Where next?

[note I recently had a sniff of Excel/VSTO work – this was written before that]

A while ago I mentioned that I was reviewing my skill set and the services Codematic offers. There seem to be 3 realistic options:

  1. Continue in Excel/Access/VB/VBA/finance stuff ( Office 97-2003) – this is the safe proven option
  2. Revise my .net skills and go for VSTO, in the same business area, focus on Office 2007 and 14.
  3. Concentrate on C++ and xll type stuff

Client wise I suspect I’ll carry on with large orgs with a hint of financial services. There isn’t much around where I live so it will continue to be a mix of remote and travel.

1 and 3 leave me the option to sell software I write (micro ISV – I dislike that term enormously). I don’t see that option with the current VSTO deployment burden – others may disagree. Also I can’t get away from:

still no VSTO jobs

Jobserve doesn’t even believe VSTO exists, and this is what, a 4 year old technology?

I think technology-wise VSTO is great, as a developer its a good experience. Commercially I would have to say its a lemon, no offence like.

I think it really needs some serious marketing push from MS if its to get any kind of meaningful adoption. Basically all the pre-requisites must be distributed with Office IMO.
If Office 14 comes with all the VSTO plumbing (or Office 2k7 SP2? (or SP1??)), then I will probably move in this direction in 12-18 months. If they continue out of sync releases and needing admin rights for the VSTO runtimes deployment, then I’ll probably wait until it reaches 10% of Jobserves ‘Excel and VBA’ results.

If they fix the real world deployment pain that current VBA devs would face, then I think VSTO will take off. But not until the deployment story is as good or better than VBA, and that is a challenge I’d say.

So that really leaves a choice between VB and C++ for now. There is no real stampede to either of these technologies, but both have plenty of life, and both blow .net out of the water for Excel work. In reality I suspect I will end up doing a combination of these 2.

I can’t get away from how productive VB/VBA is for Excel dev, so the only way to add in more C++ is to offer services that VB/VBA can’t deliver. That basically means xlls. As this is the recommended add-in technology for 2007 I can’t see it going away anytime soon. And of course it leaves the door open for working with other spreadsheets (or even non-spreadsheets!) should Excels market domination blip.

I would love to wade in with the early adopter crowd, but I think for me the prudent approach is go C++/xlls rather than VSTO. I’ll continue to dabble in VSTO I think, but my main focus will be elsewhere.

What about you, any technology thoughts for the next few years? Do you think I’m a scaredy cat for not going bleeding edge with VSTO?




One Response to “Where next?”

  1. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    I’ve said it more then once but VSTO is for large corporates with a strong focus on the .NET platform and with a 100 % controled enviroment.

    In this strictly context VSTO is outstanding. However, bear in mind that the present version is 2.5 and the coming new version is 3.0. So we still talk about a tool that’s very young so to speak.

    To summarize, VSTO will be part of the future but it needs to “grow up” first.

    Kind regards,

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