Saying hello (again) to Visual Basic

How does that old Chinese proverb go? “May you live in interesting times!” I have no idea how accurate it is, or whether it is a positive blessing or a curse, but I really do live (and work) in interesting times.

Almost two years ago, back at WWDC in August 2006, the MacBU announced that Office 2008 would not have support for Visual Basic. I blogged about it at the time, and that one post has proven to be my 15 minutes of Internet fame. It continues to be the most popular post on my site — 21 months later, it still accounts for almost half of all the hits I get each week. While most of our customers don’t require the cross-platform scripting enabled by VBA, a section of the Mac community spoke out very vocally against our decision, and I still hear echos of it to this day. At the time, I wrote about the challenges we faced in bringing it forward with the rest of Mac Office 2008 and why we ended up deciding to remove the feature, but while some people understood or at least accepted the details, some in the community did not. I’ve been told that we must have cut VB to intentionally drive users to use virtualization and Windows Office 2007 on Macs, or that we were ordered by upper Microsoft management to slowly kill the Mac, or any one of a zillion other “Microsoft is evil” conspiracy theories. None of these theories are true, but it’s rather hard to prove that, except by deeds.

This isn’t a done deed yet, but I’ve got a new commitment for you. Quoting from a press release that went out from the MacBU at 12:01am PST today:

VBA Returns to Future Versions of Office for Mac

The Mac BU also announced it is bringing VBA-language support back to the next version of Office for Mac. Sharing information with customers as early as possible continues to be a priority for the Mac BU to allow customers to plan for their software needs. Although the Mac BU increased support in Office 2008 with alternate scripting tools such as Automator and AppleScript — and also worked with MacTech Magazine to create a reference guide, available at http://www.mactech.com/vba-transition-guide — the team recognizes that VBA-language support is important to a select group of customers who rely on sharing macros across platforms. The Mac BU is always working to meet customers’ needs and already is hard at work on the next version of Office for Mac.

Yep, you read that right. VB is (well, will be) back, baby! When we came to the realization in 2006 that there was no way for us to keep VB in the product and still ship Office 2008 on any semblance of the schedule we wanted, we announced its removal, but kept looking at how to bring it back into the suite even before we shipped. Many of the technical challenges I wrote about then still remain, but for a while now I and several others have been working with a group of people who know a heck of a lot about the internals of VB, and once we determined that we could achieve the revival VB in the new schedule for the next version of Mac Office, we locked it into place on the feature list.

Personally, I think it’s really cool that we’re announcing this now. For all the wringing-of-hands and gnashing-of-teeth in the Mac community over the lack of VB, Mac Office 2008 has been selling really well (Craig Eisler, our General Manager and all around cool-boss-guy, said “The response has been amazing — since we launched in January, the velocity of sales for Office 2008 is nearly three times what we saw after the launch of Office 2004” in that same press release) which seems to indicate that most of our users don’t find the lack of VB to be a major issue. I think our management is confident enough in our ongoing sales of Office 2008 to tell you about something very significant in the next version, even if that defers some sales to that next version. Based my own experiences talking with people in various Internet forums, I don’t think too much of that will happen, though. And if you were wondering, the delta between Office 2004 and 2008 was longer than we normally expect between versions, so my understanding is that this next version will be available somewhat sooner than 2012 (I can’t give any specifics at this time, however.)

So, if you have a dire need for Visual Basic, you can continue to run Mac Office 2004 (it will even run side-by-side with Office 2008) and we’re publicly committing to VB as good (maybe even better, if things go well) in the next version. My team is responsible for that reintegration, and I’ve been meeting frequently with a number of people as we’ve planned exactly what we’re doing and how we’re bringing VB back. This seems to me to be a strong example for the MacBU naysayers that we’re really listening to what all of our users want, and that we’re most definitely not slow-marching to some bagpiper’s funereal drone!

I’m excited to be able to blog about this now, after almost two years of keeping my lips zipped, and I can’t wait until we reveal everything else about the next version of Mac Office. In the meantime, let me ask you something. What parts of the Visual Basic experience are most important to you? The IDE? Macro UI, such as dialogs? Object model parity between Mac Office and Windows Office? (and if so, which features in the Windows object model do you most want brought to the Mac?) Or something else altogether? I can’t promise to achieve anything in particular, but I’d love to hear how we might be able to improve upon the 2004 VB experience for you.

