Microsoft Excel remains the gold standard for spreadsheets for good reason: if you work with massive amounts of data or need advanced functionality, there is no substitute.
The Microsoft team took to the pages of Reddit on Wednesday in an ”Ask Me Anything” session to answer questions about the future of Microsoft’s 28-year-old spreadsheet program. One of the sticking points: Visual Basic for Applications, a language that Microsoft added in 1993 to allow users to define their own functions. Is it time for VBA to go?
Yes... and no, Microsoft’s team replied. “We love VBA, and we plan to keep it around for the foreseeable future,” “Dan,” one of the members of the team, responded. “As we add new features to Windows Desktop and Mac versions of Excel (where VBA is supported), we’ll continue to add [an] object model for those features, so you have programmable access to all of the capabilities of the application.”
Why this matters: Legacy code can be a nightmare for developers, but it’s even worse when a generation of programmers depends on a particular toolset or API. Microsoft Office arguably remained stale for decades, with incremental changes. Microsoft’s having to make some tough choices about what to retain and what to jettison, even as its developer resources are being asked to support a growing number of platforms.
A more modern Excel
While Microsoft will continue to support VBA, it’s also working to make Excel more compatible with more modern object-oriented programming languages.
The problem, the Excel team said, is that Microsoft now has to support several platforms—Windows desktop, Windows mobile, Mac, iOS, Android, and the Web, among others—which implicitly prevents each platform from getting “caught up” with the others. Excel for the Mac, for example, has seriously lagged behind the PC, and even the most recent Excel 2016 for Mac processes calculations using just one core of a multicore machine.
Like most of its apps and services, Microsoft uses its UserVoice platform to measure user demand, or at least the volume of complaints; for Excel feedback, you should use the Excel site. “We’re already tracking this request on on Excel’s UserVoice here,” the team wrote of the calculation restriction. “Restricting calc to a single core isn’t great for performance and we know that, so it’s safe to say this is on our radar.”
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