back to article Eight-year-old bug in Microsoft's 64-bit VBA prompts complaints of neglect

A compiler bug in 64-bit Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) on Windows has existed unfixed for years, a user complained, and is blocking migration to 64-bit Office. The problem – reported by a StackOverflow user – is in code that runs correctly in 32-bit VBA but not in the 64-bit version. There are documented reasons why VBA …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

    No. Just no.

    You are not a nanny, you are a company with a product. If the user buys the 64-bit version, it's his choice, not yours.

    Your stupid attitude and excuses might be valid for home users, but we are talking migration here. That means business users.

    It's not up to you to decide what a business actually needs. And because you're selling the same product to anyone who buys it, that means that business users can buy home versions. Sure, they shouldn't, but you're not really blocking them from doing so.

    So stop deciding for your users. That despicable attitude is why Windows' behavior changes over time : you're trying to "optimize" the OS during usage, and it doesn't work. All it actually does it make the computer slower for no good reason.

    My pet peeve right now is the 75 seconds it takes to open a network share and get the file contents on screen. Right at the start, it states clearly that are NNN files in the folder, but the actual file names trickle in a dozen at a time. I have an old Win7 PC and, when I open that same folder, the results are instantly displayed on my gigabit network - like they should be.

    Microsoft : what the fuck are you doing ? Whatever it is, stop it !

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
      Devil

      Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

      I've found other issues with 64-bit VBA - not that one - mainly in that it can suddenly become very slow compared to 32-bit VBA. Not sure exactly how it happens, but opening a new Excel instance will be fine to run, while an old one will crawl.

      Add to this the fact that they still haven't fixed a page numbering bug that's been around since Word 2.0c, and it just makes me wonder what exactly they think they're playing at with Office.

      That said, they have always been high handed regarding user issues and feedback. Their approach has always been "we know best, if we say it's not an issue, it's not an issue. Now go away while we put another three buttons on the toolbar you can press by accident, all of which will risk you losing all the work you've just done over the last half hour"

    2. Jon 37
      FAIL

      Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

      Microsoft made both versions available, so users who care could choose.

      Since many (most) users are non-technical and don't understand the choice, Microsoft recommended the version they thought would work best. Most users would have gone with that choice.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

        But shouldn't they both just work properly?

        1. jason_derp

          Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

          "But shouldn't they both just work properly?"

          What?! Are you insane?! /s

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

          The problem is 3rd party vendor addins. A lot of vendors simply can't be arsed to do 64 bit versions. Many will explicitly state that they only support 32 bit versions. In some cases, the vendor no longer exists. Of course it doesn't help if you get a vendor that is trying like in this case, but is held back by a bug in office.

          The advice we give clients is try 64 bit version first, but if 3rd party products that tie into Office don't work then you may have to revert to 32 bit.

        3. david 12 Silver badge

          Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

          You would think that, what with COM being specifically designed as a cross-platform inter-processor network protocol, you could arrange to communicate between 32 bit and 64 bit processes. And you can. But only if you create a 64 bit object to do so.

          The problem is that (with a few exceptions) MS had no interest in exposing even their own 32 bit objects as 64 bit objects.

          This means that any VBA project which used external objects -- one of the prime use cases for VBA -- is automatically broken when run as a 64 bit process.

    3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

      Ditto, in Win7 I could type: win //myservername/path/to/my/files return and bang! there. On Win10 it's win //m swallowed up while start menu opens //myser search box opens, bugegry off dammit, //myserver hold on why don't we search the network, no!! dammit /pathto/my/files wait 30 seconds errorbox dammit, it's swallowed one of the / characters. ARGH!!!

      1. The First Dave

        Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

        My favourite is:

        Create new folder;

        Rename it;

        Hit return twice (once to save new name, once to open it)

        Windows: "Can't find "New Folder" ... "

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

          Yes actually that is very annoying especially when if you was to use a mouse the folder would be sorted the moment you renamed the folder. You can wait a second though and it does then work.

        2. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

          My guess with that one (which has hit me many times) is that the programming call that creates the folder creates it first with "new folder" as the name, and then performs a second call to rename the folder. And due to write caching vs read caching, you get a mild race condition where you are trying to open the folder by it's new name before everything catches up.