(Made a few edits this morning, and added a link to the press release.)

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Schwieb

Married with two kids, one cat, and 4 computers...

138 thoughts on “Saying hello (again) to Visual Basic”

  1. I find it hard to get excited about (a) a feature that doesn’t exist yet, (b) even worse, a feature that existed before being ripped out of the next version, and (c) that we’ll have to pay yet again to get it back. Microsoft has developed a whole new upgrade model. What next, Adobe CS4 lacks layers and then CS5 brings them back?

    Don’t bother telling me what you are going to do – I’ve listened to this from Microsoft since the mid 80’s. Instead of promising me the world and delivering Peoria, surprise me by beating my expectations. I have to admit, if you follow my advice you’ll be getting off pretty easily because my expectations are so low for MS.

  2. What I really need is Visio… For true compatibility with the Windows suite, please provide something that can support visio files (standard vsd). This is a pain working with Office.

    oh, and stop Entourage crashing after I spend 5 minutes typing an email and then add an attachment.

  3. I am an Essbase guru and do a lot of work with VBA-Excel. In a corporate finance environment, MS-Excel must support add-ins for PeopleSoft and Oracle (Hyperion) Essbase. These, in turn, require VBA support. Get these working and, voila, Macs will have credible pull from big corporations.

  4. Awesome news. And I don’t think you can say if the lack of VB affected current sales: how could you tell how many sales were lost because of its removal?

    Me, I was upset enough to only buy Office 2008 because of that terrific sale you had the day after Thanksgiving last year; at $30 for both Office 2004 and 2008 it was hard to say no.

  5. Documents delivered to me at work often have VB macros, so I need that that much compatibility.

    My main use of VBA was in Excel ’98, to get a handle on how to translate the calls into Applescript. With Excel 2004, the object models diverged to such an extent that this was no longer useful. The problem remains in Office 2008. And all because the Applescript implementation is NOT RECORDABLE! Needless to say, it’s not embedable, either. The ideal would be to have the editor give you the choice of VBA or Applescript.

  6. So what you’re telling us is that features left out of ’08 will be added back in for Office ’10 (or whatever year it’s released)? All we have to do is wait a few years and then buy yet another version of Office? I have a hard time being excited about that. In the meantime, those of us who rely on 3rd-party add-in tools like EndNote are left high and dry. Sharing files with Windows users is nearly impossible, because even if the unusable macros aren’t required, 07 and 08 have incompatible features. Inserted images, charts, etc. are randomly flipped around, can’t be edited, and so forth.

    What the Mac BU needs to do is not to port VBA code to the Mac. You really need to port EVERYTHING to me Mac. I use Office 07 at home and 08 at work. The user interface in 08 is a wreck. I can’t understand how the floating Formula bar in Excel made it past quality control. The floating Toolbox always seems to be hiding the most important features, and nearly all of the tabs in the Toolbox are pointless – why have every feature packed into collapsing menus in the first tab, and then have entire tabs devoted to single, less commonly used features? The 07 Ribbon interface is so much easier to use. I can’t understand the decisions that led you not to implement it. I don’t think very many serious users would be that annoyed if Mac Office wasn’t very “Mac-like” so long as it actually delivered the same features as the Windows version. NeoOffice has been installed on my Mac for some time now, because unlike Office 08 it actually works – including nice touches like using the same display resolution as Windows Office, so that files needn’t be zoomed to 120% to be readable.

    Having said all that, there are improvements: with the inclusion of thumbnail view rather than outline, PowerPoint 08 is actually better. It’s finally approximately equal to PowerPoint 03. Wish it hadn’t taken five years for it to get there, though. I’m hard pressed to find many other things in the entire suite that give me hope though. Mac Office remains the single biggest frustration I’ve faced since moving to OS X.

    The final kick in the teeth is the price point. Given that Office 08 is a stripped-down, feature-poor shadow of Windows Office, with far fewer programs included, why exactly does it cost more than ’07 again?

  7. 2 features I must have for interoperability with PC users… 2 features that would be very nice… all in Entourage.

    1. Categories must sync. (can’t share “mailing list” category even with myself without it)
    2. Distribution lists must sync.

