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VBA Will Return To Mac Office

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the end-of-a-crack-the-whip-chain dept.

Microsoft 113

An anonymous reader sends a pointer to Erik Schwiebert's blog — he's the design lead of Microsoft's Mac Business Unit — where he announces that Visual Basic will be returning to Mac Office. Not in Office 2008, which started shipping earlier this year. We discussed the announced death of VBA in Mac Office 17 months back. Schwiebert says that the interval to the next version of Mac Office will be shorter than 4 years but isn't able to offer any more detail. The blog post calls for feedback on what features of VBA and Windows interoperability are most important to people.

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113 comments

Four years? (5, Funny)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401124)

Shorter than four years? Now there's commitment to a schedule!

You never know, by that time ODF might be a highly used standard, Linux and Mac might have dwarfed Windows, and MS Office might have been replaced in a lot of office environments.

Re:Four years? (5, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401300)

I agree. The movement times of things from Microsoft seem to be monumentally slow, and even after taking so long, there's nothing to show for it. They took 5? years between XP and Vista. They didn't really add many true features, and a large proportion of people would rather be running XP. Compare that with Linux Distros, where a new release happens every 6 months. New features are incorporated as they come available, and things can be changed incrementally, because of the frequent releases. My Mandriva box probably has changed quite a bit more than XP to Vista did in the same time frame, but it hasn't been quite as painful because it has been so incremental. Also, I bet they could sell a lot more retail boxes, and make a lot more money if they released every 6 months and charged $30-$40 for each release, rather than release every 5 years, and have nobody buy retail and everybody just get the $50 OEM license. Even if they only get 2 upgrades over the 5 years, they are still pulling in more money than they would only selling OEM licenses.

Re:Four years? (5, Interesting)

random0xff (1062770) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401736)

Does the Office department realise that Microsoft has a runtime on the Mac? It's called the Dynamic Language Runtime and it will run JavaScript, Ruby, Python and something called VBX (whatever that is). Wouldn't it be a better idea to use that and build libraries for it. There's already Office libraries for .NET so it seems the smartest thing to do. Of course, that would be awfully cross platform and that's a scray thing for Microsoft.

Re:Four years? (2, Insightful)

lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401752)

also consider that there is no such thing as a "standard" linux. So each program is born to be very customizable in term of integrating with the os (data directory, binaries directory, library replacements).

this flexibility is the key of the change management: they're not on a backward compatibles os. they're forward compatible programs

Re:Four years? (3, Funny)

Imsdal (930595) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401502)

You never know, indeed. Linux and Mac may dwarf Windows in four years, but I'm not exactly holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

The one, and just about only, thing we do know for certain about that time span is that Slashdot will proclaim that this is the year for Liunx on the desktop exactly four more times.

Re:Four years? (0)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402014)

I am sorry I don't see Linux Dwarfing Windows. Linux is an excelent Server OS but it really is sub-par for desktop use, even the mighty Ubentu holds on to the old way of doing things and doesn't offer any real competitive advantage over Mac and Windows to really get a majoirity to switch unless they need a new version and scrap for cash. I am talking about the average computer user. They really don't care what OS they run, if they have 98% uptime vs. 99.9999% doesn't bother them. All they want to do is play games, browse the web, write documents, and run that extra program that will not be ran anywhere else. The reason people stay with windows is because there is a particular tool that they like and do not want a replacement of. As well feeling comfortable with compatibility. Yea IE 7 Sticks at CSS and is a real pain for web developers. But as a user you feel comfortable to know for most sites will work with IE vs. Firefox or Safari (which still render very good, but there is that one out of 1000 site that just blows up).

I have been a Linux user sience 1994 and my primary desktop now is a Mac. And I don't need to go to Windows with the exception of having to do some .NET programming for work ocasionally. It is not an issue of can you get by with alternative OS's but more of do the alternatives offer enough advantage to make people to switch.

In a fair market I see the following breakdown 45% Windows, 35% Linux, 19% Mac, 1% others. With this breakdown Windows is not dwarfed by Linux and Mac. Both combined are larger then windows but not by a dwarfing amount.

Re:Four years? (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401612)

Apparently, the 4-year wait isn't a problem.

Sales Of Office For Mac Highest In Nearly 20 Years [google.com]

The above, I think, is a story in itself.

Wow (1)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401130)

Adding features that have been dropped in Windows in favour of newer and better ones? That's nice. I suppose it saves them porting .Net over to the mac.

Re:Wow (2, Interesting)

Jellybob (597204) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401180)

That's ok, they don't actually have to port it anyway - the Mono project has already done that for them.

I'm not convinced that .Net is the right tool for most users anyway

If you've got an inhouse development team, or money to contract some development out, then using a real development environment makes a lot of sense, and the .Net interface allows some pretty powerful features to be added to Office.

Your average Excel user doesn't want to sit down and learn a new language though, they just want their spreadsheets to work, and in most environments, that's the sort of person doing any "development".

Re:Wow (4, Insightful)

jackharrer (972403) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401190)

Question is why they dropped it in the first place?
My personal bet is that they wanted to Office on Mac look less business like. That would stop Macs going to enterprises where (as everybody knows) MSFT has a nice profitable stronghold.

Re:Wow (5, Interesting)

Zelos (1050172) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401260)

I think the reason they gave was that it was too hard to port the old Office 2004 VBA runtime from PPC to x86 code - the runtime was apparently an absolute mess that was tied very tightly to the ISA. Why they didn't write one portable VBA engine for Windows and Mac I don't know.

Whether that's true or not I don't know, it's the old choice between assuming incompetence or malice I guess.

Re:Wow (2, Funny)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401644)

Why they didn't write one portable VBA engine for Windows and Mac I don't know.

You must be new here.

