probably not the best known of Microsoft's .NET-based technologies. But they can make life easier for developers working to bring XML data from a variety of sources to a portal application, said Rob Mauceri, lead program manager for Microsoft FrontPage.

''Web Parts are essentially a type of Web form control,'' explained Mauceri. ''There's a base class Web Part from which other Web Parts can be derived. We've built a whole set of Web Parts that are in Windows SharePoint services.''

The development team that worked on the new versions of SharePoint and FrontPage created what Mauceri terms the XSLT data view Web Part. ''That's a Web Part that allows you to [take] XML data that can come from a wide variety of data sources like XML files, SQL databases or SOAP services, and transform that XML data into HTML that appears on the page using XSLT that you author,'' he said.

''The tools in FrontPage for creating XSLT are completely WYSIWYG. You work with live data inside your page when you create your view of the data,'' added Mauceri. ''You format it just like you would static HTML but, under the covers, FrontPage is authoring the XSLT to do the transformation of that live data.''

While business users may work with basic Web Parts, Mauceri pointed out that the technology is based on .NET, so Visual Studio developers can create custom Web Parts for portal applications.

''Suppose you wanted to display geographic data and you had some code that did this today in a client application and you wanted to make it accessible in the context of a SharePoint site,'' he said. ''You could create a Web Part that did that. Because Web Parts and the SharePoint framework support part-to-part connection -- the ability of one Web Part to pass data to another Web Part -- you can drive that geographic display Web Part with XML data coming from a database that would display in an XSLT data view.''

Microsoft customers in the beta program for the 2003 versions of SharePoint and FrontPage are already doing this, noted Mauceri.

More information on this technology is available at http://officebeta.microsoft.com/officeupdate/

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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