back to article Automating Excel tasks to come to Windows and Mac

Users running Excel on either Windows or Mac PCs will soon be able to automate many of the now-manual tasks in their spreadsheet software, something that currently is only available to those using the web application. According to new entries in the Microsoft 365 roadmap, starting in October, users will be able create, edit, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For anyone that does VBA and has recorded a macro.

    Activecell.Offset

  2. katrinab Silver badge
    Unhappy

    VBA was lasted updated in 2012. That was just a partial port to 64 bit. The last real update was in 2007.

    I think we can officially call it abandonware now.

    1. karlkarl Silver badge

      2007 is much more recent than the last update to many components in the NT kernel. Can we not call that abandoned now?

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      I can write Powershell scripts against anything that offers either an OLE Automation interface or a .NET assembly. PS has certainly been updated since 2012.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I can write Powershell..."

        The museum called, they need you to translate some scrolls.

  3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    wtf?!

    The 1980s called. They want their version of Excel back.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: wtf?!

      Clearly Excel is Microsoft's implementation of the metaverse.

    2. iron Silver badge

      Re: wtf?!

      Excel was released in 1989 and v1.0 did not include any scripting language or integration with comms software that did not exist for an Internet no-one outside of a few Universities and IT companies had heard of.

      So what could possibly be your point?

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: wtf?!

        I stand corrected. Apparently 1993 (v5) is when Excel acquired a scripting language.

        However, I do take issue with your implication that internet integration is required for it to be a fair comparison. Cloudy Excel only needs internet-ready scripting because some doofus has chosen to put an internet between the script and the spreadsheet. This is re-inventing something that we already had, to solve a problem that most of us didn't ask to be created.

        1. david 12 Silver badge

          Re: wtf?!

          Excel had a scripting language. You put Excel commands in cells in a spreadsheet, and ran that script.

          Excel scripting was replaced with VBA, and the ability to create script sheets was removed, but Excel still had the ability to run script sheets for many years after that. Dunno if that is still supported or not in the desktop version: It's not in the online version.

      2. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: wtf?!

        Odd that. I distinctly remember using Excel in 1987, when it included an embedded version of Windows 2 runtime.

        I don't recall whether it had any scripting language or the other stuff you mention. It certainly had a macro language, which it would have required to possess any kind of relevance at all against Lotus 1-2-3.

        -A.

      3. Steve Channell
        Facepalm

        I remember writing excel macros in 1987

        Back then it was only available on a macintosh, but it had XLM "script sheets"

        Nothing new here, when you can code and use functions in a sheet it'll be an alternative to VBA

      4. big_D Silver badge

        Re: wtf?!

        The original version of Excel came with a macro language, using XLM, you had to add a special worksheet of type "XLM" in order to write macros in it.

        I wrote a timesheet management system in Excel for a factory in 1989 using XLM macros to open the individual worksheets of the employees, pull out their work times and place the results into consolidated departmental and site worksheets.

        That was long before VBA came along.

        It was actually a great improvement over Lotus 1-2-3 scripts, even if it wasn't a full scripting language, like VBA.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: wtf?!

          It's still the case in modern OOXML that the workbook must be designated as having macros. Excel enforces this with the .xlsm filename extension.

  4. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

    See title.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

      There will probably be a spreadsheet along shortly containing a list...

    2. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

      "...will enable users to use @mentions in the comments section"

      They can f#ck right off with that, for a start. Have they learned nothing?!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really helpful of Microsoft

    .. to introduce even more attack vectors to their products.

    Well done. Kind regards from every criminal hacker out there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really helpful of Microsoft

      Just a few weeks ago folks were complaining that Excel now disables macros by default, thus ruining their day because they were having to remember to click 'enable macros' (and/or figure out 'Trust Center')

  6. fidodogbreath

    Install(Malware.payload)

    ShowMessage "All done!"