    Without these two changes, there is no good way to share contacts within a mixed platform environment. Please get this right this time. (Or fix it in a service pack… we won’t complain if we don’t have to wait another few years)

    A. Tasks should sync. Small offices like ours won’t ever use Project… we want to use shared task lists to get small projects accomplished.

    B. Side-by-side calendar viewing (like outlook).

  8. Split MS into 2, Platforms and Apps… Apps should then target other platforms, online or off as the market and customers dictate. Apps should include .Net/CLR, Office, Exchange, SQL Server, Project, Visio etc etc. Windows can then struggle along on it’s own… Might force a better OS, a redesign or it may just wither away. The apps won’t go down with it, unless they are crud (which some are) – oh sorry i though this was the DOJ/MS forum… dreaming again.

  9. Great news! Thank you for the info and for providing the forum here for comments.

    In many cases, VB is not just needed for power users. I support many people who don’t know what a macro is, but they still receive spreadsheets from others which rely on VB content. So for now — like many other support providers — I’m upgrading my Mac clients to Office 2008 but also feel the need to leave Office 2004 on their machines so they can use it on an as-needed basis for VB support.

    And you’ve suggested this “leave-Office-2004-alongside-2008” solution as a work-around for this VB issue. So…why not make a COMBINED updater for Office 2004? It’s incredibly annoying that every time one has to reinstall Office 2004 on a machine, you need to apply the following list of updates separately, one after the other, just to get Office 2004 as current as possible:

    MS Office 2004 AutoUpdate 1.1.2 Update
    MS Office 2004 11.3.5 Combined Update
    MS Office 2004 11.3.6 Update
    MS Office 2004 11.3.7 Update
    MS Office 2004 11.3.8 Update
    MS Office 2004 11.3.9 Update
    MS Office 2004 11.4.0 Update
    MS Office 2004 11.4.1 Update
    MS Office 2004 11.4.2 Update

    MS offered many combined updates for Office 2004 up to 11.3.5, but none since. PLEASE provide a COMBINED 10.4.2 update!

    I agree with the above opinions that your “justification” was flawed, about the relative unimportance of Mac VB support as an issue, based on good Office 2008 sales. Just because it’s selling well doesn’t mean that people are happy with every significant new feature addition or removal and every design decision. As we all know, a vast number of people were really unhappy with the Exchange support/integration in 2004 and had also been waiting a long time for an Intel native MS Office suite. Many people bought Office 2008 for Mac for those reasons…DESPITE the serious loss-of-VB problem. If it had been possible to provide VB support with Office 2008 and still release it January 15, then I think we all agree that Microsoft would have sold MORE copies of 2008 at this point. I know that it wasn’t possible to get that done, and I’m glad that relief is on the way even though it will take a significant amount of time and effort.

  10. VBA is the second ugliest thing Joel Spolsky ever made other people look at. This is kind of like amputating a gangrenous limb and then turning around and duct taping it back on. You’ve already made the unthinkably painful decision to alienate your established user base–why not justify their suffering by moving toward something better, like a cross-platform scripting language that doesn’t suck?

  11. bringing back visual basic would be great.

    Please fix the category issue in Entourage. That we can no longer sync to WM devices without losing all Outlook and Entourage categories is awful. The apple sync to iCal and datebook is worthless and bug ridden, causing duplicates in every sync.

  12. My requirement is simple. My company has a large Excel/Mac VBA app. It’s a front-end to a mysql database, fetching and storing data over the internet. We (I) won’t wholesale recode it unless forced. We will run Office 2004. If forced to recode, it won’t be to a Microsoft product, as the risk is proven too high.

    Now, maybe I missed it, but O2004 doesn’t have much by way of database support. No DAO, no ADO. I use QueryTables instead. Unfortunately, ODBC doesn’t seem to work with Insert queries. Thus, all queries are use a URL string connection through an Apache/PHP gasket.

    My requirement, consequently, is preservation of QueryTables.

  13. I have taught Microsoft Office classes on the Macintosh to corporate computer users since 1994. The most important thing to encourage use of VBA and help participants learn VBA (in the “old days” just macros) is the ability to record and then edit recorded code. The ability to recorded an action the user just preformed, then modify the code, is invaluable in helping users get started continue using VBA macros. And, actually fun to teach.

    Until Office 2008 recovers the functionality of at least Office 2004 I am recommending to most of my clients that they do not upgrade.

