Archive for January, 2012

Dev conf thanks

January 30, 2012

A big ‘Thank You’ to everyone who attended, helped out or presented at the Excel Developer conference London January 2012.

Links will follow this week hopefully

Video wont I am afraid- there was just too much other stuff. sorry. But I am thinking of doing a set of VBA videos if you are looking for something to buy. More details to follow on Smurf.



Excel Dev Conf social

January 19, 2012

This is where we plan to meet on the Tuesday evening prior to the conf:

Hope to see you there, from 8ish, maybe earlier



Excel Developer Conference Presenter – Bob Phillips

January 11, 2012


I am Bob Phillips, currently an independent solutions provider. In previous lives, I worked for large financial corporations building credit risk management systems.

My principal area of interest is presenting data as information, which to me covers the whole range from capturing (the right) data, extracting it from wherever it has been ferreted away, and presenting it in the most appropriate visual manner (that is, no pie charts!). To my mind, this naturally leads to what is now called Business Intelligence.

I first became involved in this area in 1996. As I said, I used to build credit risk systems, and I was building a system for one of our major investment banks and we needed to supply reporting capability. We could have opted to build a suite of custom reports, or used one of the market leaders at that time (Cognos, Business Objects, …), but both of these choices left us less than enthusiastic. Instead, we decided to build a data warehouse, plug Brio into this warehouse, output the reports as Excel files, and publish these to our intranet. That was my first exposure to warehouse development, and I chose Excel as it was a tool I had used for my own use, just like my users, and I knew how good it was. I have never been the same since.

My Session

Since I started in this field, things in the warehousing and BI world have just got better and better, even SQL Server is a decent product now (it wasn’t in the late 90s, early 2000s).

Of course, the big problem with these BI solutions is where they are supported, the dreaded IT department. So a solution that allows the user to produce their own reports; to do their own analysis; to incorporate data not in the enterprise systems; this has become the BI Nirvana. Many companies have produced products claiming to do this, and now Microsoft have come up with their own offering, PowerPivot. In this session, we will look at PowerPivot, data modelling and DAX formulae, consider whether this really is a user tool or still for the developer community. The great thing about PowerPivot is that it is integrated with Excel, it is an Excel addin, but has the goal of self-service BI been achieved?

My Interests

I think that Excel is the best computer application ever. It may not be perfect; it may not be the best architected; it may be lacking a ton of necessary, even critical, functionality; but it does so many basic things well, and it is so easy to build upon an Excel application that its spread and influence are enormous. Unfortunately, I think Microsoft are trying their hardest to destroy it in their misguided corporate vision, but I am not sure they are good enough to achieve it.

With my infatuation with Excel, I spend far too much time on various Excel and SQL based websites and forums, trying to convince others about my view of these products by helping them to resolve problems. When I do manage to drag myself away, I like to spend my time cycling or walking the cliffs in Dorset. I have been known to have a drink or two, and I do like eating, so I am looking forward to the apres-Excel session on the day.

Excel Dev Conf presenter – Simon Murphy

January 9, 2012


Simon Murphy


Work Dodger.

No really…

Excel interoperability nerd. I connect Excel to other corporate resources, either data (eg in Oracle or SQL Server or Access or Essbase or SSAS etc), or logic (eg C# or F# logic functions, or C++ user defined functions)

I use whatever technology fits the bill, so sometimes VBA, Sometimes C#, C++, Dos scripting, javascript, ADO, XML, full on buzzword bingo in fact.

I do consultancy and training, and also contracting, where I may work at the same client for 3 or 6 months.

I will work pretty much anywhere, but have recently set up the family base in Switzerland.

I work through Codematic Ltd an Excel development specialist company.

What topics?

The Excel window – This session is  about all the possible ways there is to get that useful corporate info and /or logic into Excel and the pros and cons of each.

Managing Excel developments – Here I talk about how Excel development projects go and what works and what does not work in trying to manage that effort. This is experience based, not book based. It’s also customer based not project management based.

Life summary:

Happy childhood, went to college, hated it, dropped out a few times, then went skiing for a few years. Came back, went into accounting, big mistake, realised technology was my best exit strategy. Did 36 period end closes, by which time I had automated all the boring stuff away, never sat my finals – studied for them loads of times. Went and did a MSc in Software Development part time whilst gradually shifting focus from finance to IT. Always struck by how powerful Excel is as a client and how much traditional IT hate it and waste years reproducing a fraction of the features in a browser based app that everyone hates. Currently treading the fine line between what users need to do their roles and what IT is prepared to deliver, or allow others to deliver.

Other work type stuff

I blog at smurfonspreadsheets where I try and cover spreadsheet risks and quality issues as well as hard core development stuff. Interspersed with occasional rants about a range of topics, including crap McManagement and poor electronic devices. I have spoken at a few development conferences, as well as Eusprig (where my focus is more on wasted time due to poor spreadsheet use rather than ‘errors’).