Re:Wow (4, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401928)

Why they didn't write one portable VBA engine for Windows and Mac I don't know.


Probably because VBA was introduced around 1993, the same year the first Pentium (running at 60MHz) was introduced. The typical machine had a 486DX2 running a single instruction pipeline at 33MHz, and maybe 16-24MB of RAM. Oh, yes, and Windows 3.1, which is 16 bit and has all its 16 bit glory.

Still, C code can be reasonably close to assembler in efficiency, especially if you profile and use assembler only in tight loops. It shouldn't be that hard on modern systems to cross compile to C against some kind of simple virtual machine.

I'm guessing that the code probably makes a lot of direct Windows API calls without any framework or abstraction. This probably means that collectively the VBA code for MacOS and Windows is significantly larger than for Windows alone. If this is true Microsoft would have to port a lot of the Windows API to MacOS (nobody is better positioned to do this), or they have to do a rather massive refactoring. Since porting the API is undesirable for other reasons, and refactoring is desirable for others, I'm guessing they're planning on cleaning things up enough to make a Mac port viable.

Re:Wow (1)

mrjah (574093) | more than 5 years ago | (#23410378)

Minor nitpick: I knew of very, very few office or home desktops with 16-24 MB of RAM at that time. 4MB was standard for home machines, with 8MB considered a luxury. From what I saw, the standard in the workplace was similar.

Re:Wow (2, Interesting)

Gazzonyx (982402) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402112)

I think the VBA engine is somewhat tightly tied to the win32 API and system DLLs. Most likely having a single engine would have been a complete mess as its a "middle layer" component, and has to interface the system and office beneath it and the window manager above it.

Sometimes it's easier to just branch the code base than try to maintain too many interfaces and libraries with their own edge cases and corner cases. What would they do if two obscure bugs intersected such that the semantics of fixing one would necessarily break the other? They'd have to kludge around it and then maintain that kludge for the product life, and perhaps into other products and their lifetimes. This was probably a wise move, IMHO. Logic is more flexible than the code that supports it. I could be completely wrong about this, of course. Take it with a grain of salt.

Re:Wow (2, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402672)

Why they didn't write one portable VBA engine for Windows and Mac I don't know.

From what little I know, it seems like the team that develops Office for Windows and the team that develops Office for Mac are entirely separate, and don't work together. So the Mac team looks at the Windows version and ports over what features they can, but the Windows people don't do anything to make that process easy. So as a result, you don't get real Exchange support in Entourage, and you don't get VB support.

It's also worth noting that the Mac team is either under-resourced or mentally retarded, as evidenced by stupid little incidents like the recent Intel Remote Desktop beta. Essentially they released a beta with an expiration date, and then didn't release a new beta before the expiration date. The software didn't stop working, but it stopped working properly. Their response to the problem was, "It still mostly works, and we'll release the final in a few months. Live with it."

Re:Wow (1)

SlamMan (221834) | more than 5 years ago | (#23411450)

to be fair, they did release an update within a couple days that got rid of the expiration date.

Re:Wow (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 5 years ago | (#23407072)

Why they didn't write one portable VBA engine for Windows and Mac I don't know.

Ask Spolsky [joelonsoftware.com] , he invented the thing :)

Re:Wow (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 5 years ago | (#23407906)

Why they didn't write one portable VBA engine for Windows and Mac I don't know.
It sounds like it was portable at one time, long ago, back in the days of 8MB 030 Macs. It used some sort of pcode compiler and apparently they couldn't port that to modern systems. Win64 apparently has the same issue.

My guess is that they're cooking something which VBA to be hosted on the .NET runtime, and this will be used for both Win and Mac products.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23412348)

Well they have been cooking it for a while now it seems, as .NET was first released 6 years ago.

Re:Wow (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23401262)

The previous support was written for PowerPC and they could not easily port the VBA from Windows (written in MASM) to the new Macs.

But crazy conspiracy theories sound more interesting.

Re:Wow (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23401308)

As mentioned in the original blog, and in the comments of this blog, the VBA support was cut because the VBA engine in Office 2004 was very specifically designed to operate on the PowerPC architecture. The engine would have to be rewritten to run on Intel on a Macintosh and that was not something that could be accomplished in their schedule. So they would have to either delay Office 2008, make it PowerPC only and run under Rosetta or cut VBA from this release and review it again at a later date. MS chose the last option.

VBA is sort of a double-edged sword. It is a fairly decent cross-platform automation language for the Office suite and is used often to write macros and applications, but it is also often used with COM-based libraries to interact with external systems. On a Mac those COM libraries do not exist, so anything beyond basic macros would not be cross platform anyway.

Re:Wow (1)

wootest (694923) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401510)

They didn't drop it out of spite as such. A lot of the existing VBA code was hand-rolled PowerPC ASM *and* based on a since-surpassed VBA version, in combination with an understaffed department for this sort of support. "Running to stand still" wouldn't really cover it, although I'm starting to wonder what has changed since; maybe it's just become more tenable to port the Windows version, or maybe people have been hired.

Re:Wow (0, Troll)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402956)

Question is why they dropped it in the first place?
My personal bet is that they wanted to Office on Mac look less business like. That would stop Macs going to enterprises where (as everybody knows) MSFT has a nice profitable stronghold.
Considering how many times I've heard people bitch about using iWork and OpenOffice to do any non-trivial office task, I would say Microsoft is no fear of losing the enterprise office market whether it's on Windows or Mac- business is business.

My theory is this: The project lead was probably a Mac person. He likely believed in adherence to the Apple design guide and tight Mac integration. Therefore, he reasoned that Apple users would be using AppleScript. What he didn't consider was that AppleScript is foul and unusable.

