Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 goals

New Year's resolutions have been finding their way around the interwebs, so I thought I should chime in with some of my own. 

2010 is going to be an interesting year. I've officially backed off of my ExcelNinja duties at my day job to focus more on tax (what I was hired for). This will hopefully let me focus on where I want my career to ultimately go. But ultimately I also want to be able to have more control over what I am doing in Excel and plan to be more focused on what I do with Excel this coming year. 

My main goal in 2010 is to get some code out in the open. I want to build and release 6 Excel products during the year. They might be add-ins/workbooks/games/etc. I don't know yet. But I want to get in the habit of pushing myself, and publicly releasing code into the wild and forcing myself to improve by realizing that anyone could be downloading.

That's one item every 2 months. So by February we'll see the first project completed. I've got a few ideas I've been toying with. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Compatibility (Backwards or Otherwise)

I've been working on some widely distributed Excel projects at work. This type of scale is something I haven't had to deal with before. During development I worked hard to make sure the files were Excel 2003 and 2007 compatible. We made a conscious decision to not work towards being compatible towards other versions of Excel on Windows machines, or any Mac version, not to mention Linux or any other Excel alternatives. The biggest limiter was the need for macros in the file. Out of hundreds of users, we've had only a handful of compatibility issues.

The first and most frequent we have come across is users still on Excel 2000. Really it's only about 5 users, but it got me thinking. Excel 2000 hasn't been supported by Microsoft since 2005 (if memory serves). Two new versions have been released since. That got me thinking, what keeps organizations from upgrading? For a lot of the organizations we work with, it is cost. This particular file is used purely by non-profit orgs. In fact, I'm actually surprised that only a handful are still on Excel 2000.

We also had a couple of users on Excel 2008 for Mac. These users can't really be faulted much. Microsoft crippled this version and completely left out VBA. No support at all. I can't imagine what they were thinking on that one.

We've had one case of a Linux user opening the files in OpenOffice, but with no luck.

With all of this, I've come to the conclusion that with Excel files that contain macros you cannot cater to everyone. It's just not possible. The exceptions above cover most of the computing world, but there are also users on GoogleDocs, Zoho, and countless other office productivity suites. So, after much thought I've decided to only worry about complying with Excel 2003 and 2007 when I have to and sticking to Excel 2007 when possible - for macro files only.

The reality is that Microsoft is going to start feeling more of a hit on their market share in the coming years. Feature sets for all competitors will grow and compete with Office. And worst yet, there really aren't any standards for productivity software other than file type. And there definitely aren't any standards for the automation aspect.

I've drawn my line, and will continue to move that line as new versions of Office are released. It's a decision that needed to be made. But what next? What are you doing to provide compatibility?

Monday, October 19, 2009

This doesn't really make sense

Adobe Acrobat pro: $449
Microsoft Office pro: $499


  • one product
  • does a few things, but nothing incredible
  • has no viable competitors.


  • one suite of roughly 7-10 products (too lazy to look it up)
  • does a lot!
  • competitors are beginning to gain footholds and take on this giant.

It kills me that I may have to find someone that works at Adobe, and beg them to let me use their employee discount. It is such a great product (for what it does), but it is really expensive! And kind of a one trick pony.

I always thought that Office was priced way too high, but it seems that Microsoft's pricing looks incredibly smart compared to Adobe's. Am I wrong?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Excel Help Pranks and Page Breaks

Coworker calls and asks how to add a vertical page break in a sheet. He walks me through the process he is doing.

Me: "No, you have to press the button with your left pinky."
Coworker: "What? Why would that matter."

I've always wanted to do something like that, fortunately it was a lot funnier than me retelling it here. It always is...

Now before you get too nasty, I did help him. He was actually doing everything right. The problem: he set the scaling to fit in 1 page high by 1 page wide. This negates any page breaks you've set. In this case he changed the setting to 2 pages wide and then adjusted where the page break fell in page break preview mode.

Most of the time I find my sheets are longer than they are wide. When I don't know how many pages my printed file will be I will set it to 1 page wide, but delete the pages high entry. This will automatically set the printout to fit one page wide and however many sheets it needs to print.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Microsoft Dual Screen tablet

Microsoft is denying this, but there are mockups and video out there that made me drool a little.

Gizmodo states that this is in production and is being developed very secretly (well, until now) by J. Allard, Microsoft's entertainment wunderkind.

The video shows a user interface that has a lot of potential. It seems intuitive and easy to use. I'd give the video at the Gizmodo site a view, but keep a napkin handy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Serious Formula Mastery

If you were to ask me what my strength in Excel would be I would say VBA. I do formulas well, but not great.

If you want to see true Formula magic head over to the Get Digital Help blog and partake in the mastery of the Formula.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Project Euler

I came across Project Euler about a year ago, but didn't have the time then to really get into it. After reading a blog post recently that talked about it I decided to take a look at some of the problems.

There are currently 252 problems available to work on. They have been developed by volunteers and site members to test logic and math reasoning. Many programmers use these problems as exercises. I signed up and gave the first problem a try.

In the spirit of the project I won't reveal any answers but I'll try to post here some things I learn along the way.