Archive for January, 2008

XLAnalyst returns

Sunday, 20th January, 2008

I inadvertently ‘lost’ the XLAnalyst files a while ago. I didn’t think anyone would notice or mind, but I have had a few requests so I have finally found it and put it back on-line. Its accessible via the Codematic website here.

There is nothing new, so if you downloaded it previously, you already have the latest. I am not currently developing this any further as I am focussed on other things, but one day maybe…



[If you don’t know what XLAnalyst is, its a free Excel add-in that ratches through any workbook looking for structures that have been proven to be risky. Things like Vlookups with 3 arguments, cells formatted as text but storing a number. None of these are definite errors of course, so XLAnalyst tries to assign a ‘risk of error’ percentage. Lots of people have reported finding real errors using it, and it runs pretty fast, and its free.]

VBA not gone in Office 14 – FACT

Thursday, 17th January, 2008

Just had the confirmation I was expecting, and sadly my heros at El Reg have dipped in my esteem (they were well wrong). I am of course pleased and relieved (but not surprised) that VBA will be in Office 14.

VBA is a pretty important product/feature, so they maybe should have invested due time and effort in ensuring their ‘facts’ were not total bollocks. Of course I don’t think there were many of us here who believed it for a moment but its still nice to get reassurance.

The Excel team have blogged about it here. They are not in the habit of replying to intarweb tittle tattle, nor are they officially talking about Office 14 yet, so that post shows how important VBA is to them – very.

I’ve heard of artistic licence, I wasn’t aware we had journalistic licence operating in the IT media. (I have read it in our tabloid gutter press of course).

I don’t think I am breaching any NDA by publishing this, it seems a bit like Jims suggestion – formulas will be in Excel 14 after all.

move on, nothing to see here…



Excel User Group

Thursday, 17th January, 2008

Just in from Hodgy:
I have launched a new Excel Community site at, which has now been running a week or two and seems to hold up and be enjoyed by the 80 new members.

It has loads of features, forums, blogs, file downloads, etc (blogs available on request). I am hoping many of the World’s experts (MVPs and others) will join us over there to make it a vibrant Excel community.

It has a Web 2.0 (Facebook type) feel, with lots of favourite people, posts,etc and most who are currently using it seem to like the interface and atmosphere, but we are open to any and all suggestions to improve it.

It has all the usual forums for Excel, which will suit both beginners and intermediate users, but we also have some developer forums for VSTO, COM, DLLs, etc. for the braver amongst you

It’d be great if you joined us, but understand also, time is sometimes short

Get yourselves over, its only been going a week and already its lively.



VBA gone in Office 2009 rumour

Wednesday, 16th January, 2008

Its gone in Mac Office 2008 and due to be gone from Windows Office 2009 (Office 14) according to El Reg. Being replaced by VSTA or VSTO apparently.

Personally I think The Register reporters have got that wrong. I fully expect VBA in Office 14, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still the primary automation technology. Equally I can imagine VSTO/A being more thoroughly integrated, and perhaps being the primary automation tech.

I’m also pretty sure the Office folks aren’t talking publicly yet about Office 14, so I’m not sure where the Reg got their (mis) information. Or perhaps this is them trying to get MS to say one way or the other?

What do you reckon?? (what level of VBA support do you expect in Office 14? (full?, run existing but no write?, none? etc )

And also what do you reckon the consequences of a VBA-ectomy would be:

  1. business v consumer
  2. 12months after release v 3 years after release.
  3. other



New phrase – greenwashing

Tuesday, 15th January, 2008

Like a whitewash but related to dubious environmental values. see here

This was big in 2007 and getting bigger in 2008.

Spreadsheet angle? where do you think they calculate all their bogus figures?

Classic example – light bulbs. the old ones were simple to make and dispose of and inert. The new energy efficient ones require far more resources to make and contain poison, although they do use less electricity. You cant just sling them in the bin, you have to drive to a special disposal site.

Oh and in many places they will become obligatory over the next few years.

I have my eye on a few ‘initiatives’ where I would like to get hold of the justifying analysis and give it a reality makeover. what about you?



MVP boss leaving

Saturday, 12th January, 2008

Sean O’Driscoll the Grand Fromage of the MVP program at MS is leaving.

I don’t know the guy but he came across well in the infamous ‘deterioration of the MVP award’ post on DDOE some time ago.

