Smart documents are documents that are programmed to give you help as you use them. Several types of documents, such as forms and templates, work well as smart documents.
Smart documents are especially effective when used throughout a process. For example, your company may have a process for filling out annual employee review forms, and you may already use a Microsoft Word template for this purpose. If that template is turned into a smart document, it can be connected to a database that automatically fills in some of the required information, such as your name, employee number, manager's name, and so on. When you complete the form, the smart document can display a button that allows you to send it on to the next step in the process. Because the smart document knows who your manager is, it can automatically route itself to that person. And, no matter who has it, the smart document knows where it is in the review process and what needs to happen next.
Smart documents can help you reuse content. For example, attorneys can use existing boilerplate when writing contracts, and journalists can insert bylines and other commonly used text.
Smart documents can make it easier to share information. They can interact with a variety of databases and use Microsoft BizTalk Server for tracking workflow. They can also interact with other Microsoft Office applications. For example, you can use smart documents to send e-mail messages through Microsoft Outlook, all without leaving the document or starting Outlook.
Smart documents are created and distributed by developers and Information Technology (IT) professionals. You can tell whether your Word document is a smart document by seeing whether an XML expansion pack (XML expansion pack: A collection of files, managed by an XML manifest file, that add functionality to a Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel document by specifying custom display or actions.) is attached to it (Tools menu, Templates and Add-Ins command, XML Expansion Packs tab).
Note XML features, except for saving documents as XML with the Word XML schema, are available only in Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003 and stand-alone Microsoft Office Word 2003.
An XML expansion pack contains multiple components, including Extensible Markup Language (XML) (Extensible Markup Language (XML): A condensed form of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) that enables developers to create customized tags that offer flexibility in organizing and presenting information.) files and a manifest that references those components. When you open a document attached to an XML expansion pack, Word also opens the Document Actions task pane. That task pane can include tools for completing tasks and help for using the smart document. The specific features that a smart document provides depend on the developer or IT professional who creates it.
If you don't have development or IT resources, you can download smart documents created by third parties. If you're a developer and you want to know more about creating smart documents, see the Smart Document Software Development Kit on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Web site.
Note When you first try to use smart documents, you may see an error message saying that you need to install the common language runtime components or that you need a different version of the components. If you see that type of message, contact your system administrator.