Microsoft is throwing developers working with mixed PC and Mac environments a curveball with the long-awaited release of Office for Macintosh 2008. Microsoft has pressed ahead with delivering a suite that drops support for Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), overcoming long-running concerns among the grassroots. The macro …
The first thing MS wants...
Quote: "The last thing Microsoft wants, though, is for its lucrative Office for Mac market to migrate to OpenOffice."
However, the very first thing MS wants, because it will be the only way for Mac users to achieve anywhere close to compatibility (either in VBA or with Exchange - Entourage 2008 is also crippleware yet again), is for Intel Mac users to migrate away from Mac Office to a copy of Office 2007 *and* Windows Vista or XP running via Bootcamp/Parallels/VMware Fusion. This makes even more money for them as it means an OS sale as well as an Office sale, and will allow them to drop the MBU like a stone (not enough profits and users etc) within two to three years.
Regardless, whatever their reasons for dropping VBA, I do not see the first ever release of VSTO in Office 2008 thus ensuring Mac users get a head start on their Windows counterparts, so I call bullshit on the MBU's claims.
Office 2008 is dead in the water and that is precisely what MS wants, imo.
The security angle is a bit of a red herring, to be honest, and it's the same argument as the “old file formats are less secure” one that we had about a week ago with the Office 2003 service pack: it's not the file formats that are insecure, it's the software that implements them, and with VBA it's the same deal. It's an interpreted language that executes in an entirely virtual machine, with controlled call-outs to external interfaces (generally by way of COM or OLE Automation).
It's not really enterprise users' faults that Microsoft is incapable of locking that down without throwing it all out and transitioning everybody to an entirely new environment. Indeed, given how gung-ho Microsoft is about .NET, I'm a little surprised that a port of VBA to the CLR hasn't emerged from somewhere, which, given the Silverlight release and the general cross-platform .NET push, would solve the incompatibilities between Mac Office and Windows Office.
Then again, maybe that's precisely why VBA.NET hasn't emerged.
Hurrah for the register recognising the existence of NeoOffice. Perhaps this new-found wisdom can be used to avoid the next "OOo for Mac Pre-Beta coming soon" FUD-storm.
The only thing I do not like about Open Office is the apparent lack of a decent outliner. And no, navigator as it stands is utter rubbish.
Fix that and I will never touch M$ Orifice again. Even thru' WINE.
"VBA will disappear completely when Office 2007 for Windows is replaced, sometime around 2009."
Really? Where did you get that from? Or is that just speculation. If so, please mark it as such!
MS can't win
Considering the endless criticism Microsoft has faced over VBA and its security, it seems that getting rid of it causes them as many criticisms. Personally I don't think the Mac market for Office is as valuable as people think. The development effort is probably disproportionate to the number of users it gets and I've often felt one of their motivations for keeping it going is to get regulators off their back. If Mac users switched to OpenOffice, Microsoft could justifiably ditch Office for Mac and say the market chose the other product.
However as a long time OpenOffice user I often find people are more in love with it for ideological rather than practical reasons. Lots of people say they love it but then don't actually use it, they'll use some knocked off/work-sourced version of MS Office instead. The reality of OpenOffice is far more mundane as it's really an ancient looking office suite that's years behind MS Office. I use it because I can't afford anything better. Imagining that it's a panacea for Microsoft Office is complete cobblers. I tend to find for writing serious documents I'll choose Lyx/LaTeX as OpenOffice Writer really is quite terrible (in terms of quality of typesetting/layout, MS Word is no better though...).
Dropping VBA totally?
If MS drop VBA support totally from Office, surely they'll lost a huge portion of potential upgrades? Many (most?) commercial users of Office have an extensive collection of macros for MS Office written in VBA (and even legacy macros in WordBasic). If the scripting engine drops VBA support, these business will need a very compelling reason to "upgrade", given the extra cost of implementing all their macros!
Mac Business Unit
The Mac Business Unit at Microsoft is well known as the most profitable, for it's size, division at Microsoft...
Probably something to do with developing software on an operating system that works... ;-)
Phil - should that have been 'overcome' or 'ignored'??
>(not enough profits and users etc)
>Personally I don't think the Mac market for Office is as valuable as
>people think. The development effort is probably disproportionate >to the number of users it gets
It's a WAY profitable business for MS. Sure, if you balance the development effort for sales, nowhere near as much as Office for Windows, but it's one of the biggest selling Mac apps, and still a multi-million dollar profit making product. MS could happily spin it off as a business in it's own right.
Not everyone is using the Mac out of hostility to Microsoft.
