Archive for May, 2009

Google Docs to get scripting

Saturday, 30th May, 2009

Seems like Google has seen the value in allowing users to customise and extend their applications.

I could take a cheap shot at MS for their lack of commitment to user extension of Office in recent times, but I get the feeling that may be changing. So I’ll save the digs until I know more.

Interesting to note the linked article uses the example of converting from one unit to another – anyone with a decent spreadsheet app (eg: Excel, Gnumeric, OOo Calc) could of course use the inbuilt ‘CONVERT’ function. Doesn’t Google have that?

So some questions:

  1. Do you think powerful user customisation is good or bad? and why?
  2. Do you think Microsoft have shown a lack of love for this user customisation?
  3. Do you use Google docs for important or critical data/calcs?
  4. Is there a ‘best’ among VBA, C# and javascript for this stuff? why?



(soz about lack of posts – family holidays, no internet, you know the score)

oh and my answers

  1. Good in general, unmanaged it leads to a risky mess.
  2. Yep for sure
  3. nope, in fact I feel bad that I havent bothered with any of this cloud fluff
  4. I think they all have their strengths, the integration is important, VBA works well with the current Excel Object Model, C# doesn’t. javascript seems to have a solid future both with MS technologies and with non MS stuff.

Spreadsheet types or spreadsheet uses

Sunday, 17th May, 2009

How would you classify the sorts of spreadsheets you see most often?

From a usage pov I can think of:

  1. transport s/s used for emailing info
  2. data stores
  3. one time use scratch pads
  4. enterprise data correctors/reformatters/ETL
  5. reporting/presentation
  6. numerical analysis
  7. aggregation/consolidation

Anyone got a link to research in this area?

The question I am seeking to answer is ‘if you couldn’t have spreadsheets what would you convert this type of spreadsheet to’.

Its a bit arbitary, I’m not claiming any particular classification is better or worse than another, or that any particular s/s would fit in one and only one category.

Do you think a classification based on life-time, or size/complexity (assuming you can measure it in a valid way), or number of users has much value?

I guess one way would be to look at alternative techs and say this should be a relational database, that should be in OLAP, that should be a web page, this should be in code, and those should stay in spreadsheets. And some could be split across multiple techs.

Any thoughts?



Excel 2007 zombie VBAIDE

Thursday, 14th May, 2009

I get this and have had a few other reports.

open a new Excel, lock the screen (win + L) then log back in (assuming your screensaver is pw protected), no change to Excel.

Open the VBAIDE then close it and lock and unlock – now a zombie IDE appears with no toolbars or menus.

This was always caused by crappy COM addins, but just recently I have seen it on totally clean machines, and it happens in safe mode too. Only noticed it on dual screen set ups so far And its Excel 2007 SP1.

Anyone else seen this?

Anyone know what causes it? and/or fixes?

Is it fixed in SP2?



Office 2010 info beginning to appear

Wednesday, 13th May, 2009

MS are beginning the ramp up (too early to be called hype) towards the launch of Office 2010.

The sneak peak / launch site is here.

And there is a blog here.

I am doing quite a lot of work with MS’ latest and greatest (O2007 (nowt great about the UI of course), Sharepoint 2007, Excel Services, and SQL Server and SS Analysis Services 2008) at the moment and its all very nice. I can really see a compelling story emerging for enterprises who commit to the full stack.

The other day I wrote an xll in Visual Studio 6.0 though, so its not all whizz bang.

where are you on the technology curve?

And when do you think Office 2010 will become relevant for you?



My Acer Aspire One with Ubuntu 9.04

Tuesday, 12th May, 2009

After a bit of umming and ahhing I upgraded my AA1 from 8.10 to 9.04 last week.

It was much easier than expected, I had no problems at all. They now have Acer Aspire one specific fixes which is reassuring.

Wired networking has started working again (would have been handy for the download) and the wireless light sometimes briefly works now. My sound is still broken which has somewhat limited my Skyping. Its looking like something I did to fix sound last time has now broken it forever. I’ll look some more when I get chance, for most people 9.04 seems to have fixed things.

Other than that, 9.04 is not obviously much different to 8.10, and the upgrade respected all of my settings so overall it’s good. Oh, it comes with OOo3.0 finally.

Anyone else done much with 9.04?