          It's probably in the same class as the bug I ran across in windows 7 and has yet to be fixed in the GUI with moving folders with a lot of children objects (folders, subfolders, and files) in it. One of those things where it's faster to spawn a command prompt, map the UNC path to a drive letter, move the damn folder, unmap the drive letter, and close the command prompt then wait the several to many minutes while the GUI walks the file tree for that folder.

          Now, I could see where it's checking to make sure that things like file path limitations aren't being violated while it's doing so, but it never says it, it just sits and spins and gives the appearance that it's not doing a damned thing when in reality it's actually gone and done it, it's just doing something in the background to make sure it did it safely. An annoyance at best.

        3. MJI Silver badge

          Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

          I still

          Run CMD

          Type in MD path\newdirectory

      2. Morten Bjoernsvik

        Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

        default console in win10 is no longer cmd.exe it is powershell.exe,

        1. Spanners Silver badge
          Linux

          Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

          Not if you run the command CMD.

          If you really have to use it for basic stuff like creating folders, it takes a bit longer to type in and even longer if you need to do stuff with your mouse!

    4. Snake Silver badge

      Re: network shares

      It is very important to remember that Windows 10 defaults to SMB2/3 and has SMB1 disabled OOTB. Win7 was...exactly the opposite.

      If any device on your network is communicating exclusively using SMB1 it can cause all sorts of these types of problems. Have you re-enabled SMB1 on your Win10 box[es] to see if this mitigates the browsing issue?

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        I enabled SMB1. The difference in display time was insignificant.

        On the Win 1 0 machine, time to display was over 60 seconds. On the Win7 machine, the same folder displayed instantly.

        SMB1 is not the issue, but thanks for the tip.

        1. Snake Silver badge

          RE: didn't work

          Sorry about that. Does forcing the binding of NetBIOS to TCP (change from DEFAULT to ENABLE, in the WINS property of IPv4 for the network adapter) change anything?

          You may have the classic Winsock corruption, fixed with

          netsh winsock reset

          from an elevated command prompt.

          And if that doesn't work, I'd try (the also classic) point of first deleting all protocols and clients that are bound to the network adapter, then completely delete the adapter itself from the Device Manager. Then reboot. That will force a rebuild of the network stack, hopefully placing the stack in the correct configuration.

    5. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

      Are we going to hear that Microsoft will fix this issue when Office 128 is released, or will we have to wait for Office 256, or Office 512?

    6. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: "[Microsoft felt] the 32-bit version a safer choice for most users"

      It won’t be a choice much longer, with 32 bit support on the way out. I say support, 32bit distribution would be a better description of MS tech support.

  2. Warm Braw Silver badge

    The idea is that developers migrate to web-based add-ons

    I'm not convinced that enlarging the dependency surface to include a bunch of JavaScript frameworks outside of Microsoft's control will result in greater stability.

    If your organisation has migrated away from local IT provision to Office 365 or Google Workspace or whatever, how do you develop and deploy your business-specific functions in a way that preserves your investment going forward?

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: The idea is that developers migrate to web-based add-ons

      But if you use framework X - it's not Microsoft's problem.

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: The idea is that developers migrate to web-based add-ons

        It is when they mandate what frameworks you have to use...

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Alert

    Not even PHP or JavaScript

    VBA must be a complete mess internally if a boolean function returns some unknown third value but only if it's not compared against a boolean, its class has got a user-defined empty destructor, and it's run using the 64-bit interpreter.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: a boolean function returns some unknown third value

      Maybe they're rounding the booleans as well as the corners.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: a boolean function returns some unknown third value

        I thought it was Apple who round corners

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: I thought it was Apple who round corners

          "Latest Windows 11 Preview a well-rounded update – literally

          What else is round? Oh yes, holes"

          https://www.theregister.com/2021/07/23/windows_11_preview/

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: a boolean function returns some unknown third value

          Yes, but only with hardware. Microsoft rounds the software corners!

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Not even PHP or JavaScript

      SQL does it all the time: True, False or NULL and indeed the resulting 3-valued logic is the source of innumerable problems. But at least that's going to be consistently shit across runtimes.

      Behaviour that changes like this across runtimes is a material defect and a class action would be reasonable.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        Re: Not even PHP or JavaScript

        @Charlie Clark - "the resulting 3-valued logic is the source of innumerable problems"

        To be fair, it also solves innumerable problems, starting with being able to distinguish between false and no answer.

