SPUG: Too ignorant to know what to ask

Kevin Esteb kesteb at wsipc.org
Thu Feb 21 14:57:33 PST 2013

Something like this might work: http://www.kavoir.com/2009/01/using-javascript-to-open-excel-and-word-files-in-html.html

Search words: javascript load word document

-----Original Message-----
From: spug-list [mailto:spug-list-bounces+kesteb=wsipc.org at pm.org] On Behalf Of Andrew Sweger
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2013 2:28 PM
To: SPUG Members
Subject: SPUG: Too ignorant to know what to ask

Howdy folks,

I need to compose a question but I don't know enough about the subject matter to even know what to ask (or even of whom to ask it). I'm turning to you, my most trusted local source of technical knowledge, in the hope that I can get myself pointed in the right direction or make connections with the right people. As the subject is not really Perl-related, feel free to ignore this or respond privately (no need to turn this into an off-topic discussion). My apologies in advance if I have committed a significant faux pas in your view.
I presently work at a small company that makes and services a web application implemented in the [redacted] language. It's a perfect fit for me because I know a little [redacted]. It's why I joined this group. I want to improve our product by making it easier for my customers to use it. One of the things my customers like to do is manage and revise MS Word documents within this web application. The documents are held "inside" the web application. Normally, to edit one of these documents, one would download the file from the web server (over SSL) where it would then be saved somewhere on one's computer. One would then locate and open said document, making the little changes that one desires, and then saving that back to disk. Then one would go back to the web application, tell it you want to upload the revised document, click a button, navigate to the file's location, select it, and tell the web application to upload it. But many of my customers complain that this is a cumbersome process and prone to error (and the ones that don't complain just stare and blink at the Upload/Download buttons). So, I want to give my customers a thing (let's call it a web browser plug-in) they can install that would show them an icon of their document right on the web page. They could double-click on the icon and, as if by magic, the document would open in their application of choice (i.e., MS Word). When they were done making changes and quit the application, the document would again, as if by magic, be transported back to the web server and safely stored in the "cloud". The "magic" of course is just the plug-in quietly downloading the document in the background, telling the operating system to open the document in whatever application is registered for that type, monitoring the file to see when it's been modified/closed, and then uploading the document back to the web server (all over SSL).

Is this even possible? Why, yes! Yes, it is. I heard of a legend of such a thing that was installed as an IE Active X control that could be invoked by an <object> on a page and it could interact with the web page through JavaScript events. It was called a DropTarget (it was a drag-and-drop control after all). It's all true, I swear. But I can't find it. I also heard it was written in VB (not even VB.Net) and doesn't play well with modern versions of IE or Windows (and has to be installed with local administration privileges).

(Please note that SMB, CIFS, FTP, SFTP, SCP, NFS, AFS, BFP, ACKTHPPPT, and WEBDAV have all been ruled out as either not supporting encryption, involving more software to install, configure, and operate separately, or requiring yet another authentication silo.)

So, now I'm trying to hire someone to make one of these things. But I want it to work with IE 7 through at least IE 10 (desktop mode on Windows 8, obviously). And I want it to work with Chrome. And Firefox. And maybe even Safari (but maybe not). When I'm feeling particularly ambitious, I want it to work with browsers on Mac OS X and even Linux (maybe using the Firebreath framework). And I want the whole (Windows version) thing wrapped up in an MSI installer package that can be installed by non-admin users (in local user data) and that supports customization with MSTs by enterprises that like to control every last bit of their employee's computer use (with group policies, ability to install in local user data or as a system resource).

(Note that I barely know what much of that Windows technology really means and I've probably used the terms incorrectly.)

When I go looking for web browser plug-in developers, so far I am only finding people (or companies) that write plug-ins that do things strictly within the web page, like multi-media, graphics, sound, video, or look up the price for something on the page at your favorite other site. I need something that can break the security sandbox model (because the customer wants it that way) bridging the gap between the DOM, JavaScript, and the operating system shell.

Where does one look to find this kind of skill in particular? Does it have a special name? What targetted keywords will get me closer to what I need.
What do I tell the recruiter to look for (they are the ones bringing me multi-media hackers)?

Thanks for your time.
-- Andrew B. Sweger -- The great thing about multitasking is that several
                                things can go wrong at once.

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