Excel Services

Friday, 8th May, 2009

I also did a presentation on Excel Services recently – that’s going to be a slow uptake, but I think it will be massive by the time O2010 gets rolled out to enterprises (2013?). All the devs were well impressed with the browser side (which I think is a waste of time). I had to show them the source before they would believe it was pure html + javascript. But its still a pale reflection of the Excel client.

From a control/compliance POV, a pitiful client like a browser is probably just the job though. And it does render pivot tables and charts well.

The problem is getting developer buy in, same as VSTO. They are great technologies that can add real business value, but .net devs aren’t interested in Excel, and Excel devs aren’t normally empowered to use these tools.

Excel Services could change that though – as Excel devs can publish their workbooks directly to the server straight away, and as time goes on make a case for getting Visual Studio and VSTO.

Maybe this could be the bridging technology?



Sharepoint tip

Thursday, 7th May, 2009

When you create a new site in Sharepoint set the time zone before you add hundreds of events ;-).

I spotted an advanced VBA course in my Outlook Calendar at 2:00 AM. Whilst we all know what a keeny I am, I suspect not many delegates would have made it!

Easily fixed though – I made a full copy of the SP list in Access, corrected the SP site time (which changed all the event times by 8 hours) then did another update query to apply the old times over the new.

I love the power of a server product with the richness of Acces as the client – shame they messed up the Access UI even more than Excel, but hey ho.

I suppose I wouldn’t need the rich client if I didn’t mess up so often. but if you’re not falling you’re not learning, right?



The draw of the darkside

Wednesday, 6th May, 2009


5 days to persuade the admins to provide me the (free – from those nice MS folks) template.

10 mins to create a training site

1 hour to timetable 40+ training sessions (and that only took so long because of the way I have set it up in Excel).

And I can do updates in the browser or Access, and see them straight away in Outlook and back in the browser.

And everyone can book themselves on whatever they want without burying me in a deluge of email.

I’m well impressed, and I think I have only scratched the surface. Dick M has mentioned the Access connection before for managing Sharepoint lists, having used it for real I see why he was impressed.

I messed up the import from Excel the first time, but fixed it with an update query on the linked table, neat. I don’t like browser interfaces for proper work, so being totally connected to a client as rich as Access is just right for me.

I havent worked out how to get the registered delegate list yet, but hey I only created the site yesterday.

The (free) Sharepoint Application templates are here btw



Skate shop wisdom

Tuesday, 5th May, 2009


I was in the skate shop discussing skateboards ‘for the kids’ ;-)

‘The cheap ones are great to get going, once you can go in a straight line, if you like boarding, you need a proper one’ she said.

‘Proper boards turn, the wheels go round properly, the decks are lighter, stronger and have more spring’ she said. Hmmm!

This instantly put me in mind of a discussion I am having with yet another client about why Excel alone cannot satisfy every business need.

About how its great to get you started, great to clarify what you need.

About how more focused tools in the back end can help with dispersed geographies, with multiple simultaneous users, with massive datasets, with data integrity, and with security, to name a few.

But yes, like a proper board they cost more, and the benefits are not instantly obvious.

But also like a proper board, once you get going you can go so much further, and often so much easier than when using poor kit.

I’m going to post more about what these systems are that I think are needed ‘in the back end’.

Anyone else having these discussions regularly with clients?



(Of course I got a new ‘proper’ board – but you all knew that right?)

Excellent Excel learning opportunity (US)

Sunday, 3rd May, 2009

Jon Peltier and Bob Umlas are running a 2 day Excel conference this coming June. If you are in the Atlantic City area, I would strongly recommend it.

I’ve seen both of them present and they know a thing or 2!

If you don’t know who they are

  1. How did you find this place?
  2. Go straight to Google (or the search engine of your choice of course)

All the event info is here.

What I always say to my clients, and potential clients, is there is a world of difference between learning from someone who uses the product all day everyday to do their job, and listening to someone who trains in 10 products, uses non of them commercially and is only 2 pages ahead in the manual/powerpoints they are reading from.

I think these Excel events are a superb initiative, and having been involved in plenty myself I know attendees are always surprised and delighted with the amount they learnt.

If i wasn’t training myself that week I’d be tempted to go, oh that and the fact sterling seems to be aiming for parity with the dollar.