Kids mainly. I still ski and snowboard although not at the level I used too, I get regularly reminded of this by large wipeouts.

I used to do a bit of woodwork, but I am generally too far from my workshop at the moment. I do a bit of photography, although now the kids are sick of me saying ‘do that jump again I missed it’ my opportunities for action shots are decreasing. I try to capture any nice sunsets, I heard a rumour there are often nice sunrises, but I rarely stay up that late these days.


Beer: Jenlain. Biscuits: Fresh crunch creams (i used to work on the cc line at Foxes, these are delicious as they come out of the oven, hot.). Biking: Downhill. Super hero: Monkey 😉

Other positions

International self declared life president of the Worldwide Extreme Spreadsheeting club:

Unless you have a more extreme spreadsheeting shot?

I was going to call it Extreme Excel which rolls off the tongue a little easier, but it’s Open Office Calc, innit? (on Linux)

(this was on a chairlift 5-10 meters up, in the snow at about-5C)



Excel Dev Conf Presenter – Charles Williams

January 5, 2012

What’s your job?
I am Decision Models Ltd – Excel consultancy & micro ISV

What’s your Topic?
VBA to C – Pratfalls and Perils of a C++ Newbie

My FastExcel product contains about 8K lines of VBA UDFs designed to speed up Excel calculations. For the next version I am rewriting and extending them using C++ XLLs (see Excel UDF Technology choices for some of the reasons behind this).

So the idea of this session is very much to approach C++ XLL’s from the viewpoint of a VBA developer, and talk about my journey from VBA developer to C++ newbie.

I plan to demonstrate developing and debugging some XLL UDFs using Planatech XLL+ and Visual Studio 10, along with some of the embarrassing mistakes that I keep on making (but you aren’t allowed to laugh), and a few of the things that I still don’t properly understand (string handling/functions !*#!).

The session will hopefully demolish some of the myths surrounding XLL development.
If there is time I will show how using the STL and BOOST libraries and XLL+ UDF wizards make it easy to add powerful features such as multi-threaded global memory caches to your UDFs.

How did you get to be an Excel Speed Geek?

I spent many years with IBM in a wide variety of different roles, until the time came to part. Then in 1996 I started my Excel consultancy and development business. And somehow along the way I became an Excel Geek obsessed with ways of making Excel calculate faster.

What else do you do?

Excel Dev conf presenter Mathias Brandewinder

January 2, 2012

Let’s now turn to our second contestant for the evening. Can you tell us who you are?

My name is Mathias Brandewinder; I live in San Francisco, where I run Clear Lines Consulting, developing applications with a quantitative modeling bent.

Do I discern a hint of an accent?

Indeed you do – 10 years in San Francisco barely made a dent in my French accent.

What kind of developer are you?

I have dabbled with computers since forever, starting with an Amstrad CPC 6128. I began as a paid developer around 2000, writing VBA-heavy Excel models, modeling portfolio decisions for biotech companies, and began working with .NET in 2004. Since then, my languages of predilection have been C# at day, F# at night. I have done lots of projects developing .NET applications with an Excel front-end, and was recognized as a Microsoft MVP for VSTO 2 years ago. You can get a sense for what I do at my blog,

What is VSTO? Why should we care?

VSTO stands for Visual Studio Tools for Office. In a nutshell, it provides a bridge between Office and .NET, enabling the development of .NET applications with an Office front-end. With VSTO, Excel developers can leverage the full power of the .NET framework, in a modern development environment, and potentially deliver much richer solutions than what VBA allows. However, it also has pitfalls, and can be unpleasant. I will present a full add-in development with VSTO – the good and the bad – so that you can judge by yourself if it is right for you.

What do you do when you are not coding?

What do you mean, not coding? 🙂 I also enjoy Thai Boxing, detective stories, and a good time with friends, cigars and good food.

Do you have questions for the audience?

Please use the comments to let me know if you have any requests! I was also considering touching on OpenXML, which is a great way to work directly with Office files via .NET, if there are any takers… Also, I expect you guys will be Excel rock-stars, but indication on how comfortable you are with .NET and C# is highly welcome.

— Mathias Brandewinder

Last few days of conference early bird discount

January 1, 2012

In order to help us organise the conf I have encouraged people to book as soon as possible so we can get the right sized room etc.

One part of that strategy has been the 50 quid early bird discount for those that book before close of play on Fri 6th Jan 2012.

Just before I go to bed on Fri I will flick the switch and the price will revert to 250 quid. Still a bargain and sill worth every penny of course.

So if you are thinking of joining us for this excellent event then please book here ASAP.

Hope to see you there