        1. dinsdale54

          Re: Not even PHP or JavaScript

          Quite. It's a key feature of relational databases designed to deal with missing data.

          Let's give the classic example. If you don't know your blood type, you really don't want to be given a blood transfusion of another unknown blood type. NULL does not equal NULL.

  4. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Office 64

    I didn't realise that things were quite that bad.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Office 64

      Hey, it's more than two months a year ... what more do you need?

  5. Peh

    "a function that should return false will instead return true." is not correct!

    That sentence "a function that should return false will instead return true." is not correct.

    If the result of that function is used in an `If` statement that `If` statement gets always `True`. If your sentence was correct and `ReturnFalse(New SomeClass)` would return `True` then the result of `If ReturnFalse(New SomeClass) And False = True Then` would be `False` because of `False = True` beeing always `False` but that `If` statement still gets `True`.

    So the `Class_Terminate()` does not make the function return `True` but it breaks the evaluation of the `If` statement or the evaluation of the `Loop` condition where the function it is used in. The function `ReturnFalse(New SomeClass)` always returns correctly `False` and that is why `If True = ReturnFalse(New SomeClass) Then` fixes it, because the compiler is evaluating that differently from `If ReturnFalse(New SomeClass) = True Then`.

    1. Skiron
      Boffin

      Re: "a function that should return false will instead return true." is not correct!

      What?

      1. gerdesj Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: "a function that should return false will instead return true." is not correct!

        Anyone using that many backticks in prose needs their dried frog pills.

        Nurse, nurse!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "a function that should return false will instead return true." is not correct!

      This statement is incorrect.

      1. Imhotep

        Re: "a function that should return false will instead return true." is not correct!

        For all we know. Or don't. Reading it just makes my head hurt.

  6. Novex

    Oh dear. I came up against a bug recently with respect to custom classes and loops causing crashes. It's a somewhat more specific and exotic problem though.

    https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/answers/questions/464383/is-the-vba-64-bit-compiler-broken.html

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Erm…

    Working around bugs is all part of being a software dev. Just rewrite the code so the bug doesn’t matter.

  8. aerogems Silver badge

    Ahhh... VBA. I had a love-hate relationship with that at a past job. It was a horrible tool for almost everything I used it for, but it was also the only automation tool the company would allow me to have. Even then it was only because of an oversight on the IT department's part not going in and removing it from the default Office install.

    FWIW, a late friend of mine who stayed at that company after I left, and inherited maintaining some of my tools as the only other person who could code, was always telling me about how PowerShell let him do almost everything VBA could do, so might be a possible alternative for some. Maybe not as convenient, but you're probably infinitely more likely to get Microsoft to fix bugs in PowerShell than VBA.

    1. Pirate Dave Silver badge
      Pirate

      IMHO, Powershell is worse than VBA as a "language". However, MS has exposed almost everything imaginable via .NET, so, in spite of Powershell's annoyances and shortcomings as a "langauge", it's still the better hammer to use when you've got a box full of screws. Just my opinion on the matter.

  9. mevets

    We don't know the source of the neglect.

    Is a lack of new flaws a sign of neglect?

    Why does nobody make it worse,

    its just disrespect.

    30 long years

    then into the ditch

    I think msoft finally

    made me their bitch.

    Bad as they've ever been.

    I think I just slam-poetry'd microsofts product management lifecycle.

  10. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Luckily, now when MS increases their prices for the Cloudy Office, they will be able to afford fixing bugs like this.

  11. Ozan

    I can see MS wants to bury and forget VBA sothey can push you iste whatever 365 shit and get their annual protection money. Too bad, Because VBA was a useful tool in business.You can create quick apps for business needs.I use VBA apps for different needs. useful so it must die.

  12. Novex
    Facepalm

    Win64

    By the way, re Win64, I've found in my coding of VBA that it indicates the Office bitness, not the Operating System bitness. So if running 64 bit Office on a Mac (which I've never done myself), I would expect it to return True.

    Talk about naming a compiler constant badly.

    1. J27

      Re: Win64

      I don't think Office for Mac supports VBA.

  13. J27

    VBA has been abandoned for 20 years at this point. That's long enough that there isn't much excuse if you've kept using it.

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