  14. This is a significant announcement for anyone whose workflow depends on VBA macros on Microsoft Word, as ours does. Our priority would be to have fast and accurate VBA support for search-and-replace in Word documents (including in their endnotes or footnotes, where occasional bugs make the Word 2004 for Mac implementation troublesome for us). We use VBA macros to mark up Word documents for use elsewhere, so we tend to be searching for italic characters, placing SGML-style tags around blocks of these, and so on. We also use macros to convert footnotes to endnotes, accept changes, turn track changes off, and so on. An implementation which is faster than the Word 2004 one would be nice – it can take a quarter of an hour to run a set of such filtering operations on the text of a short academic book, and this is on a very fast computer – but the most important concerns are accuracy and correct handling of Unicode.

    The charge against Microsoft on this issue wasn’t that it was doing something sinister – just that it had allowed the code of an important application, upon which people depended, to rust into a shockingly unmaintainable state. I regarded macro support as being part of Microsoft Office’s core functionality, far more important than any of the features being advertised as new in Office 2008. But for all Microsoft’s resources, it was being forced to abandon this major piece of Office’s specification due to poor design decisions made up to a decade before. This is the way the Word ends: not with a bang, but a whimper.

    Cross-platform scripting seems to me a must, if only because Microsoft has far more resources to devote to VBA on Windows than on OS X. If VBA for OS X had been using any common code-base with VBA for Windows, it probably wouldn’t have been in such a mess in the run-up to its abandonment. Bringing the two together would surely (a) clarify the specification and (b) make the implementation more accurate. And we’re moving towards a more diversified computing world. Microsoft could well be offering Office for Linux, or Solaris, in 2020; there’s no reason why scripting should be implemented independently on each platform.

    Microsoft Office has been lucky in that its open-source competition remains weaker than it had any right to expect. But that won’t go on indefinitely. If it’s going to survive, it needs continuing reinvestment in the fundamentals. VBA support had been shaky even before it gave way: how much else is like that? So it’s excellent news that the Mac Business Unit is revisiting this, and an important signal – I think, anyway – that Office isn’t going to be allowed to die a quiet death on OS X, the way Internet Explorer did.

  15. Thank you for deciding to bring VBA back. My day job entirely revolves around Excel user-defined functions and macros that I’ve created over the years, and I was beside myself when I realized that none of my Macs were going to be able to run them in Office 2008.

    I’m an Excel MVP, and expect Office to be truly cross-platform, with all features supported and offering comparable speed. Reality has been quite different, with each version since Excel 5 drifting further away from that ideal. So on the VBA front, if you could make the upcoming version of Excel VBA as good as Excel 2003, I’d be quite content. I’m thinking especially in terms of speed of execution, ability to interrogate values during debugging by hovering the cursor over a variable, and convenient access to VBA Help.

    Brad Yundt

  16. In general, my #1 biggest concern for “Office 2008 Next” is feature parity with whatever the Windows OS version has … and is going to have.

    #2? Feature Parity

    #3? Feature Parity

    This is an area that Microsoft has utterly failed in, ever since Word was ported from Mac to Windows. It goes far beyond merely VBA, as it encompasses the entire suite, including Exchange, and yes, even the absence of Access.

    There’s other factors too, in terms of making the product user-friendly. The plethora of patches that now need to be applied to Office 2004 (due to the lack of a combined updater) are one example.

    Another is a frustration of longtime customers is brought about by a combination of technology change and Anti-Piracy security measures: when 10.6 ships, it won’t have Rosetta emulation, so how am I expected to install Office 98 (requires OS 9 and PPC) so that it then can be detected by any later upgrade licence?

    Granted, one can argue that Office 98 is “ten years old”, but because of MS’s pricing struture for new licences versus upgrades, using the old licence for an upgrade results in a $200/node cost savings. Thus, these long time faithful customers will effectively be forced to buy an entirely new Office licence – – a very expensive proposition – – or seek alternative, lower cost alternatives (eg, OpenOffice). Better start your planning now.

    Finally, I’m of the opinion that the existing Office 2008 customers really have gotten the short end of the “Product Value” stick and that some version of VBA be released (when ready) to them at no charge. Alternatively, MS could announce today the upgrade price to Office 2012 for current 2008 licence holders … hopefully, it will only be a meaningful concession, such as in the $20 range.