(Side note: It's usable but difficult to remember because of its unnecessarily conversational syntax. At MacHack one year, I remember a core Apple developer trying to show off AppleScript features but continuously fogetting how it works because he was mixing it up with English.)

I see nothing but complaints from people on slashdot, but they're just being retarded as usual. If you're running a mac in a mixed office (pretty common), you're going to be wanting your work to be interoperable without needing a lot of the time and effort you'd otherwise put towards *office things*.

Besides, with the number of Windows and Mac converts and those who use both agnostically, chances are that anyone who has cut their teeth on Microsoft Office is quite proficient in VBA- or at least not wanting to port everything the rest of the office uses into another language.

Besides, the level of VBA integration into Microsoft office is likely so tight that the Mac Office redesign completely broke it and it needs to be re-implemented. If my theory about the project lead being a Mac person is right, then they probably considered it a low priority, the same way all the linux and mac fanboys on here do-- you know, because VBA is a sin, and the guy who designs your spreadsheets at work really cares about the various churches and religions of software platforms.

Re:Wow (1)

tacocat (527354) | more than 5 years ago | (#23408504)

I'm more concerned that they are going to continue it at all. It's pretty significant that they are going to continue Office on the Mac. It's REALLY significant that they are doing this after pronouncing Mac Office dead.

I think what this means is that they are more open to the idea that they are losing the desktop and probably won't be able to do much about it. But they are really worried that the same might happen with Office.

If a small number of significant companies start using non-Microsoft applications instead of the Office suite, then those companies may have the ability to initiate a landslide of all their vendors away from Microsoft.

It is for this reason that they are giving Office away in China for $1. If the Chinese Industry switches to something else, then they have the option of dictating to companies interested in Chinese business ventures that they must use the same or comparable product or lose business.

Mac is growing faster than anything else related to computers right now and growing in market share. If Office loses its foothold on Mac, then they may lose the industry and become a second citizen like WordPerfect.

NeoOffice... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23401132)

...already has support [neooffice.org] for it.

Feedback (-1, Troll)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401136)

The blog post calls for feedback on what features of VBA and Windows interoperability are most important to people.
None. None at all, actually. That's why I don't use Windows or VBA.

Re:Feedback (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401198)

Features are important? How about making it so some middle manager can not make some MS Access app and then have upper management have you deploy it for 100+ users to use.

The number of fricking POS Access applications I had to support that were coded so badly that it took days to figure out what the person was trying to do is insane. Corporate america is riddled with these kind of monsters causing IT people to ball up under their desks and cry through the night.

I was happy when they removed VBA because it stopped that nightmare.

Re:Feedback (4, Funny)

bhima (46039) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401476)

Access? You're lucky those folks in my company uses Excel for their databases and labview for hardware control and DAQ... It's like watching a train wreck on herion.

Re:Feedback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23401890)

How's lumpy lucky that your folks use Excel for a database?

Re:Feedback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23402082)

>... causing IT people to ball up under their desks and cry through the night

Hey, it's not just America. And far from balling up under my desk I simply do the crappy work turning this sort of gloop into a (reasonably) decent C#, SqlServer, ASP.Net solution (If a place is using Access they want a Microsoft replacement...)

Then I go home and do some "proper" coding on my Linux box after which I can go to sleep on my great big pile of money that I got paid for dealing with the gloop.

Seriously I *LOVE* crappy, ill thought out Access and VBA apps. They're making me rich I tell you, rich !!!

Re:Feedback (3, Funny)

Gazzonyx (982402) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402166)

[...]Corporate america is riddled with these kind of monsters causing IT people to ball up under their desks and cry through the night. I was happy when they removed VBA because it stopped that nightmare.
My Access nightmare has me slowly rocking back and fourth in a ball under my desk as we speak; it's been 'upgraded' since Office '97.
*silently weeps, humming the theme of 'Friends', while balled up and slowly rocking back and fourth under his desk*

Re:Feedback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23403614)

The number of fricking POS Access applications I had to support that were coded so badly that it took days to figure out what the person was trying to do is insane. Corporate america is riddled with these kind of monsters causing IT people to ball up under their desks and cry through the night.
How true. If Microsoft only does things to support Enterprise IT, then why the heck do they continue with MS-Access and VBA?

Are there any IT shops out there that think these technologies are NOT a huge corporate liability???

Re:Feedback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23404434)

I was happy when they removed VBA because it stopped that nightmare.
Why? They only removed VBA from Mac Office. Which, BTW, is not used in "Corporate America". Corporate America uses Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office on Microsoft Windows.

I wish they didn't or that it was more of an even split between MS Winbloze, Linux and Mac, but it's not.

VBA being removed from Mac Office didn't make any difference to the vast majority of Corporate America. It did, however, make a difference to a very tiny fraction of 8% of the entire global market computer market who use Mac and consult with or for Corporate America and need to interact with them.

In the end, we're talking about a very, very small number of people in relation to the rest of the computing world who really cares or is even effected by VBA in Mac Office.

Re:Feedback (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 5 years ago | (#23408120)

Some % of their Windows corporate sales depend on there being a mostly-compatible Mac version.

This was probably a bigger deal 15 years ago, but it was always an advantage that MS had over their competitors.

Re:Feedback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23410974)

Access was NEVER available on the Mac so all you did is just prove that you are a clueless idiot.

That is _so_ cool (5, Funny)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401166)

That is just _so_ cool. I'm absolutely dying to help my customers by creating cross-platform applications in VBA. They will enjoy all the goodness and richness of the Microsoft Office platform, with 86 MB single-user OLE files, spreadsheets/graphics/mail-merge/database-monster all rolled into one. On a share. So everyone can use it.

Re:That is _so_ cool (4, Funny)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401248)

You forgot to mention how lightning-fast VBA is, and the fact that its intuative design encourages good coding practices.

