Microsoft on the elimination of Virtual PC and Visual Basic in Office applications

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
August 10th, 2006 • 3:26 pm

As indicated in my post about Apple’s WWDC earlier this week, Microsoft has announced that they are terminating Virtual PC and eliminating support for Visual Basic in Office applications for the Mac.

Now Microsoft’s MacBU bloggers are in damage control mode and trying to justify the decision. Here’s what Rick Schaut has to say:

Many people who are not at all familiar with the exigencies of software development look at Microsoft’s balance sheet, and the maxim that anything’s possible in this industry, and wonder whether or not we’re pulling their legs. They don’t understand that the constraining resource isn’t money. It’s people.

There are also posts by Schwieb and David Weiss.

If I understand Rick Schaut correctly, what he’s really saying is that, simply put, Microsoft’s MacBU is unable to attract the talented people that it would need to maintain and improve their applications. There are many talented Mac developers out there, but obviously not too many of them are interested in working for Microsoft’s MacBU.

And that’s hardly surprising. Who would want to try and work on products that have been so obviously flawed for so many years, especially when there is no indication that the parent company is actually willing to start all over and develop something really great for the Mac?

This admission by Rick Schaut simply confirms what we have known for years, i.e. that Microsoft will never, ever be either willing or able to fix Office for the Mac, and that all we will continue to get from them are the same flawed, crappy products, with a sprinkling of new features that nobody uses and that make the performance of the applications even worse, and with periodic cuts in important functionality that people actually use, like Visual Basic macro scripting.

Personally, I am far too disillusioned to even be upset. Yes, I do use Visual Basic macros quite a bit in Microsoft Word myself, and the loss of that functionality will be rather irritating. But it will just prompt me to renew my efforts to reduce my dependence on Microsoft even further. I will try to write AppleScript scripts to replicate the functionality that my macros provide, but if it’s too hard I will simply give up and try to reduce my use of Word even further.

I won’t ever be able to become entirely Microsoft-free, because of the factors described in this post, but I will do my best, and I will certainly continue to discourage the Mac users I know and support from purchasing Microsoft products. Microsoft has just given me more ammunition to justify my recommendations.

Microsoft is a company that cannot be trusted, and relying on them for your daily computer work is a form of masochism. The only reasonable thing you can do is to try to eliminate Microsoft products from your daily work as much as possible.

7 Responses to “Microsoft on the elimination of Virtual PC and Visual Basic in Office applications”

  1. ssp says:

    As you know I’m not a big MS Office person.

    But the one and only thing I’ve ever been able to have respect for (because it’s relatively simple, powerful and unique) is Excel’s ability to let you program your own non-trivial functions to use in its table cells. IIRC, technically, this was done in Visual Basic as well. Do I understand all the comments I read correctly that this won’t work in future versions of MS Office on the Mac?

    As in: They killed the only useful feature of their product I’ve ever used? (apart from the flying dog ;) Well, actually I had to work on Windows computers when creating those tables and functions, but I liked to think that at least of benefit of using an ‘industry standard’ was that the files would just keep working in other versions of the application as well.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    The functions in Excel table cells are in a separate language. VB is the language used to create macro commands, either by writing them out in the Visual Basic Editor or using the “Record Macro” command. They are used to automate sequences of user actions, not calculations.

  3. ssp says:

    What’s the name of that language then? And isn’t VB the language that looks just like RealBasic?

    (I can’t remember, I think that it said VBAProject at the top of some window.)

  4. AlanY says:

    The real name of the language embedded inside MS Office is “Visual Basic for Applications.” This is/was totally distinct from “Visual Basic” proper, which had a similar syntax but was a full-fledged product for developing applications. That Visual Basic no longer exists and has been replaced by “Visual”, with yet another different syntax.

  5. Pierre Igot says:

    I don’t know what the formula/function language used in Excel is called, but it’s a separate thing. If you saw “VBA Project” in a window, you were probably editing a macro command, not a formula with functions.

    Visual Basic for Applications does indeed look like other BASIC languages, although it has many very peculiarities, which I’ve never bothered to explore in-depth (thank God for that, now that it has been eliminated!).

    The Excel functions, on the other hand, are just a bunch of predefined formulas or mathematical/statistical formulas, as well as some basic string manipulation functions that are indeed similar to functions that can be found in a language such as BASIC, hence the possible confusion. But the functions do not actually constitute a programming language.

  6. ssp says:

    Hm, I’m starting to think you didn’t understand me properly here. Excel has the – hard to discover – ability to let you _define_ your own functions (which is the thing I find remarkable) that you can use in formulas.

    E.g. you can go and define a complex function in whatever the language is going
    Public Function myFunction (…) … end Function
    or soand then use something like
    in a table cell to execute your own computations. I found this to be quite powerful.

  7. Pierre Igot says:

    OK, I see what you mean. When in Word or Excel’s Visual Basic Editor, you can insert three types of “procedures”: subs, functions, and properties. Subs are the standard subroutines that are most commonly used when writing simple macros. Functions and properties are somewhat more advanced coding tools. What you are saying is that a function created with Visual Basic Editor in Excel can actually be called directly from within the formula of a cell, without the use of a macro with a subroutine.

    I guess since the Visual Basic component is going to be eliminated, you are going to lose that ability as well. Whether Microsoft will replace it with a “Function Editor” of some kind remains to be seen.

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