Archive for March, 2009

Soz for the lack of posts

Tuesday, 31st March, 2009

Last week didn’t quite go as expected. I was away in Singapore training/consulting.

That took a larger chunk of the day than I expected (think 12 + hours), not leaving much time to think up imaginitive posts (or even anti-ribbon rants ;-)).

Add the that the mysterious way that I could not connect to the free city wide wifi from my hotel (but their hyper expensive connection did seem to work !). And I just didn’t get near to writing a post – sorry.

Anyway Singapore is a really nice place, and everyone seemed very friendly. Anywhere you can have Chicken masala for dinner is fine by me! (for about a quid!!) Of course I didn’t see any of it, being so busy, but next time…

Anyone fancy a Singapore Excel user conference?

We could do it on the way to OZ, or the way back?

Its the UK conf tomorrow C U there if you manged to get in.



(normal blog service to resume at the end of this week hopefully)

Spreadsheet events

Friday, 27th March, 2009

Today (27th) is the last day to submit your proposal or abstract for your Eusprig papers for the July 09 event in Paris. I was going to submit a paper but its 21:00 here in Changi Airport Singapore, and all I want is to get on my plane and get some kip.

And next week is the Excel User Conf in London. (C-U there)

Any other events coming up we should know about?



Long letter

Saturday, 21st March, 2009

Some famous person who’s name I can’t remember once wrote:

‘Sorry this letter is so long, I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.’

Lots of us have taken that to be an acceptance that succinct communication can take more effort that just blathering on. They could have just been being ironic of course!

It occurs to me that the scandalous squanderor of screen space (round of applause?) that is the ribbon is this principle personified.

They didn’t have the time/money/ability to create a clear intuitive compact succinct interface so they gave us that bloated bag of hammers instead.

I have been working almost exclusively with Office 2007 for a few months now. Long enough to begin to be able to find stuff in the stupid places they have put things. Not long enough to become a believer, indeed I doubt I ever will believe the ribbon offers any material advantage over a proper interface.

The thing I keep coming back to is litter. It just seems like so much litter messing up my workspace. If I click on the formula tab to do something, then carry on with other stuff, 10 minutes later when I want to use the UI again its still showing the (now irrelevant) formula tab – wtf?

Of course if they made it keep switching back to the home tab it would be even less productive. If they made it context sensitive it would be sensitive to what you just did, not the more useful what you are about to do.

No, the whole thing is fundamentally, woefully flawed, driven by ignorance and misinterpretation of grossly skewed data. Oh well.



How to disable online help in Office 2007

Friday, 20th March, 2009

MS really really really want you to use their on-line help in Office 2007. Even though its slow and rubbish.

They are watching where we go, so don’t be surprised to see an even bigger deterioration in help in future Offices as they misapply their new skewed data.

Anyway, maybe you want to use the help that got installed with your applications, like I do. I finally found out how to:

Click help, then down at the botton there is one of their classic user interface blunders – a button cunningly disguised as a statusbar ‘information only’ panel. Click this apparently unclickable panel and it drops down to allow you to select to use offline content only.

Yay people with intermittent internet connections rejoice.



(Isn’t this effluent UI discoverable!)

Tick another?

Thursday, 19th March, 2009

Another of my 2009 predictions is edging closer.

In Dec I suggested that Sun would go bust or get bought here.

Today I see El Reg has a story about how IBM have opened acquisition talks with Sun.

Its a bit early to take the glory I know, especially as I’m sure Sun execs will over value their company by an order of magnitude or two. But I thought I would call it out anyway.

Not sure what parts of Sun interest IBM? do you know?



Excel 2007 workbook window not visible

Tuesday, 17th March, 2009

Anyone seen this?

Open a workbook in Excel 2007, and there seems to be nothing open. But the formula bar (and name box) update as you move around this inivisible sheet?

The workbook is open but its window is not visible, but as you arrow around things update – but you can’t see the grid. Switching to this workbook does not display it.

Generally a bit of messing with opening other files and eventually this missing one reappears.

It is not a hidden workbook, seems to be intermittent between users and workbooks. I have mainly seen it when this is the only workbook open.

The workaround I have found so far is to open a new window on the workbook (:2) (if you close it :1 does not appear) then click arrange, this gets both visible, then close 2 and that original partially hidden window appears and is fine.

I did try deleting the .xlb, but then the next person with the same issue did not have one – which shot the ‘corrupt .xlb’¬†theory out of the water

Anyone else seen this?

anyone got a fix, or a more simple workaround?



New role: head of tactical development

Sunday, 15th March, 2009

I posted a while ago about the idea of an end user computing czar. I have more to say on that, but then I thought of this other position.

I think most IT departments are focused on 6+ dev month projects. Which is great.

What about a separate division/team of IT that focuses on short term say upto 3 month long projects?

They could cut out some of the irritating ceremony and bureaucracy of setting up a massive project, focus on quick win projects and technology. perhaps be structured so the devs just go and sit with the customer and develop side by side.

I’ve done this sort of development many times, and I guess some of the financial systems teams I have been in are basically tactical teams, but I don’t think I have ever seen or heard the name. Or seen an IT commitment to these short term, perhaps compromised projects, have you?

I especially like the idea of a simple project justification process.

Anyone worked in one of these teams that specifically focussed on short term deliverables? (and not a technology based team (ie not just Excel/VBA, or Access), but just short term – whatever tech fits.)



The Ribbon bet

Friday, 13th March, 2009

A few of you might have picked up on a small wager between myself and Bob – which I apparently haven’t paid.

So I’m having to stay in the furthest away hotel at the user conf because its the cheapest so I can afford to pay Bob because I lost.

And the bet?

I bet that Microsoft would give us some sort of classic menus and toolbars in Service pack 1. (this was before or around the 2007 RTM, or SP1 RTM? – so its obvious now but way back when…). Bob bet they wouldn’t.

Anyway I lost, he won, so I owe him a tenner.

I know a lot of people who wished all they had lost on moving to office 2007 was just 10 pounds!



Excel catastrophic failure

Wednesday, 11th March, 2009


I mean, there was a problem, but I think ‘Catastrophic’ is maybe overstating it.

It did lock Excel and force a Task manager exit, but reopening from an untrusted location (so macros didn’t run) let the file open fine.

Its a shared workbook so in a way they deserve whatever they get, but actually nowhere in the Excel documentation does it say ‘Don’t use this feature is unstable, always has been’.

I’m just waiting to hear if unsharing, cleaning the VBA and resharing has fixed it.

No word as¬† yet so I think we can take that as a ‘yes’, or at least a ‘very probably’.



UK Excel User conf

Tuesday, 10th March, 2009

Blimey – It’s only a couple of weeks away.

I hope you’ve booked your travel and accom, and I hope you had less pain than me!

I found a flight for 49 pence (about 1 Euro centime?) by the time I got to the checkout it ended up over 150 quid! W-T-F??

Then the crappy train site kept mucking up my cookies and putting random stuff in my cart just before checkout – I lost count of the number of times I went through their slow painful choosing process. PITA.

I’ll be down in time for drinks on Tue night, I think a few are staying in the Aldgate travellodge, so I dunno if it will be round there or nearer Victoria. No blog posts because the UK hotel market still lags the rest of the developed and developing world in charging stoopid money for wifi. 10 quid per hour- as if! That and the fact I’ll be in the conf or in the pub for the whole of my visit.

Wednesday I’m up for a curry if anyone fancies, especially if anyone knows a good one in the area.

I’m doing beginner/intermediate sessions on VBA and on getting the best from the grid. Full program is here:

Hope to see you there

(If you didn’t get in this time, then there may be another in the autumn I think)