Re:That is _so_ cool (4, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402804)

You also forgot to mention how secure it is, and that nobody will ever be able to code macro-viruses with it.

Re:That is _so_ cool (4, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401668)

I write VBA routines all the time at work. To an engineer they're invaluable. One of our data acquisition boxes always outputs a fubar CSV style file. I have a script in my personal.xls file that anytime I open one of these files I run this script and it does 10 minutes of cleanup in 10 seconds.

I know that some people write entire programs in Excel but I'd wager that 90% of VBA programs are something written by an engineer or other technical person to make their life easier.

And yes, I know about Matlab. Problem is not everyone has a $10k seat. Everyone has Excel. I'd never publish my code to anyone but as far as making my job easier, you're damn straight I love VBA.

Re:That is _so_ cool (2, Informative)

Zelos (1050172) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401756)

Sure, VBA is pretty nice for that kind of thing (much quicker than learning Perl/Python or something), the problem comes when people try to use VBA for something it's not intended for. The fact that Option Explicit isn't on by default leads to some pretty nasty code, in my experience.

My first programming job was writing a 15,000 line inventory management system in VBA, it was a horrendous mixture of VBA and VB ActiveX that stopped working as soon as they upgraded to Office 2000.

Re:That is _so_ cool (1)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401964)

I totally agree with you, actually. I was just horsing around. The electronics guy here too whips up quickies in VBA. Sure, it's "write-only" but it definitely beats Matlab.

Re:That is _so_ cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23402046)

I call shenanigans. No way parent poster can be a _real_ engineer. A MCSE??? more likely.

Re:That is _so_ cool (3, Insightful)

Gazzonyx (982402) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402214)

Right. Routines. Not invoicing software that has the business logic, form, and database access rolled in to a single blob. Routines are fine. Single tiering a decidedly multi-tiered application is not.

Re:That is _so_ cool (3, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402256)

That is just _so_ cool. I'm absolutely dying to help my customers by creating cross-platform applications in VBA.

*coughs* I've heard someone tell me once to never buy stock in a company that uses shared Excel files and VBA for their main accounting due to the fact it tends to often grow gross inaccuracies over time due to sloppy user work and lack of auditing actually cooks their books without anyone really knowing about it.

Of course he was the person maintaining the VBA code so he might have been biased...

Those who use VBA deserve Office and Windows (3, Insightful)

jkrise (535370) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401192)

Microsoft decides when it's time to kill Foxpro, when to drop support for old versions etc. Hitching a company's business to Microsoft tools like Access, Excel, Sharepoint and VBA... keeps them on the upgrade treadmill forever. It should teach the Corporate beancounters to go for standards-based tools and programming languages instead.

Re:Those who use VBA deserve Office and Windows (1)

Carrot007 (37198) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401628)

> keeps them on the upgrade treadmill forever.

No it does not. Last time I looked previous versions of office still worked as good as they did back then.

You can argue the same for using any software, but it really does not force people into an upgrade cycle.

I think it's more a human obsession that people feel inadequate without the latest version of something. I often talk to people about updating software and they cannot give any good reason for doing it or any benefits they think it will bring. When this is the case people just need to learn that what they have is probably good enough.

Re:Those who use VBA deserve Office and Windows (1)

b1t r0t (216468) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401740)

No it does not. Last time I looked previous versions of office still worked as good as they did back then.

...until you can't buy a new copy of it any more. What are you going to do when your precious VBA scripts which are company-wide and need to be on every user's computer don't run on the new version, and you can't buy more of the old version? Your choices are 1) throw them away or 2) software piracy (even if you buy the new version that doesn't legally entitle you to the old version, which means you're vulnerable to BSA blackmail)

(Why would someone deploy their scripts that way? Because it's more enterprisey, of course!)

Re:Those who use VBA deserve Office and Windows (1)

Saint Gerbil (1155665) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401976)

Why not use the software you install it on in the first place. with my MSDN subscription I can get office versions back to Office 95. That's 12 years old and 6 OS's ago. If your app is that older than that you have had time to upgrade, and when you do upgrade you normally target the current platform meaning your safe for another 12+ years.

Re:Those who use VBA deserve Office and Windows (1)

Cid Highwind (9258) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402548)

Read your license. Those MSDN versions are for testing and development, not for installing on the new receptionist's machine because she needs to use some ancient Access 95 VBA monstrosity to update the employee phone/email directory.

Re:Those who use VBA deserve Office and Windows (2, Informative)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 5 years ago | (#23403512)

I think You should read it again. The license states that the OS, and office productivity components can be used for actual office work, not just development. Same with the development tools and SDK. About the only bits in MSDN that can't be used for normal work are the Server pieces, like Exchange, and SQL servers.

Re:Those who use VBA deserve Office and Windows (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 5 years ago | (#23408008)

However a MSDN seat license (at $5000 or whatever) is certainly not a cost-effective way to buy MS Office. I believe tho that you can downgrade Access 2007 to 95 with the corp license, so its useful to have the media.

Re:Those who use VBA deserve Office and Windows (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401806)

Last time I looked previous versions of office still worked as good as they did back then.
Indeed they do, and most of the world would be quite happy running Office 97.

They won't sell it to you, though. For new computers, you can just use your old copy until you can't buy XP anymore (I don't think it plays nice with Vista). But if you need a new license for a new hire, you have to buy at least Office 2003.

To be fair to Microsoft here, I'm not aware of any major Open Source applications that are kept up-to-date but stable feature-wise from 1997. :)

Re:Those who use VBA deserve Office and Windows (2, Insightful)

New Breeze (31019) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402116)

Insightful? Most of the stuff built with these things are small utility applications for specific departmental uses. The beancounters know what they're doing, i.e. a book on Excel and VBA for Joey down in the warehouse so he can automate his inventory sheets to print in location order so his job is easier vs. a department of expensive CS majors bitching about doing "crap work" like this doesn't take much to see where the value to the stockholders is. The right tool for the right job, not everything needs to be a major production.

