Conference Report Day 3

The Saturday session was targeted at developers.
Again the day went well and the feedback was very positive.

The first session was on the future of VBA
The session started old-Skool when I demoed recording XLM macros in Excel 5 on Windows 3.11. The XLM life story is probably our best guide to what may happen to VBA. The future of VBA is a concern for many developers, not just from a career point of view but also from a maintainability of current projects POV. We discussed what people thought might be key influencing factors and timescales.

The second session was a led discussion around programmability
We looked at VSTA in Infopath, VSTO in Visual Studio 2008 and discussed how these might impact our projects. We also had a candid discussion about security. This was an extremely useful session for getting a feel for the consensus view on some of these topics. Rather than being a one way ‘I think this’ presentation everyone chipped in with what they thought, what they had seen etc.

The afternoon started off with a look at xlls.
These are the recommended technology for writing Excel add-ins. They have some major benefits over VBA based xla’s (speed mainly), and some significant drawbacks (they are harder to write (well)). I walked through a demo VBA version I had built to explain the concepts and then went though the code of some xlls I have written. I also demoed some of the commercial tools in the area that take away all the C API pain. My performance demo was 266ms for a set of VBA functions down to 13 ms for the xll equivalent. (as a matter of interest the XLM version was 26ms, and whilst a bit more ugly than VBA, its not that much harder to write.)

The second session was a led discussion around data and Excel alternatives
We had a good chat about the ways people are using external data in Excel. And some great insight into some of the issues with certain providers. Essbase got a mention as a couple of us work with it regularly. We also had a look at OpenOffice Calc, and a discussion of where that was at in relation to Excel in enterprises. We also had a chat about Office 2007, with some of the attendees part way through roll-outs or pilots. Almost inevitably we touched on corporate culture, which so often seems to get ignored, but can have a dramatic effect on the work we do and the way we do it.

We also found time to discuss next year and what people would like to see and do.

Finally a few of us retired to the pub to watch the footie, have a drink and eventually go for a (delicious) curry.

Overall an excellent event I reckon, I’m already looking forward to next year. Hope to see you there.


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