  7. MiguelC Silver badge

    Re: Users can record what they've done with Action Recorder, which creates a TypeScript language script that can be run again whenever it's needed. Scripts created and edited with the Code Editor can then be shared across the organization, enabling coworkers to automate their workflows, according to a Microsoft online document about Office Scripts.

    "A macro by any other name..."

  8. Il'Geller

    Finally! A new kind of relational database is on the way! There will no longer be manually annotated and selected records in this database, like SQL, all records will be annotated and linked automatically. No more tables and rows! Search queries will also be compiled automatically.

    1. Dr Who

      People will die

      Indeed. Why use a database management system when you can frig a piece of software, which wasn't designed to manage data, to try and do the same job in a much more complicated and error prone way that can literally kill people. Think losing thousands of safety critical Covid data records whilst using Excel to share the data.

      1. Christopher Reeve's Horse

        Re: People will die

        Why indeed.. It's usually because the people tasked with whatever job they're trying to accomplish don't have the training, tools, time, support, resources or funding to create a database management system, they typically have other technical skills and responsibilities.

        Additionally, a database represents a certain level of crystallisation of processes which may not yet have settled down yet in an excel model.

        1. Il'Geller

          Re: People will die

          I have good reason to believe that Microsoft is creating a database that does not need "...the training, tools, time, support, resources or funding to create a database management system" to work with. Microsoft began from queries-formulas, and I guess Microsoft will introduce the method for data-records soon.

          The problem Microsoft is facing, and which is not too difficult to solve, is to make sure that "...losing thousands of safety critical Covid data records while using Excel to share the data" does not happen. It is important not only to find, but also not to lose anything!

          1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

            Re: People will die

            I think that the vast number of people who think they've got a database in Excel will be more than happy** to have an improved toolset for sorting, matching, analysing, querying, reporting, or whatever it is they do with their data.

            The people who really need a database or understand the difference between a database and a collection of spreadsheets will carry on using whatever their or their comapnies'/clients' preferred database software is.

            I'm in the former group - I work mostly with Excel "databases" of info that I need to analyse, query and report/present. On the odd occasion where it was apparent that a database was needed for what I was doing I found a database bod, explained what I wanted, gave them the job number and let them get on with it. I think that my years of using Excel have rendered my brain incapable of understanding proper databases and their associated software. One develops habits that need to be unlearned - a bit like trying to learn classical guitar after years of playing electric - and I'm too old for that. Maybe a project for retirement.

            **although the security aspects of this could temper some of that happiness.

            1. Il'Geller

              Re: People will die

              “On the odd occasion where it was apparent that a database was needed for what I was doing I found a database bod, explained what I wanted, gave them the job number and let them get on with it.”

              This is an analogue of Machine Learning. Microsoft started working on this database 6-7 years ago, adding Machine Learning to it. What is it? This is adding annotations to records, among other things. That is, you will explain to the computer what you need (instead of people); it will find; you will check whether it is found, chat with the computer; your explanation will be saved as an adition to the annotation. In the future someone else will search already having your annotation; adds his one and so on.

              The security problem is likely to be solved, Microsoft has considerable experience in this.

              Excel and spreadsheets will be a composed part of the database Microsoft may ofer soon. “May” because I would do it first of all. Microsoft needs this database for everything itself.

              1. Patrick R

                Re: People will die

                There is a software that uses databases to fill Excel sheets. It's called Axiom Software. You can enter, save and retrieve data from within an Excel file (like refresh it). People can have their own files or use a common read-only file, that when refreshed, shows the relevant data as entered by everybody. Databases knowledge is needed in the background but not for all end users.

  9. AlanSh

    VB by a different name?

    This sounds very similar to what I've been doing for many years.

    What makes it different?

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: VB by a different name?

      Oh, this is way better. In VBA you had to code the bugs yourself. With OfficeScript you will be able to download them from GitHub.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: VB by a different name?

      > What makes it different?

      A VB script runs at machine speed and is fast and efficient.