    -hh

  17. I bought Mac Office 2008 but have not installed it because I learned I could not use Macros in Excel. My biggest Excel client uses my Macros extensively and so we decided that neither of us would upgrade. He uses Office on the Windows platform.

    Glad to hear that we will both eventually be able to upgrade. And I won’t have to buy a Windows enable computer to do it.

  18. The primary reason that I need VBA in Office, and the reason that I uninstalled office on my MBP last week & now rely on Office 2k7/Parallels is the Data Analysis tools. Not only do I frequently use them for my teaching, often they are quite handy for initial exploration in my research (I’m an Econ Prof at a Big10 Uni). The lack of the toolpak is most disappointing.

    BTW, as long as you are adding it back, any hope of getting IronPython/Python support, too? 🙂

  19. VBA doesn’t matter to me, but on the off chance that you’ve got pull at MacBU, I wish you guys would fix all the automatic things that CANNOT be turned off. Specifically, as one example, once I apply outlining to a document and elect to show the Navigation pane, Word insists on making its own decisions about making some Normal text headings (even though I don’t want them as headings). And yes, I’ve turned off every “auto” feature i can find. This, and other “annoyances”, was well documented in a little book called “Word Annoyances” that came out years ago. But no one at MS seems to care – the program always has to make decisions for me – which completely screws up my table of contents, my navigation, etc. etc., that I painstakingly apply.

  20. The word scripting is used too often in this case. VBA is not scripting, it is programming.

  21. The ability to write custom functions to use in Excel, has got to be the reason for me. Having impenetrable series of cells, where one custom function that can be knocked up in 2 minutes makes the sheet cleaner, more transparent, more maintainable, etc… We do it all the time on the PC; it seems ridiculous that we can’t then share the sheets with Office 2008 Mac users!

  22. First off, thanks for the opportunity to bend your ear. My company (and my livelyhood) make a business simulation product that is used for training MBA students, seasoned executives, and even High School students. A business simulation is kind of like a flight simulator, except the plane is a business that the students try to run, and if they make a mistake the crash is harmless.

    Excel is a crucial component of our product, we distribute a custom spreadsheet that students use to make their business decisions. it is crucial because the spreadsheet allows the students to do “what if?” analysis of their business decisions before committing them. For examples, “what if I lowered the price of my product by $1.00?”, “what if I floated a $10,000,000 bond issue?”

    Excel is nothing less than miraculous for the “what if” analysis, with its ability to take the student’s input and propogate the recalculation throughout the financials of the simulated company.

    What do we need the VB for? We have certain programmed formulas such as supply and demand functions which don’t have Excel representations. More importantly, we use the web query functionality to communicate the student’s current simulation state and decisions to our central web site. Since we are a global company students access the simulation over the Internet, in many cases they are in online classes and have no cental campus, and in the case of executive programs may actually be spread in teams thoughout the globe. Without web queries we can not provide them access to a team environment.

    We also use a lot of other VB functionality to provide nice perks such as custom dialogs and format print reports.

    By the way, most of our users are actually PC users, but as you know in the University settings a higher proportion of them are Mac users. Typically some teams will have users on both platforms.

    Also by the way, I was told by a local Chicago distributor, that Microsoft required Office 2004 to be pulled rom the shelves when Office 2008 was released. This added insult to injury because none whom purchases a new Mac now has any recourse to access our product. Compare to the Windows Vista release, which Microsoft knew would negatively impact certains customers, if people still needed Windows XP for legacy situations it was still available. You should have done that for the Office release.

    Thanks again for listening.

    Steve Keyser
    Chief Technology Officer
    Capsim Management Simulations, Inc.

  23. i’ve used VBA in excel for the past four years. after the first year working in office2004, i simply gave up and worked on a windows box and an old version of office, why?

    1) slow. i mean slow. i know how fast a dual G5 mac can be compared to typical intel chips. how can something that takes 10seconds on a slow wintel box take over 10minutes on a dual G5 mac? can you guess if the speed is any better on an macbook pro? right, it’s slower than the G5. how can that be? but, surprise, running excel in windows via vmware is extremely fast. somewhere, someone dropped the ball.

