“What could be more magical than, all of a sudden, my email didn’t have typos and it was easy to add bullets?” –EdF, Word Development Manager
The DocObject interface was a classic code re-use idea. Going way back, DDE pioneered cross application communication and that code was reused to add all of the interfaces to do document embedding, in-situ editing and OLE2. Then all of the OLE2 code was reused to create DocObject, where the entire host app canvas was used by the embedded app. It opened up a lot of interesting integration scenarios, the two mentioned by Steven (WordMail and Web of hyperlinked Office documents), and a third, Steven's absolute FAVORITE, the Office Binder.
One of my favorite software-biz insults was referring to Windows for Workgroups as 'Windows for Warehouses'.
This chapter was very enlightening for me as an end user and brought back some memories. Some of which are:
1. I was just coming out of school when corporate Internet e-mail was making its way into the companies I started working for, probably around 1998-1999. I could not believe how far behind it was compared to the experience I had at home and at school. At a bank I worked at, they had mainframe-based Internet e-mail that could not even handle images or attachments, and that must have gone on until somewhere around Y2K. The replacement ended up being Lotus Notes, which to my uneducated eyes seemed to be an attempt to subvert or compete with HTTP and Internet technologies and back-end administrators seemed far happier with it than users did (although, being a bank, most people just put up with it like they put up with everything else that doesn't make sense). I could not wait to see them adopt Exchange / Outlook, which they eventually did but it was sometime after 2008 and I had left by that point.
2. For whatever reason, I put products like Groove in the same bucket as Lotus Notes. I only used Groove briefly, around the same time as I was being forced to use Notes, but it seemed like one of those products with an ambiguous audience and purpose that were trying to create private versions of what the Internet technologies should have been able to do but couldn't do at the time.
3. The post explained a lot about why the e-mail engine in Outlook seems to have changed so frequently, and why certain things do or don't work in different versions of Outlook depending on what e-mail engine was used in that particular version. It has been quite frustrating over time but it works well now.
4. I have only ever worked with exactly one process that used the built-in Word e-mail functionality, but the people that built it were quite attached to it because for whatever reason it produced a higher-fidelity version of a report than they were able to get from Outlook directly. That was the only reason the used it for that use case. They are not using it anymore because the report has been retired :)