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Keywords: Excel, Visual Basic, VBA, Microsoft Office

Title: VBA and Macros for Microsoft Office Excel 2007

Author: Bill Jelen and Tracy Syrstad

Publisher: Que

ISBN: 0789736829

Media: Book

Level: Introductory/Intermediate

Verdict: Highly recommended


For Excel users - novices and gurus alike - the 2007 release has been something of a shake-up. As with the other components of Office 2007 there has been a new user interface to contend with, but also major changes in functionality (as well as the unwelcome discovery that things that used to work had been broken in the initial release and are still being fixed in service packs and hotfixes). However, despite the problems and the changes that users have to get used to, Excel 2007 is still the jewel in the crown of Microsoft Office. And, in the right hands, it remains an immensely powerful and creative tool for data analysis and reporting.

The true mark of the Excel super-user is a willingness to get to grips with macros and VBA. It's true that buried under layers of menus, toolbars and obscure options dialogs there is an enormous reservoir of functionality that users can exploit. But it's also true that the user interface can only get you so far, if you truly want to gain super-user status you need to resort to VBA code to get Excel to do the things you want it to. While it's easy to get a fast introduction to Excel VBA from online tutorials such as our own TechBookReport VBA tutorial, to gain an understanding and experience of what's possible a guide book is essential. Which is where this book comes into its own.

The first thing to point out is that this is decidedly not a book that aims at turning the reader into a VBA programmer. It's not a programmer's manual in any normal sense, though there's a lot that a VBA programmer can pick up from it. Instead this is a book that is aimed firmly at the Excel user who wants to go further. That means the emphasis is on performing specific tasks using VBA rather than introducing programming concepts, object oriented design or other developer topics.

The writing style is very down to earth and direct, it's clear that the authors are confident that they know their target readership. They avoid focusing too much on theoretical discussions or subsidiary issues, instead there are plenty of hands on examples and discussion of how things work. The text is backed up with plenty of screenshots, code snippets, worked examples and tagged with headers and icons to make things stand out. In terms of design it just works without being flashy. Which pretty much goes for the text as well.

While there's an emphasis on VBA and macros, obviously, there's also a fair amount of material that looks at how you can achieve great things just be using the Excel user interface. This is particularly true when it comes to some of the newer Excel 2007 features, which makes the book ideal for those with existing VBA skills who just want to pick up on what's new. The same is true when it comes to VBA, areas that are new in 2007 are clearly flagged so that people can home in on them.

There are one or two slight downsides of the book. Firstly the book includes lots of code that's been contributed by different users. While this is good because it shows what different people have come up in solving problems, it also means that there isn't a consistent coding style used throughout the book. How much of a problem this is partly depends on how much of a programming background you have. The other slight niggle is that there are numerous mentions of the lead author's activities as Mr Excel. These are slight niggles and really don't detract too much from the book.

In terms of contents it really does cover a very wide range - from the absolute basics of recording a macro right on through to charting, XML, automating Word, creating user forms, Windows API programming and much more. There are very few areas that the average user is going to come across that aren't covered in this book to some extent.

To conclude, this really is one of the best Excel super-user books that we've seen here at TechBookReport. Highly recommended.

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Contents © TechBookReport 2008. Published March 26 2008