    2) vba in office2004 is flakey. sure, it works (usually) for small quick things, but try to do anything truly interesting, either VBA crashes or excel will totally bomb. and then, more often than not, trying to re-open the file typically fails because of ‘file damage’. strangely, opening up the ‘damaged’ file on a windows machine everything is fine. what? sure, office on windows is a little fussy, but compared to office2004, it’s rock solid.

    3) i do not like to tweak code moving between platforms. this is, after all, scripting written by microsoft, used only by microsoft, in a microsoft product. i have mpi fortran code that is more portable than vba. why is that?

    4) why do my dialog boxes always look strange on one platform or another? why are you ‘aquafying’ dialog boxes and the like on the mac? just use the same UI forms. it’s actually less confusing to have a window-like dialog box to pop up then some quasi-aqua thing for users.

    vba sucks (language/ide/performance). but w/o it, i find excel basically useless. since i only use office for excel, i didn’t ‘increase the velocity’ of sales for office2008 because it was dead on arrival. once openoffice 3 is out, hopefully they will support enough of vba so i can once again go back to the mac and drop having to run win in vmware so i can simply have a quasi-stable excel/vba platform.

    bravo on planning to add vba back in. unfortunately, i don’t have high expectations if i use history as a guide.

  24. I am one who finds the lack of VBA a non-issue. Even at my company, I have yet to find ANYONE who makes use of the macros, on either the Windows or Mac side. The small bit of scripting we do have done is accomplished generally with AppleScript.

    Possibly my favorite new “feature” is that the Student & Home edition of Office 2008 is quite affordable at $149.

    Now, how about the MacBU finish up RDC2? 🙂 That’s the app I’m really waiting for!

  25. I posted this on your blog two years ago:

    “I’ve recently had some major VB Excel headaches that cannot be resolved. An excel file created in a Spanish Office v.X Excel would not run without runtime errors on an English Office 2004 install.

    All the work that went into that file (many months) is now all but useless. The same file works on current PC Office installs.

    The person who created the file is not happy. This person works in education and has reported that more and more training courses for teachers are offering Linux training. We are talking about a region with 7,000,000 inhabitants. Other regions have already implemented Linux solutions and are looking to phase out Microsoft Office completely.

    Microsoft needs to understand that users want/need seamless compatibility between platforms. This latest decision only helps to swing the balance in favour of open standards and software solutions that support them.”

    I posted that because absolutely NOBODY at Microsoft or in the official Google Groups (MVPs) could figure out what the issue was. All our pleas for helpwent nowhere. We lost months of work due to a problem created by Microsoft (MacBU should have had more feelers out to pick these issues up). The issue was possibly someone screwing up on the localisation. And there lies the rub. Foreign users of Mac Office must make do with whatever they get (however little) and like it or lump it. An Excel file heavily laden with VBA created in one version of Office for Mac wouldn’t run in another version of Office for Mac but WOULD run in different versions of Office for Windows. That is NOT a situation that inspires confidence.

    If you would like another example of how foreign Office mac users suffer at the hands of the MacBU please take a moment to read this page at macintouch:

    http://www.macintouch.com/readerreports/macmarginalization/topic4061.html

    and give us a decent answer as to why a Catalan dictionary was never made available in Office for Mac. As I said in the original post two years ago, we are talking about an area with a population of over 7,000,000 inhabitants. The school the person worked for is now mainly Linux and Windows is being discouraged.

    If I sound angry it’s because I am.

    When VBA returns it must function across different versions/localisations of Mac Office and, of course, be operable on Windows. Feature parity must be a priority and you should establish liason officers in countries that have localised version of mac Office so users/groups can channel issues back to the MacBU while using their own language. As open source efforts continue to improve Office alternatives you should note that you really have a race against time on your hands, and in two or three years your user base may have dwindled significantly as a result of the issues I have raised.

    Perhaps, slightly off topic but the background info is important. Thanks for your time.

    BTW,as you are responding to posts, the Catalan dictionary issue (although off topic) requires a response here as otherwise it gets swept under the carpet so to speak.

  26. Do you know what a “function” is in Excel? It’s a named set of internal commands. So I can enter a formula in a cell like =californiaTax(E4) and the function called “californiaTax” will be applied to the value of cell E4 and entered here. That is a function that I’ve created (in VBA).