      These new recorded macros will run at the speed the person recorded them so you can see them select a cell, unselect, select another, then go back to the first one, then type the data in wrongly, correct it and eventually press enter on a single cell. Then change the colour to highlight, realise they are on the wrong cell, undo the colour, go back to the right cell, change the colour and on and on and on.

      Great new excuse for when the boss catches you twiddling your thumbs: I'm sorry boss, I'm just waiting for Mavis' macros to run. About another half hour to go ...

  10. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Am I missing something?

    Isn’t this just Macros? Macros you can download, replete with malware.

  11. bpfh

    Will it be less crashy on Mac this time?

    Vba macros on Mac worked… but had a tendency to be very crashy compared to the windows version….

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Will it be less crashy on Mac this time?

      Yeah, MacOS is far less cooperative for malware than Windows.

      :)

  12. Grunchy Silver badge

    They say AppleScript has been around since System 7.2!

    It’s only mentioned in “archive” web pages!

    https://developer.apple.com/library/archive/documentation/LanguagesUtilities/Conceptual/MacAutomationScriptingGuide/index.html

    (Scripting was pretty much never useful for anybody except for hackers, which is why MS Office was ultimately forced to disable macros “by default”! Odd that they feel the need to resurrect this again…)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sharing Sheets

    "Until now, sharing spreadsheets within a Teams meeting has been a fairly one-sided experience," Meenakshi Bhatia-Naren, principal product manager at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post at the time. "You share a file, and everyone else watches while you make the updates. But what if your group could use that meeting time to get the work done together?"

    Er... this problem has already been solved: Excel supports collaborative editing already. E.g. just store your sheet on OneDrive/Sharepoint; if needed, send a link (with edit permissions) to everyone required (assuming the file isn't already in a shared location they can already access); everyone can then open and work on the sheet at the same time. This feature has existed in Excel for a while, as long as the file is stored online and not in legacy storage.

    If you also need to actively show and demonstrate to people what you're actually doing, such as show them how to use the sheet, then you just share your screen (or Excel app window) in your Teams call. They can still have the file open, for their own collaboration and editing, in their own Excel, at the same time.

    Admittedly, it's a wee bit more of a faff than an 'instant share' inside a Teams call, as you either need to tell people which file to open (or where it is) in your shared storage, or send them a link. Directly sharing the file within a call would at least eliminate that bit.

    A/C.

  14. teknopaul

    Macro managers

    I'd settle for managers that are capable of typing things into those little white boxes.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Macro managers

      White boxes? White boxes!!??

      I want conditionally formatted boxes with my own custom colour palette. And also.............Ooooh ..... loook!..... sparkly.

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    FAIL

    And every so often MS remind us a) They are an effetive monopoly b)

    Why they are so widely hated by people who have to do real work with their PoS products.

  16. Auntie Dix
    WTF?

    Cloud, Product, and Rent Lock-In via Crappy Cloud User Scripts Strewn All Over the Place

    Imagine thousands of Office-Cloud and Power-Asinine Scripts sharted out by naive "Users" and self-hyped "Citizen Developers" no longer in that department. Imagine that some of those Scripts of screwy, bastardized, and canned code do things on which various teams of the remaining naive staff do not know that they rely. Imagine that the rest of the cryptic crayoned Scripts sit unused, and anyone discovering them is afraid to delete them.

    Alas, a thousand monkeys, each with multiple Kindergarten-level code creations: Who wants to support that steaming, cloud-tied pile of Crayola code on which the department pays never-ending cloud rent every month?

    No one in his right mind, certainly.

    Microsoft has gotten users to pay rent on their own macros, many of which do not at all need to be in the cloud. Brilliant!

  17. Paddy

    Why?

    With Jupyter notebooks and pandas dataframes, why take that backward step?

  18. Dante Alighieri
    Coat

    Automation

    Obligatory...

    Amazed I get to post this first!

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