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Microsoft computing: Integrating the iSeries and Microsoft Office

Traditionally, IBM and Microsoft have not been the best of friends, but ironically their respective business platforms make pretty good partners. Chris Peters, co-author of the i5/OS and Microsoft Office Integration Handbook, reviews the benefits of using MS Office in conjunction with your iSeries.


Download an excerpt from the handbook

Desktop applications that are familiar and user-friendly -- such as MS Excel or MS Word -- can be coordinated with live iSeries data and iSeries integration services to create the greatest benefit overall.

In enterprise-level computing, the old expression of "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" rings particularly true. That is, while diverse computing services available within an organization may each have considerable standalone value, if the services can be made to work together, a measure of additional benefit is likely to emerge. Such is the case in many business installations where a very capable and trustworthy central computing system, like the iSeries, is complemented by de facto standard desktop platforms, namely Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. In such an organization, the iSeries is typically doing what it does best (relational database organization together with centralized data protection and data management), while the Microsoft platforms perform what they do best (providing comfortable user interfaces into productive desktop services like MS Word, Excel, and Access). The aggregate benefit, then, is garnered when the two platforms can be made to work together.

Using what is already available to create more-capable systems -- a practice called "leveraging" -- was discouraged in the past due to a lack of understanding and therefore a lack of trust of the component systems. That is, the black box was just too black. Now, because of the levels of maturity and familiarity of component systems, leveraging has been elevated to a viable business solution option. For example, few iSeries installations would attempt to produce a letter-writing application that would rival Microsoft Word with all of Word's development, testing, and popular acceptance.

Further, a popular art-appreciation adage suggests "I know what I like when I see it," indicating that the person viewing the art form may not have an educated eye but does possess an intuitive appreciation of the media. For software end users, the same adage might be more appropriately stated as "I like what I see when I know it." To the software development professional, increased software acceptance will be achieved when the user is greeted by already-familiar system components -- such as Excel, Outlook and Word.

Through the decades that computing machines have been with us, a great deal of study and advancement have taken place with the intention of optimizing the success of the computer software development effort. Toward that end, we in the business software arena have worked through several theories of software engineering. For example, we had the waterfall model: When one phase of development is completed, it then flows into the next evolutionary phase of development, allowing us to build ever larger and more feature-rich systems through an incremental and iterative cycle. Our present-day component-based model calls for building solutions from existing applications and services whenever possible. The i5/OS and Microsoft Office Integration Handbook subscribes to the component-based model, appreciating the considerable capabilities of vastly popular applications like MS Office as well as the strengths and security of a managed data repository like the IBM iSeries.

Interaction between two computers, like an iSeries system and a PC, requires a coordination of efforts between the two machines. The two systems, each operating in their own time and purpose, must work together at several levels. Brian Singleton and I wrote the i5/OS and Microsoft Office Integration Handbook to explain how to install and license iSeries Access connectivity software, ODBC, and OLE DB/ADO data access providers as well as to explain how to use them. We cover how to access iSeries data with Microsoft Query, bring iSeries information into Word documents and labels, and analyze iSeries data with Microsoft Excel. Moving data back and forth between the iSeries and MS Access is covered, as is the iSeries, email and Outlook. We also felt it important to explain how to use the iSeries' FTP capability, iSeries Access data transfer functions, and the Windows Network Neighborhood as it relates to the iSeries.

New material in the third edition of the i5/OS and Microsoft Office Integration Handbook addresses sharing iSeries data across platforms and related security issues, taking advantage of the iSeries NetServer capabilities, and getting the best performance for your integrated systems.

The book is written for the iSeries professional in easy-to-understand terms, yet all subjects are thoroughly covered. Programming skills are not required for most aspects of iSeries and Office integration, and productive results can be achieved without delay.

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About the authors:

Chris Peters has 26 years of experience in the IBM midrange and PC platforms. Chris is president of Evergreen Interactive Systems, a software development firm and creators of the iSeries Report Downloader. Chris is the author of i5/OS and Microsoft Office Integration Handbook, The AS/400 TCP/IP Handbook, AS/400 Client/Server Programming with Visual Basic, and Peer Networking on the AS/400 (MC Press). He is also a nationally recognized seminar instructor and a graduate instructor at Eastern Washington University. Chris can be reached at Chris@EvergreenInteractive.com.

Brian Singleton, former editor of Midrange Computing magazine, is a business information systems consultant and is in the process of becoming a CPA.


Printed with permission from MC Press, LP; http://www.mcpressonline.com.


This was last published in November 2005

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