    Now, I don’t care what *language* that function is written in. VBA, AppleScript, Ruby, Fortran, it’s all the same to me. But in Office 2008 that function is written in NOTHING, because there are NO FUNCTIONS in Excel in Office 2008. And that means that Office 2008 is not an upgrade; it’s a huge downgrade, because a piece of functionality that is crucial to my Excel spreadsheets is absent. In fact, I can’t even install in Office 2008, for fear of what it might do to my spreadsheets if I accidentally opened one.

    I told you this in 2006, I told you this in 2007. You didn’t listen. You went ahead and killed this important feature. Now in 2008 you’re announcing that you might bring back VBA in 2010 and I’m supposed to be happy. Fooey.

  27. “there are NO FUNCTIONS in Excel in Office 2008”

    This isn’t actually true. The old XLM macros are back!

    You can find on Microsoft’s web site (sorry, don’t have a link handy) an alphabetized reference for XLM macro commands. Unfortunately, that’s about it. Good luck if you’ve never used XLM before.

    Which brings me to my main point: I agree whole-heartedly with those who have pointed out that a critical failure with respect to removal of VBA was the sudden disappearance of custom functions in Excel. Cross-compatibility across OS platforms is a close second, I agree. After all, one of the big reasons to use Mac Office is to be compatible with Windows Office.

    But other than that, Applescript appears to me to be a reasonable, non-portable substitute for automation tasks. What it _doesn’t_ do is provide for custom functions. Applescript can only control an application; it can’t extend it.

    I think XLM is an unfortunate choice for a replacement of that feature, but if it’s going to be a replacement, then the Mac BU needs to get off their butts, dust off the old XML docs, and include those with Mac Excel 2008. It’s insulting to remove critical functionality like that and then provide no real aid to users who want to use the only alternative available.

    And while I’m at it, another major loss with the removal of VBA is all those great add-ins (heavily based on, of course, providing additional functions for spreadsheets, but also on doing other algorithmic tasks). Again, these things could have been provided via XLM, but were ignored by the Mac BU.

    I’m fortunate, as I was able to take advantage of a heavily discounted price for Mac Office 2008. I have to say, if I’d paid anywhere near full retail for it, it would have been returned by now. Between the fact that Entourage is lame, Excel is missing a huge swath of what makes it so powerful, and none of the applications have really enjoyed the UI make-over that Office 2007 for Windows did (granted, I’m sure some Mac hard-cores are happy about that 🙂 ), there’s really very little in Office 2008 that makes me want to use it.

  28. I’ll add my take on the lack of VBA too. I have written and continue to write custom user forms, add-ins and functions in Excel that work on both Mac and PC. The lack of VBA in Office 2008 means that any upgrade to my multiple licenses of Office will be to Open Office, not 2008. I still can’t understand how anyone at MS seriously thought that offering up Applescript could in any way allow us to write cross platform solutions or even custom formulas that ran on a Mac only. Maybe if enough of us keep telling them that tney made a really dumb decision that is driving business away from them, they may eventually start to listen?

  29. My condolences on your being tasked with adding VBA back in. My BIASED opinion is that there are better tools out there for writing custom apps than using Excel as a database…

  30. I need a macro to do:
    Edit -> Paste Special -> Unformatted Text

    and

    A key combination to automatically type a date.

  31. I use PowerPoint and Excel as a kind of portable usability lab. I develop partially- or fully-interactive UI prototypes in PowerPoint, using VBA to adjust object properties (text box values, indicator light colors, etc.) or change slides in response to user inputs. I also use VBA to record user inputs made in PPT to Excel along with time tags. This lets me record user actions, calculate task times and response intervals, detect errors, and so forth. Replicating the object model to the point where I can do this seamlessly between platforms (including cross-application communication: controlling Excel from PPT, copying from Excel to Word, etc.) is essential for this kind of work. I’d also like to second the call for recordability – it’s a very fast way to get started on a subroutine when you aren’t sure what the VBA syntax should be.

  32. I use Office 2007 at work, and a Mac Office 2008 at home. my feature requests:

    – more consistency in formatting between 2007 and 2008. Sadly, even my basic CV .docx doesn’t convert correctly between the Mac and Windows versions of Office.