Anything to do with OpenOffice? (5, Interesting)

ais523 (1172701) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401294)

Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that the OpenOffice 3 announcements were made, including partial VBA support for the Mac version? Microsoft seem to be happy to drop VBA support from the Mac version to try to persuade people who rely on it to switch to Windows, but to add it back when that reason no longer applies, so as not to lose marketshare to the reason that it no longer applies... (And yes, there were other office suites that could do that beforehand, but businesses are at least likely to have heard of OpenOffice.org/StarOffice.)

Re:Anything to do with OpenOffice? (2, Funny)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402402)

Yes it does. MS feels that in three or four years the Mac native version of OpenOffice may be in it's third or fourth beta and nearing first release candidate status for limited testing, so they'd like to get a jump on it.

Is there any real VBA compatability in OO? (2, Interesting)

rmcd (53236) | more than 5 years ago | (#23403416)

Out of curiousity, have you (or has anyone) actually seen *any* version of OpenOffice that will open and run spreadsheets with VBA? I keep hearing vague claims about VBA compatibility (what the heck is "partial VBA support"??), but every version of OO I've tried (including 3.0 beta for Windows) chokes on my VBA spreadsheets. I was able to port these spreadsheets to Starbasic leaving 90% of the code unchanged (and with a *lot* of help from the forums at Openoffice.org). But I have yet to see any reasonable out of the box compatibility.

For the record, my spreadsheets primarily contain user-defined functions (and a few subroutines) that call built-in Excel functions that exist in OO (such as NormSInv), and they read and write to named cells. Not trivial, but not rocket science, as VBA goes.

A simple enough reason. (3, Insightful)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401302)

They now have to differentiate themselves from other office suites on the Mac that are free and can read/write .doc files (not to mention much cheaper than Office:Mac).

Re:A simple enough reason. (4, Interesting)

aclarke (307017) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402358)

No kidding. I'm actually a paid Office:Mac user (albeit a previous version) and I still use Neo Office. Other than being slow to load, it does everything I want it to, and it's free.

Unless you have some special need for Microsoft Office that Neo Office doesn't meet, I don't see any reason to pay for Microsoft Office other than just not knowing any better.

Good sign? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401382)

The blog post calls for feedback on what features of VBA and Windows interoperability are most important to people.

One of the things I dislike about MS products is bloat. Features I don't need only serve to get in my way and waste memory and drive space. Getting rid of unneeded bloat is a good thing.

OTOH another thing I dislike about MS is its seeming inability to work and play well with others. If they're going to remove interoperability thay've already accomplished (by accident?), that's not a good thing.

Features? (1)

analog_line (465182) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401588)

The blog post calls for feedback on what features of VBA and Windows interoperability are most important to people.


I should think all of them, since interoperability with Office for Windows is the only reason there is for spending a lot of money on Office for Mac instead of spending a lot less money on either a cheaper commercial alternative (Pages, Mariner Write, etc) or using an open source alternative (FINALLY Open Office is getting around to an Aqua version).

Why change? I'll wait for Office 2010. (4, Interesting)

lancejjj (924211) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401598)

There is simply no compelling reason for me or my organization to deploy the new version of Office - why spend thousands for new licenses (and associated deployment and support) when I can stick with the tried-and-true 2004 and just wait a couple years for "Office 2010"?

I find that Office 2004 is quite a bit faster than Office 2008 on my Intel-based MacBook. I'm not sure what they did to it, but it isn't impressive in terms of performance. You'd think that converting from translated PPC code to native x86 code would be a huge performance advantage, but somehow the Microsoft managed to slow it down quite a bit.

Oh, and Office 2008 has fewer features, like no VBA.

What was Microsoft thinking during design and testing? Clearly they have totally lost focus and ability to release a decent product.

Re:Why change? I'll wait for Office 2010. (1)

Whyte Wolf (149388) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401952)

Ha! I'm still using Office X from 2001 when I got my first iBook. Sure I was a little worried it might not work on Leopard on the intel-based MacBook (like certain Adobe products I could name), but she's screaming along just fine.

And I never lost VBA support--so I can still support clients who are using office macros I wrote 15 years ago!

Cheers,

Sean

Re:Why change? I'll wait for Office 2010. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23403748)

I'm still running Office X as well.... and it works beautifully on Leopard. Only problem is no XML support for the new formats... one point to Office 2004 I guess (I use NeoOffice for those needs)

Re:Why change? I'll wait for Office 2010. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23402472)

More features is counter to the Mac philosophy which Microsoft has tried to adhere more closely to in the latest version of Office on Mac.

Re:Why change? I'll wait for Office 2010. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23402680)

More features is counter to the Mac philosophy
No, easy and natural to use features is the Mac philosophy. You're either drinking or making Microsoft kool-aide.

Re:Why change? I'll wait for Office 2010. (3, Informative)

e4g4 (533831) | more than 5 years ago | (#23403058)

I find that Office 2004 is quite a bit faster than Office 2008
Seconded! I'm still completely baffled by the fact that Word 2008 takes almost a full minute to load on my brand new MacBook - while Word 2004 (running in rosetta) clocks in at about 15 seconds.

Re:Why change? I'll wait for Office 2010. (3, Informative)

karmic_penguin (845053) | more than 5 years ago | (#23407880)

In Word go to Word > Preferences
Click on "General"
uncheck "WYSIWYG font and style menus"
uncheck "Show Project Gallery At Startup"
Restart Word

Office 2008 starts in ~4 seconds on my MacBook. I could care less about VBA, although I suppose if someone ever sent me something with VBA in it I could get NeoOffice. I got a cheap academic license through my university.