I think what they have done, however, is realised that most of those sales are NOT in the same space which typically use VBA. There are probably very few institutions that make heavy use of VBA and also have a mixed environment of Macs and PCs (heavy use of VBA seems to go hand-in-hand with an MS-only IT culture).
Similar reasons as to why it's missing Access, or why Entourage lagged behind on Exchange support.
If MS drop VBA from office completely, there is likely to be rumblings amongst the corporate community. Or at least upgrades to orifice 2009 might be a long time coming.
As a corporate apps developer of well over 10 years, I have seen, maintained and developed countless applications in Excel for investment banking clients. There are literally millions of lines of code scattered about in VBA throughout the city, which would take an *enormous* amount of effort to port to an entirely new development platform. The transition of Access apps from '97 to 200x was painful enough even with the minimal differences between Access VBA and generic Office VBA.
Granted new apps are being built more and more in non-office platforms (Particularly Java and .NET) these days leaving Access in particular behind. M$ have long wanted everyone to stop developing smaller ('lite') corporate apps in Access and use MS Sql Server instead - presumably in an effort to get more companies to install more copies of SQL Server 200x, thus drawing development time away from other existing RDBMS platforms and bumping up M$'s license fee income...
...I made a decision long ago to not bother wasting my time getting an M$ developer certification. Waste of money and time - they have a nasty habit of ripping the technology out from under your feet and forcing you re-learn everything from scratch.
Instead I've devoted my efforts to the 'Nix platforms, where at least there seems to be some kind of logical evolution happening.
What's the replacement?
What a pain - the existing Office runs poorly because it was written for the PowerPC platform rather than the new Intel Macs but I can't upgrade without my VB.
I understand that the new Excel will still run my existing VB function but just not allow me to view or edit them? - what a crap idea. If the underlying application can still cope with VB why can't we still program with it?
So, have I got this right? Microsoft are going to discontinue VBA even for PC's and they propose, in future, we write our functions using Visual Studio? But that costs another £400 odd doesn't it?
Compatibility with WebDAV and other types of server volume
1) Can anyone tell whether the 2008 suite still suffers incompatibility with WebDAV volumes?
2004 and prior versions of the applications tended to fail through, for example, requirement to write to the root of server volumes.
2) Historically, AFP and SMB/CIFS have offered better compatibility with Office.
Does anyone know whether such workarounds (for writing to root, when that's impossible) tend to be client-side (afpfs.fs and smbfs.fs) or server-side?
TIA for any advice.
Graham Perrin — CENTRIM — http://www.brighton.ac.uk/centrim/
@ John RE: Dropping VBA totally?
Quote: "If MS drop VBA support totally from Office, surely they'll lost a huge portion of potential upgrades? Many (most?) commercial users of Office have an extensive collection of macros for MS Office written in VBA (and even legacy macros in WordBasic). If the scripting engine drops VBA support, these business will need a very compelling reason to "upgrade", given the extra cost of implementing all their macros!"
The "upgrade" that MS self-evidently wants in these instances is to MS Windows and Office 2007 so that the Mac is dropped altogether. It is blindingly obvious that this is their strategy with yet another crippleware release of Mac Office - to keep the Mac out of the business environment for a long as is possible and to ensure it is dropped altogether in those places where it is still present.
Tearing out functionality
The VBA functionality was useful. It meant that an average joe with a bit of programming knowledge could easily write a function or "macro". I've not tried Visual Studio for Office, but I imagine that apart from having to buy it, you'll need to learn VS, learn VB.NET and fluff around integrating your code into Excel. A bit like 1992 and the C-language library.
Security seems to dominate everything nowadays, The issues VBA had with security (programs could edit files and thus perpetuate themselves / corrupt the OS) have largely been worked round. I haven't seen a VBA virus for years.
I want to do my computing on a motorbike, not a Volvo. If I fuck up it'll hurt, but I'll get around a whole lot quicker and it'll be more fun.
VBA is NOT going from Office 14
I have it on very good authority that there is, in fact, an error with this article. And I blame it on speculation and rumours!!
VBA is NOT being phased out.
VBA will DEFINITELY be in at least the next version of Office for Windows (currently codenamed Office 14 - there's no 13). Microsoft may be many, many things, but one thing they are NOT is stupid. They wouldn't risk alienating the majority of corporations who have Excel spreadsheets. They also are listening to Access developers and are making Access more robust, with more features - so to remove VBA would just be stupid.
VBA isn't going Anywhere
I work on the team at Microsoft which implements VBA in Office and I can tell you that VBA will absolutely continue to ship in the next version of Office (14).
I'm not sure where Phil is getting his information, but his assertion that we're dropping VBA support from Windows Office is false.