Visual Basic to return to Mac Office

Not until next version, however

According to a press release issued by Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit Tuesday, Office 2008, which debuted at this year's MacWorld Expo in January, was the biggest release of the productivity suite for the Mac platform ever. It's selling three times faster than the previous version, say Microsoft sales reps.

It wasn't all cheers for the latest version of Mac Office, however. Business users, in particular, were dismayed that Microsoft removed support for VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) from the product, which meant that it couldn't run custom scripts developed for previous versions, or for Windows Office. But in a rare about-face, it seems that VBA may be returning to a future version of Mac Office — though a precise timeline remains elusive.

Macintosh Business Unit employee Erik Schwiebert blogged about the issue on Tuesday. "When we came to the realisation in 2006 that there was no way for us to keep VB in the product and still ship Office 2008 on any semblance of the schedule we wanted, we announced its removal," he wrote, "but kept looking at how to bring it back into the suite even before we shipped."

In the end, it wasn't brought back. Instead, the Mac Business unit helped write up a guide on how to transition existing VBA applications to AppleScript. But while that was helpful and certainly in keeping with "the Macintosh way," it wasn't much help to those who needed to keep their Macs in sync with the Windows PCs around the office.

Fortunately, Microsoft seems to have listened to its customers. According to Schwiebert, the next version of Office for Mac is already underway, and Microsoft is even seeking guidance as to which elements of Visual Basic are most important to Mac users. Leave a comment on his blog if you have ideas.

In the meantime, Mac Office users will want to take notice of the release of Service Pack 1 for Office 2008, which also appeared on Tuesday. According to Schwiebert, "there are over 1000 fixes in SP1, including the re-addition of some features that were glaringly absent when compared to Office 2004." Unfortunately, VBA isn't one of them — not yet, anyway — but a bugfix pack like that ought to give anyone enough reason to upgrade.

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Neil McAllister

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