Re:Why change? I'll wait for Office 2010. (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#23404358)

You'd think that converting from translated PPC code to native x86 code would be a huge performance advantage, but somehow the Microsoft managed to slow it down quite a bit.

MS probably has a short memory from the Word 6.0 fiasco. Word 5.0 was great on a Mac. Word 6.0 was horrible. It was slow and buggy. The reason had to do with the development of Word 6.0.

Originally, MS decided to build Word 6.0 for Windows and Mac from a new but common code base. That way the feature set would be comparable and code maintenance would be easier. It seemed like a great idea in theory. But the managers got switched and the new manager decided not to rewrite the original code base for both. Instead MS decided to use the Windows Word 2.0 code and modify it for Mac. One of the main Mac Word developers disagreed with this and went on to other projects leaving a Windows Word developer in charge.

One the technical problems with using Windows version are the Windows API calls. MS decided to do a sort of API emulation on the Mac to get it to work. Back then CPUs were not as powerful as they are now so doing this puts a lot of overhead and may not work entirely correct in all situations. MS thought the problem could be fixed if people just bought more memory.

Besides the performance issues, Word 6.0 had a very Windows-like UI which Mac users hated. It broke most of the UI flow that Mac users had come to expect from Mac products. For example on Mac UI, things in menus are decided on releasing the click. In Windows, it is decided on a multiple clicks. Like opening a File in Mac was click on File and hold down the click while dragging to Open then release. In Windows, it's click on File then move to Open then click on Open.

So back to my original point. MS might have decided to take an easy route and tried to reuse some of the Windows 32 API C++ code for Office 2007 instead rewriting it in Objective C.

Re:Why change? I'll wait for Office 2010. (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 5 years ago | (#23408070)

Yes, this is basically it. Mac users whined mightily about getting a Windows port, so MS forked their codebase and now the Mac is always behind feature parity with the Windows version.

(IMO the UI in Word 6 was the least of its problems and probably could have been fixed without losing the cross-platformness.)

Re:Why change? I'll wait for Office 2010. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23411634)

Mac users whined mightily about getting a Windows port, so MS forked their codebase and now the Mac is always behind feature parity with the Windows version.
Not quite.

Mac Users whined about going from a highly reliable, fully functional software package (Word 5.0) to one that was slow, buggy, and a mess (Word 6.0).

And its for the same reasons: Microsoft decides to "fix" the internals, and ends up pissing off all of their users.

Again, this is just another nail in Microsoft's coffin - Vista users are behaving the same way Mac Word users did in 1995... with extreme disappointment. So it is no wonder that Microsoft is backtracking on the VBA move - especially with Open Office hot on their heals.

Re:Why change? I'll wait for Office 2010. (1)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 5 years ago | (#23410612)

I use Office 2004 on my desktop and Office 2008 on my laptop, and they seem to run at comparable speeds to me.

The thing is, my desktop is a 466 MHz PPC G4 and my laptop is a 2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo.

do it right or not at all (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401636)

What interoperability features I want? All of them. Except for the interoperability features that are really bugs.

Seriously, the only point of Office on Mac is to be able not to buy a windows license. If Microsoft isn't willing to do a feature complete replacement, maybe they should just rethink it and not sell Office for Mac if they can't swing it. They don't want to, because unless they port the bugs too, that makes office for mac better than office for windows, for certain values of "office for mac specific bugs".

New Coke! (1)

slugabed (851785) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401656)

Let me guess, when this comes back it won't just be VBA, it will be something vb.net-ish? This is just like when Coke introduced New Coke then returned with "Classic Coke" but used corn surup instead of sugar!

This is why MS products will never improve. (2, Insightful)

zerofoo (262795) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401804)

Microsoft if fighting a battle against becoming irrelevant. On one hand their products are hindered by backwards compatibility required by the business community, yet on another hand, their products are becoming irrelevant thanks to web platforms like Google apps, and virtualization tools like Parallels and VMware.

If Microsoft cuts their ties with "old-school" software like VBA, ActiveX, and 16-bit dos-era software to improve their current offerings, they slit their throats with the business community - it will force their "cash base" of customers to find something new - and it probably won't be a Microsoft product.

If Microsoft does not cut their ties with old-school software, the development cost of keeping the backwards compatibility causes their current software to stagnate compared to the dynamic offerings of Apple, Google, and the open source community.

Microsoft is becoming less relevant by the day. I see it at my company and many others.

-ted

Re:This is why MS products will never improve. (1)

Homer1946 (1160395) | more than 5 years ago | (#23406464)

On one hand their products are hindered by backwards compatibility required by the business community, yet on another hand, their products are becoming irrelevant thanks to web platforms like Google apps, and virtualization tools like Parallels and VMware.
I rather think that virtualization tools like Paralles and VMware work to increase the importance of Windows products by making it easier to use native Windows products on the Mac rather than native Mac ones.

The next Mac/PC ad (5, Funny)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 5 years ago | (#23401916)

MAC: Hello, I'm a Mac.

PC: [surrounded by noisy children] Hello, I'm a PC. Ha ha ha!

MAC: PC, it's good to see you laughing. Who are all your friends?

PC: [children are poking and pinching PC] Oh them? Ouch! Ha ha ha! They are Script Kiddies! Ouch! Ha ha ha!

MAC: Script Kiddies? What do they do?

PC: Now that VBA, the Enterprise Virus Development Platform, will soon be available on Office for Mac, you are about to find out. Ouch! Ha ha ha!

Re:The next Mac/PC ad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23402492)

That was my first thought as well.

Re:The next Mac/PC ad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23408416)

MAC: Hello, I'm a Mac.

