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Fourteen years after ColdFusion first appeared, Adobe Systems has updated the platform to facilitate the development of applications that feed on Microsoft's Office and SharePoint productivity products.

Today, Adobe is announcing public betas of the latest edition of its platform that will let ColdFusion applications extract, parse, read, and import data to and from Office, while retaining the formatting. The features are part of Adobe's ColdFusion 9 and ColdFusion Builder.

That means users will be able to read and update documents, presentations, charts, and graphs in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel from inside ColdFusion applications.

Adobe said ColdFusion tags have been updated to support Office and its embedded libraries. ColdFusion will work with all versions of Office going back to Office 97, but not the upcoming Office 2010 that Microsoft is releasing as a preview today at its Worldwide Partner Conference.

ColdFusion has also been updated to support the open-source community's challenger to Office: OpenOffice.

Support for Microsoft's SharePoint document libraries and repositories is added at the API and XML level, so ColdFusion applications can access SharePoint as web services. ColdFusion also supports JSR's 168 and 286, and WSRP for improved interoperability with portlets and portals.

The sudden rush of support for Office and SharePoint after so long - ColdFusion first appeared in 1995 - has come because so many of its Java customers working with ColdFusion are using these Microsoft products. At least, that's the word from Adobe. The company that claimed 20 per cent of its customers are looking at SharePoint or had some kind of need for integration with SharePoint. But these organizations don't want to have to bother learning how to program in .NET.

A fair point, but to put that back on Adobe for moment: It won't want to lose ColdFusion developers to the .NET development tools and framework. Also, it will want to increase the appeal of Flash, Flex, its server offerings, and the utility of its Rich-Internet-Application play AIR by making it easier of developers to wire them into Microsoft's business applications.

The push comes as Microsoft introduces the next versions of Office and SharePoint. Historically, customers have clung to existing versions of Office rather than embrace the new. Adobe is trying to work with this potentially-rich existing base, leaving Microsoft to push its new software among a wedge of early adopters.

"We just wanted to open up more doors," ColdFusion product manager Adam Lehman told The Reg. "When a SharePoint or Office project came across the floor you didn't want to say: 'We can't use ColdFusion, we have to use .NET'."

Adobe's work on SharePoint and Office follows work on ColdFusion 8 that added interoperability with .NET. But you needed tools from third parties to program ColdFusion applications capable of integrating with SharePoint and Office.

"Once we got the .NET stuff added, the next thing people wanted was integration with SharePoint. Customers didn't know what they wanted to do with it," they just wanted it. "The Java community wants to play in that world but not have the skill set."

Other updates to ColdFusion target RIAs. Version 9 exposes the ColdFusion service library to SOAP for remoting services, so that developers can build web services that talk to ColdFusion applications without writing in ColdFusion code. Also, there's a set of client-side consumer libraries to consume such services. Advanced caching has been added so that AIR applications can work offline by saving and retrieving objects from a built-in cache.

On the administrative side, Adobe's added a Flex-based, AIR-built server manager to manage multiple ColdFusion servers. The server manager will let you manage and apply setting for servers, managing data sources and applying hot fixes among other actions.

Adobe would not give a date for when ColdFusion 9 will ship. ®

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