Heres his blog

Who uses Excel autosave?

Friday, 11th January, 2008

The first thing I do as soon as I start at a new client is turn this off the first time it locks up my pc. It might be bearable when saving to a local drive but is completely unusable for normal business spreadsheets over a network (in my opinion).

Does anyone actually find it useful?

I prefer to control when where and how my work gets saved what about you?



Bad data bad decisions 2

Wednesday, 9th January, 2008

Ages ago I moaned about how the wildly unrepresentative User Experience clicks program had been used to justify the abysmal ribbon. And have continued to ridicule it even though I said I wouldn’t – sorry about that.

Recently I had a pop about the wildly skewed on-line help usage data that MS are now using to try and slow (or maybe even reverse?) the decline in usefulness of Office Help. Assuming they continue to infer the behavior of the population based on their skewed on-line sample, then Help in Office 14 will likely be all but unusable for experienced users.

Imagine though for a minute you had accurate information about which file types people were working with. And further that many of the supported ones are almost never used. And also imagine some of those file parsers had some flaky pre-trustworthy zero day exploit fodder in them. Looks like a quick cheap security win right? make access to those files (and their flaky parsers) hard by default, and everyone’s a winner.

Meanwhile back in the real world, sadly the data is woefully skewed towards individual users with limited computing experience. Expert users and corporate users are barely represented – oops.

The User Experience piss poor data blight strikes again!

Does anyone have an example of where that ‘data’ ;-) was used and we got something useful?

Please Microsoft if there are any features in (or removed from – or just shuffled around in) Excel 14 driven primarily by those clicks, please get some feedback from the Excel community before baking them into the final build.

What do you think? Am I missing something?



David LeBlanc covers it very well here.

2 key takeaways from his blog post:

  1. The choice was leave everyone unpatched (/insecure) for months or do this quick and dirty now. I suspect if they had had more representative usage data things may have turned out differently. I don’t blame the security team, I blame the invalid inference from the massively skewed User Exp. ‘data’.
  2. The excellent way he deals with a rude commenter

Extranet password expired (again)

Monday, 7th January, 2008

The password expires far too frequently for the level of risk – its just an extranet giving access to minimal data, none of which is earth shattering. And I very rarely use it.

I’d have thought a permanent password would have been adequate. I have never understood the value of passwords that expire in 60 or 90 days, its just a ball ache for occasional users and for the admins who have to reset everything every couple of months. I’m not convinced its mitigating any real world worthwhile risks in this case. (correct me if I’m wrong?, I suppose it does save them from having to manually delete users – maybe 6 monthly then?)

The warning emails start weeks before its due to expire. Obviously at that point the message gets marked as non-urgent in my mind. I then continue to ignore all subsequent warnings right up until my account gets frozen.

The messages should probably come from different sources and have different titles to differentiate the informational ‘it will soon be time to change your password’ from the ‘urgent action required – you are about to get locked out’.

The subject line ‘Password expiration warning’ repeated in daily emails I find incredibly easy to ignore.

Anyone with me on this or do you all just think I’m a slacker for not sorting it out?

I managed to get it renewed several days before I was permanently removed for ever. Its not that simple, it requires me to use a different operating systems and a different browser to my usual ones (ie a different physical machine).

Anyone else suffering for over zealous security? (eg trying to take 2 bags on a plane in the UK (in certain airports – in some its still 1 item of hand baggage))

I won’t even talk about the cumbersome password rules, needles to say I’ve written it out on a piece of paper in my top right hand desk draw like everyone else.



Office 2003 SP3 feature-un-ectomy

Saturday, 5th January, 2008

Looks like MS have heard the howls and are going to provide a simple to use fix to re-enable older file formats on 2003. (ie automating the previously released registry hacks). I wonder if that might make it into 2007 too?

Here is the skinny from everyones fave news site.

I guess the point about OpenOffice and Gnumeric having better backward compatibility with Excel files than Excel 2003 SP3 and Excel 2007 smarted a little.

Fair play to MS for listening, and fixing it (in due course).

So that leaves us with a naming competition and a release date competition.

SP3a? SP3b? SP4? SP3-? SP3.1? SP3.2? KB0937840938?

I’m going to guess SP3a Feb 19th.

What do you reckon?