PC: [surrounded by noisy children] Hello, I'm a PC. Ha ha ha!

MAC: PC, it's good to see you laughing. Who are all your friends?

PC: [children are poking and pinching PC] Oh them? Ouch! Ha ha ha! They are Script Kiddies! Ouch! Ha ha ha!

MAC: Script Kiddies? What do they do?

PC: Now that VBA, the Enterprise Virus Development Platform, will soon be available on Office for Mac, you are about to find out. Ouch! Ha ha ha!
You, madam/sir, have made my day...

We don't need no steenking MS office (4, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402070)

With NeoOffice and OO.org many Mac users already feel we have no more need of MS office. In four years' time, that will only be more true. The end of MS' monopoly on business software is definitely in sight now, and they brought it about themselves with their greed, over-confidence, and short-sighted policies.

It wasn't so long ago I pretty much had to use MS software on my Mac to do all I needed to do -- WMP, Office, IE. Today, the only MS code on my Mac is codecs for wmv and wma files (which I play in mplayer). This is real progress, and we owe a big debt of gratitude it to the FOSS guys.

More Fundamental Repairs needed for Mac Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23402132)

While VBA is certainly helpful, there are higher priority repairs necessary to Office for Mac. Approximately 75% of all Windows Office features are dysfunctional in Office Mac. They are too numerous to list, but include hot button commands in all applications and many macro commands. Excel features are entirely missing quite often.

One missing feature that would set Office apart from its competitors is a more robust parsing application. While PERL is ideal for that kind of operation, and Word can be used to some extent, it would be better if Word's parsing (Replacement command) was more complete. This is helpful for moving and translating content from one format to another.

features? (1)

MyDixieWrecked (548719) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402180)

what features of VBA and Windows interoperability are most important to people.

Let me see.... all of them?

When I was writing VBA for Excel spreadsheets, I had this really great book on it (VBA for Excel), but many of the examples simply didn't work. This was mostly because of differences between VBA versions (I believe the windows version was 6 at the time, but the mac version was 4, but I could be way off... this is 4 years ago, I'm talking about).

This caused me to have extreme issues not only learning the language and techniques, but also in making sure a workbook that I created in windows would work in OSX and vice versa.

The vast majority of UI features were missing including many aspects of creating dropdown menus easily.

Also, the mac version ran several orders of magnitude slower:

I created a workbook that would import EZPass usage tables from the website and sort, find anomolies and colorize the output. Once the data was in the sheet, to do the aforementioned task was instantaneous in windows, but on the mac took over a minute. This is after I disabled window updates and implemented other performance enhancing tricks.

In the end, I wound up creating a webapp that would fetch the data, dump it to a file and have a perl script that would parse it and email a CSV file to be imported into excel for the boss. It didn't have the pretty colors (they wanted an excel file in the end, not just display in a browser), but it worked faster and required less user interaction.

so yeah, make the mac version of excel match the windows version. Afterall, isn't interoperability the point of having a multi-platform application?

Oh yeah, Microsoft's reason is to make money... and frustrate mac users into getting a windows box just to have a [more] pleasant experience (if you can call it that) with Office.

He's back? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23402204)

Vincent B. Anschutz is back working in the Mac office? Wow, he's been gone for quite awhile. It's good to see him return.

Customer Request and Lack of movement (1)

Bigmilt8 (843256) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402440)

The reason for this coming back is that customers asked for it. Many customers have old VB code in documents that they either cannot or will not convert. This gives them a way to regain some functionality.

Gee, thanks, Mac BU. (3, Interesting)

caution live frogs (1196367) | more than 5 years ago | (#23402568)

Since switching to using a Mac at work last summer, I've been pretty happy, except for the god-awful problems with Mac Office. It's my one remaining annoyance on OS X. Office 2004 was so slow on my Mac (a 2.4 ghz core duo MacBook Pro with 4 gigs of RAM) that opening any Word doc longer than four or five pages caused massive hiccups. Trying to open things that contained images or (god forbid) had "Track changes" enabled - well, forget it. When Office '08 was released I was happy - until I installed it.

'04 might be slow, but '08 randomly causes hard system freezes (mouse responsive, but nothing else works - forces me to reboot). No real pattern to it, either. Has never happened unless an Office program is open. Missing VBA is not so bad for Word unless you count the subsequent loss of all plug-ins, including EndNote - which as a scientist I really can't live without. Not to mention the problems with Excel, which is where I assume 90% of the VBA complains have come from. So many Excel spreadsheets rely on macros to work properly. And the user interface? The changes in Office 08 might seem like improvements for anyone that has never used Office on Windows, but going from 07 at home to 08 at work makes me want to tear my hair out. The floating "toolbox" palette is horrible and unusable, but the floating, undockable Formula bar in Excel - how did that actually make it past quality control?

The most damning thing about this all is that they are charging MORE for Mac Office than they are for Office 07 - more money for fewer programs (no OneNote, for example, no Access, no real Outlook compatibility - Entourage is not Outlook, thank god I don't have to use either, but many people need it). More money for what are essentially broken components (half the known issues with Office 08 are compatibility problems with 07, plus the loss of VBA that has caused so many problems). And now they are telling us that our problems will be solved, so long as we will just wait a few years and then hand them even more money?

There are reasons I have NeoOffice installed, and 90% of those reasons are the idiotic decisions made by the Mac BU. As much as I like open source, I would be perfectly happy using Microsoft Office if they would deliver on the Mac the same functionality they offer on Windows - but if Microsoft won't deliver, my money is going elsewhere. I have a hard time thinking I'd be the only one making the same decision.