    – the same “theme” support that Office 2007 has–font themes, and most importantly, colour themes. The colours in my Office 2007 .xlsx files never come across correctly (most come across as grey), and it is the cause of much pain and cursing 🙁

    – the gallery elements animate too slowly. I actually find myself clicking on “charts” and waiting for it to finish animating so i can choose an option on the right-hand side of the list..

    thanks!

    -b

  33. After writing my first comment I discussed the prospect of the return of VBA with my colleague. Now I want to add 2 things to the wishlist I posted previously:

    – Please bring the VBA IDE in MacWord to the quality it has in WinWord. Though we do most of our VBA programming in WinWord, we always had and expect to have to solve some cross platform compatibility problems on the Mac side, which used to be a real pain in w98, 2001 and 2004 with their very poor IDE.
    – A good macro recorder can give a useful starting point and speed up the implementation of new ideas to a great extent, even for the most experienced VBA programmer.

  34. For me the ability in Excel to add a custom function that can call a native C shared library is vital. There is currently no way of doing that in Office 2008. Alternatively you could offer me a native plugin SDK for the Mac, like there is for Windows.

  35. The requirements for shared Excel macros between PC & Macs in our office is HUGE.
    We cannot work without it. We are forced to virtualization w/ Windows Office.
    Please accelerate as soon as possible.

  36. As an operations research analyst, first in the military and now in civilian academia, I’ve made extensive use of VBA in Excel. In fact, I consider VBA and Excel combined to be the shining MS product. About 5 years ago I moved to the MAC and wished I had made the move 20 years ago. Anyway the lack of VBA in the MAC is a huge mistake.

    I actually teach a course in Industrial Engineering focused on building applications in VBA. Most MBA programs involve spreadsheet-based courses. With few exceptions, the use of VBA is a big part of these courses.

    I am now one of those that run both 2004 and 2008 on the same machine, and the new Excel in the Parallels environment.

    The MAC version MUST be as good as the PC version. Any lessening of the product, such as the decision made for the MAC 2008 will for good reason support the conspiracy theory, which you denied, but I can’t help but believe holds some truth to it.

    Bottom line: Return FULL functionality to the MAC office suite. For VBA in Excel, that includes support and the intellisence capabilities.

  37. I’m one of the users that bought Office 2008, but as indicated by someone else here, purchase is not proof of quality or satisfaction. Lack of VBA for Excel was crippling for work, but I was willing to give Applescript a chance for personal use. VBA is clunky compared newer scripting languages and will at some point be replaced even in Office for Windows, so maybe learning a different programming language would work out well for me, I figured.

    What I missed before deciding to buy was the lack of Solver as well. No, lack of VBA and Solver both makes Excel worthless for finance. Take into account the performance issues, and I’m down to using Pages for word processing and Excel 2004 for number-crunching. I uninstalled Office 2008 with more than a hint of spite.

    I’ve been an early adopter of Office since version 5, but Office 2008 killed my enthusiasm for the product line. I wish you and your team the best, but I’m not planning on buying the next iteration unless reviews of the product are thoroughly positive and guarantee it won’t be another waste of money.

  38. I’d really like to see an add-in infrastructure that would allow 3rd parties to develop for Mac Office so we Mac folks can use Xobni, or other useful tools that the Windows folks have.

  39. We use VBA for displaying and managing dialogs within Word and Excel and retrieve information from the document itself or from external data sources (another applications) via applescript in order to modify the document.

    Great to hear it’s coming back, our users will stick with MacOffice 2004 until then.

  40. Hans wrote: “Please bring the VBA IDE in MacWord to the quality it has in WinWord.”

    Yes, and please add mouse wheel scrolling to the IDE code window, while you’re on it.

  41. “So, if you have a dire need for Visual Basic, you can continue to run Mac Office 2004 (it will even run side-by-side with Office 2008)”

    But is there any way, when both are installed, to keep Office 2004 apps as the default when double-clicking on documents?

  42. WHO REALLY CARES ABOUT VBA? Get a real scripting language to use.

    Here’s an idea. How about porting Outlook to run on OS-X? What an amazing idea if I may say so myself. Entourage is a pos.

    Get with it MacBU! Give us the real apps: OUTLOOK with TLS/SSL

    Entourage is crap.

  43. 100% commonality with win office is essential -in terms of both functionality and IDE, etc. MAcros should be 100% cross platform. Please do whatever you have to to ensure that.

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