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How NOT to make your app extensible

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(And how NOT to write performance-oriented apps for .NET)

I recently looked at writing some code to integrate with ACT! 2005. ACT! is a personal information management application along the same lines as MS Outlook or Lotus Notes. When I installed the demo and found that it was a .NET application, I was intrigued. When I found that there was an SDK available, I was even more intrigued. Did I finally find an application that makes integration simple and relatively painless? (None of Outlook, Notes, GoldMine or previous versions of ACT! fall into this category).

My hopes were crushed when I actually looked at the contents of the SDK. Some 20-odd megs of assemblies, a few samples, and some incredibly pathetic documentation. The documentation consists primarily of short snippets demonstrating how to perform very specific tasks. Nowhere is there any indication of what any of the assemblies actually do. A high-level design overview or detailed description of the class heirarchy? Nah. We obviously don't need those. Browsing the ACT! discussion groups shows that I'm not alone in my disdain for the SDK.

The moral of the story: If you want your app to be extensible, don't underestimate the value of good documentation. All the functionality in the world isn't worth much if nobody can figure out how to use it.

Incidentally, ACT! 2005 is also one of the slowest applications I've ever used. And I use the term 'used' loosely; it's barely tolerable on my P4 2.8 Ghz dev machine.
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I'd recommend sticking to Outlook. There are also countless applications which take advantage of the outlook database. Black and White, for example, sometimes named the civilians after people in your outlook contact list. I haven't looked at it myself, but I'm sure there's a nice and easy way to get at that database through the framework. If you get any progress, I'd be interested in knowing how you did it.

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Well, unfortunately I have no control over what apps our software integrates with; that's for the marketing guys to decide [smile]

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