Re:Gee, thanks, Mac BU. (1)

peektwice (726616) | more than 5 years ago | (#23411276)

Is OpenOffice.Org not sufficient for your needs? I realize that TFA is about VBA returning, so there may be some functionality in MSOffice that you "need", but I would think that for basic tasks, you don't need (and sounds like don't want) MSOffice.

Office 98 for Macintosh (2, Interesting)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 5 years ago | (#23403350)

I have to agree with a lot of the other posters in that Microsoft's only advantage was (is?) 100% compatibility with PC Office, which since Office 98 has slowly been chipped away. Office 98 was not only highly (if not 100%) compatible with Office for PC, but it was almost identical at the UI level. This was really nice for students in Mac schools because they could get the MS Office training to get a job someday rather than take Computer Applications 101 on Claris Works, because there are so many people that learn by contrete example (writing down steps) rather than computing concepts and general usage.

However, in later versions, Office for Mac has become more uncompatible (Mac only stuff that doesn't port to PC, PC only stuff that doesn't port to Mac), that there really is no reason to pay the hefty MS pricetag over Open Office.org. Even the "the UI is the same so our 'special' users can figure it out on a different platform" argument is gone.

As much as I hate to say it, Macro compatibility was their *last* stride above the competition (aside from brand recognition) and without that MS Office Mac is really just one of many implementations that gives the "kind of works" compatibility competiting (free or commercial) products already give.

Stability (1)

PinkPanther (42194) | more than 5 years ago | (#23403526)

So MS is asking what features people would like in a platform on which to build office solutions. I'd say that the primary thing they need to implement is stability in the platform.

You're a complete sucker if you decide to build something on top of Office For Mac. Fool-me-once and all that. Any IT decision maker that places their bets (and invests) in this technology simply doesn't understand business.

MS has done exactly what they intended: disable people's confidence in the Mac (or at least, in Office For Mac). What they didn't expect is that there'd be viable replacements for the Mac.

consistency (1)

jschen (1249578) | more than 5 years ago | (#23404030)

What do I want in Office? How about consistency in the layout of a document, for starters? Every version (Mac or PC) seems to make slightly different approximations, resulting in differences in where page breaks or text/picture frames end up every once in a while. Used to be way worse, but it's still not perfect. How about consistency in the use of special characters between Mac and PC? If I type pi (the lowercase Greek letter, using the Symbol font) in a Mac, I expect it to read as pi on a PC. And vice versa.

Forced Update (2, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#23404120)

So by putting it back in this will make the next Mac Office a Must Have update - netting Microsoft lots of $$$s. Why am I not surprised?

And if MS listed to this demand, why are they so deaf to keeping XP available through at least the next Windows upgrade?

Personal Story (1)

GregNorc (801858) | more than 5 years ago | (#23405902)

Had some problems with Filevault not deleting encrypted images upon waking from sleep... anyways I had to reinstall the OS, and had lost my Office Mac CD, so I installed NeoOffice, intending to buy a new copy if I ran into any major problems. That was about two years ago.

Microsoft is going to be screwed over the next few (2, Interesting)

multiplexo (27356) | more than 5 years ago | (#23412602)

years. I know that this has been said before and that I'm not the first person to say it but I think that Microsoft is going to be in for rough times because of Vista and because of the speed of the PC hardware that has been released over the last six years.

Five years ago I built my parents new PCs based upon AMD CPUs and ASUS motherboards and running Windows XP. Since then I have upgraded the RAM on their systems out to the max of 1.5Gb and they still run just fine, my Dad has a few newer games that are a bit slow, but applications such as Office, IE, FireFox, Adobe, TurboCAD, etc run just fine under XP. My laptop at work is almost four years old, I've had more memory installed and a larger hard drive but again, it works just fine with Office, etc under Windows XP. Newer hardware offers more bells and whistles but unless you're doing video work, or playing games a decent system put together in 2003 or 2004 will run XP just fine. No one I know on the Windows side of the IT world is looking forward to upgrading to Vista because in order to do so we'd have to junk a bunch of perfectly good systems to install an OS that brings no benefit in a business environment. Business users don't need Aero glass, they don't need Vista's multimedia features (because businesses feel that if you want to do cool multimedia stuff you should do it at home and not be fucking off and doing it at work), they don't need Vista's "improved" security because any business that has an IT department that's worth it's salary are already behind firewalls, scan all incoming e-mails for viruses, automatically install security upgrades on user desktops and laptops and otherwise check their networks for infected systems and because the help desk guys really don't want to spend their entire day answering questions inspired by Vista's UAC spamming end users with largely spurious security notifications.

The only reason why anyone is buying Vista is because they have to. Dell just informed us today that as of tomorrow XP is no longer available as an OEM installed OS. You can still get it from Dell, but you're actually buying Vista with a "Downgrade Rights" license that allows you to install XP but with a Vista license. The "Downgrade Rights" program will be available until December 31st, 2010, so Microsoft will be able to say that they're selling lots and lots of copies of Vista when in reality many of these copies of Vista will actually be copies of XP sold under the "Downgrade Rights" program.

Pause and think for a moment upon how fucked up this is. Microsoft came out with a new operating system that no one wants; they tried to force adoption of the new OS by end of lifing the old one, but there was so much push back that they first had to extend the end of life date and then had to compromise and come out with the "Downgrade Rights" program which basically says that they're selling XP until New Year's Eve, 2010. Microsoft is fucked because they couldn't just keep selling XP, if they did it would be an implicit admission on their part that Vista is a failure. Microsoft also can't just say to customers "Fuck you, we're not selling XP any more, if you need an OS it's Vista or the highway" because if they did business customers in search of new systems might just say "Fuck it. I'll try the highway then. I'll keep my XP systems running as long as I can (which given the current economic climate isn't a bad idea anyways) and when I hit the wall where they don't run any more look at buying Macs or running Linux on the desktop."

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