Adding new features/Programming Microsoft Outlook 2000/2002/2003

I would like to add new features to Microsoft Outlook. I need my program to work on the largest install base of Outlook : Outlook 2000, Outlook 2002 and Outlook 2003.
Is it possible to have a Outlook add-on that works on all these versions? What are the limitations?
What is the best ways to program Outlook? VB, VBA, Outlook forms, Visual C++? What are the advantages and limitations of each method?
Thank you!
benjaminrhAsked:
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David LeeCommented:
Hi benjaminrh,

> Is it possible to have a Outlook add-on that works on all these versions?
Yes, so long as you stick with features common to all three.  If you use something that's only available in one of the newer versions, then you'd have a problem.  

> What are the limitations?
The limitations of what?  

> What is the best ways to program Outlook?T\
That depends entirely on what it is you want to do.  Forms have certain uses and applications that code does not and vice versa.  The question is really too broad to give a good answer.

> What are the advantages and limitations of each method?
This is also too broad to answer well, and not having programmed anything in C++ I couldn't make a comprison.  Outlook forms have the advantage of being laid out for you already.  Their disadvantage is that there are aspects of them you can't change and any code in a form has to be in VBScript which is the most limiting of the VB choices (i.e. VB, VBA, and VBS).  VBA and VB are vaery similar, but VBA is only available within Outlook.  If you're going to write an add-in, then you'll have to use VB or some other higher-level language.

Cheers!
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benjaminrhAuthor Commented:
Thanks your response.
Regarding the limitations, I meant "what are the features of Outlook 2003 that you are going to miss if you make it work for Outlook 2000"?
Also, let me add:
Is there big differences in the way you develop your application between 2000 and 2003?
How do you store data when you program for Outlook? Is there an embeded database? Do you need Microsoft Access? What is the common way of doing it? What is the prefered way?
Thanks!
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David LeeCommented:
Rather than rely on my memory of Outlook 2000, which I haven't used in a few years, you'd be better off looking at the list of product features on Microsoft's web site.  Here are a few links.

http://www.microsoft.com/office/editions/prodinfo/compare.mspx
http://www.slipstick.com/outlook/ol2003/newfeatures.htm

> Is there big differences in the way you develop your application between 2000 and 2003?
No.  If you're developing macros or forms, then it's very much the same.  If you're developing outside of Outlook, e.g. an add-in, then the development environment would be identical.  You'd just need to follow the rules of developing an add-in.  

> How do you store data when you program for Outlook?  Is there an embeded database? Do you need Microsoft Access? What is the common way of doing it? What is the prefered way?
Depends on the data and the application.  You can store data in forms, using existing and user-property fields.  You can also store data in varaibles and objects.  Data in the former is persistent.  Data in the latter is not.  No there is no embeded database, just the various objects (i.e. messages, appointments, contacts, etc.)  Access is not required, but you can read and write data to/from Access using ADO.  You can of course also read/write to/from any other Office application as well as text files.  Microsoft's own Business Contact Manager stores its data in an MSDE database (a runtime version of SQL).  There is no "common" or "prefered" way, it all depends on what you're doing and what tools are best suited to accomplishing that goal.  Most Outlook add-ins process information or add features, they don't generally store it.  They generally add features or capabilites that Microsoft didn't include in Outlook.  The driving factors should be using the best tool for the job and considering what software your intended customers will most likely have.  If your add-in requires Access and most users don't have Access, then it's not going to be as popular.  
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