VSTO VSTA Vista VS2005…

Big debate with a fellow dev today, all these acronyms are just too similar.

He is looking to move from VBA to C#, can’t blame him, it’s my preferred language too.

Unfortunately in the real world its currently pretty irrelevant to Excel/Office development. Sure there is lots you can do, and MS are improving their toolset in this area all the time, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Not yet anyway. I’m thinking 2009 will be big for Office development with .net.

VSTO is roughly a bunch of visual studio starter projects to enable you to connect .net code to workbooks (and word docs). This seems to be targetted at Visual Studio developers, who generally could not be less interested in Office development. Most of them can barely contain their distaste for any sort of desktop orientated work. Its web 2.0 all the way, they want to write the next Flikr or Utube, not a powerful databridge to surface key corporate data in everyones favorite analysis tool.

VSTA is the replacement/alternative for VBA which MS licence out to other companies so they can get all that VBA goodness in their own applications (See MSDN here ). A few of us thought this might get included with Office 2007, but it didn’t. I think/hope it might get into the next version which I reckon will be out by the end of 2008. This will be the sort of step change that VBA was over XLM way back when, and will drive enterprise uptake much faster than 2007 (I believe – could be completely wrong of course). (I’m still using XLM btw as its performance can be much better than VBA)

I don’t really expect to ever use Excel 2007. There is some great stuff in there to be sure, but I think its one the enterprise customers I deal with will skip (Like Office 2002 (XP)). Excel 14, the next version, though I think will offer genuine business advantage to early adopters.

can’t wait!



11 Responses to “VSTO VSTA Vista VS2005…”

  1. Dennis Wallentin Says:


    In my opinion the transition from VBA to C# raise higher demands then the move to VB.NET.

    So why C# rather then VB.NET?

    In my opinion there is only two important things to learn about Excel 2007:

    a) How to control the new Ribbon UI and
    b) The integration between Excel and SQL Server.

    Kind regards,

  2. Ross Says:

    Hi Simon!

    Excellent blog! Will link soon.

    I was listen to a pod cast a few months back, at one stage the 3 blokes involved just started laughing when one of them attempted to explain how VSTO, VBA,VSTA all fitted together, and Vista was not even in the picture. I think MS have stop calling VSTA “vista”.

    I agree with you and Dennis about 2007, and would add that it has added very little for desktop users (although the colours etc are better)

    Now for the big question, what do you think for the future of the ribbon?

  3. Simon Murphy Says:

    Yes C# is harder than VB.net from a VBA background and for working with Office. But it is better for working with the framework, as it is the language of the framework.

    The one thing I leant from the classic VB debacle was never invest in tools that MS do not use themselves. So its C, C++ and C# for me.

    See also:http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2065392,00.asp
    VB usage plummets according to EDC.

    Yeah VSTA is V-S-T-A and VSTO is V-S-T-O, the only thing that sounds anything like ‘vista’ is the new operating system.
    But both of these are better than:
    ‘Visual Studio Code Name “Orcas”‘
    catchy huh?

    Sorry I can’t talk about the ribbon – I’m trying to be positive – which leaves me nothing to say about it. There is some excellent stuff in Excel 2007 and if they hadn’t put that crazy interface on it I would be using it by now. (see Word v Excel for where I think they went wrong).
    I’m suprised it has lasted this long, but some people seem to love it – maybe I’m wrong.

  4. sam Says:

    I think the 2007 problem is solved the moment MS introduces Right click ->Cutomise as an option to the ribbon…. which will roughly be in 2009
    Till then I am hoping that some one can develop an addin to create taskpanes and customise them…. I can live with floating taskpanes in place of menu bars…

    The suprising thing about customising in Excel 2007 is you can still customise the right clik….which is the “Cell” Commadbar


  5. Simon Murphy Says:

    I think you know we agree about the Ribbon!
    I dont want to rant too much in case it prooves to be the most successful feature ever, and I end up looking like some ‘old dog – new trick’ type.

    Look at the ribbon here:

    then look here:
    Tell me you you can’t see the inspiration for the ribbon (and the office blob thing)!

  6. Bob Phillips Says:

    Hi Simon,

    Congrats on the blog. Look forward to lots of good stuff here.

    As regards the ribbon, like most, I am no great fan. But I am less positive about it quietly disappearing enabling a more productive development path for us. The problem that I see is that the ribbon is not being driven by the Excel team, but by the Office team. In that, I don’t honestly see the Excel team being able to win the argument, evn if they were so disposed personally. What MS have to understand is that Excel is not just a product, like Word and Powerpoint, but is a full-blooded development platform. Alas, I see no signs as yet.

  7. Simon Murphy Says:

    I think we agree on the 2007 UI, our only difference is I am a bit more optimistic. I wonder what the impact would be if all devs and all experienced users recommended strongly (and loudly) against upgrading? SP1 with all new classic mode?
    We can but hope.

  8. Bob Phillips Says:

    Nice thought that we had the power to influence Simon, but the MVPs were not successful in the Betas, and they are more on the inside.

    The crucial factor IMO will be how power users react. If they say no, and they hold sway with corporate policy, then there is a chance. But I Have seen reaction to 2007, and with most ‘regular’ people (not your developer types), the reaction is highly favourable, they like it. Heck, I like it, I useit all the time (except for development :-)). Even Dennis is posting good thoughts about it :–))

  9. Simon Murphy Says:

    I was on the early beta too, and I had a few rants directly with some of the Excel team and the UI team.
    Happy to keep the ribbon for those that like it, its a great idea, I just don’t like having stuff taken off me. Especially when I have invested a lot of time and effort learning to use it effectively.
    My workload should calm down soon, so I may look into my own compatibility mode.

  10. sam Says:


    “Even Dennis is posting good thoughts about it :–))”

    Yes and John has Pup 7 ready to fly in a couple of weeks.

    JKP has beta Name manager for 2007…..

    I think Bastein will have ASAP for 2007 soon as well….

    and then we are truely stuck with new 007….:-)

    The only way right now to beat the ribbon seems to be to create custom task panes and put bottons and menus of them…..

  11. Microsoft Office Says:

    Great article, thanks for the share. Blog bookmarked :)

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