Saturday, December 17, 2016

How to Move Excel VBA to a Production Environment?!

I was thinking of a quick-and-dirty solution for moving VBA to a server, but found it was essentially shot down by Microsoft a long while ago:

Considerations for server-side Automation of Office

I have some other ideas of using an Excel VBA metaphor (in essence a stack of sheets) within a Node.js module, perhaps implementing a set of functions similar to Google Apps Script (GAS) to reduce the learning curve. A simple a way to move Excel VBA (which is very productive in a corporate Excel environment) to a web front-end for low volume self-serve production use is needed.

Any idea has dozens if not more people around the world thinking about it - maybe someone has already solved this problem and I can just use it?

There are postings on Stack Overflow to figure this out, but consolidated here for quick review. Here's an example of calling an Excel VBA Sub and Function from PowerShell. 

PowerShell code:

1:  $objExcel = new-object -comobject excel.application  
2:  $sFile = "c:\users\dsides\sides-work\powershell\TestCall.xlsm"  
3:  $objWorkbook = $$sFile)  
4:  $objWorksheet = $objWorkbook.worksheets.item(1)  
5:  $'TestSub1', 'Word1 ', 'Word2')  
6:  $sRetVal = $objExcel.Run('TestFunc1','Word1 ', 'Word2')  
7:  Echo $sRetVal  
8:  $objExcel.quit()  

Excel VBA code:

1:  Option Explicit  
3:  Sub TestSub1(sString1 As String, sString2 As String)  
4:    MsgBox (sString1 & sString2)  
5:  End Sub  
7:  Function TestFunc1(sString1 As String, sString2 As String) As String  
8:    TestCallFunc = sString1 & sString2  
9:  End Function  

Looked at a few ways to put PowerShell/VBA behind a web front-end, but it's a bit too hacky and feels like it would be too fragile for a production environment. Here are a couple of links (not hard to find):

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Henry's Zen Things

My uncle passed away recently after a life dedicated to art and living. I admired him very much and think that this advice on Zen Things was appropriate to post, even in this mostly career-oriented blog...


  1. Do one thing at a time
  2. Do it slowly and deliberately
  3. Do it completely
  4. Do less
  5. Put space between things
  6. Develop rituals
  7. Designate time for certain things
  8. Devote time to sitting
  9. Smile and serve others
  10. Make cleaning and cooking become meditations
  11. Think about what is necessary
  12. Live simply

Monday, January 18, 2016

Natural Order Evaluation of Spreadsheet Cells

Instead of just tossing this bit of history in the trash I decided to scan and post it for posterity. In the mid-80s I worked for EMS/McGraw-Hill on a series of products for the Gregg division that were used to train students on how to use Lotus 1-2-3 and spreadsheets in general. We created a product called McGraw-Hill Integrated Software (MHIS) which included a spreadsheet module (written in C for MS-DOS). The memo I wrote explaining the implementation of natural order evaluation in a spreadsheet vs. column-order evaluation in a spreadsheet is below. It was fun to see that I was able to use my computer science education to bring a postorder traversal of a binary tree to the project!

Dolphin Inc.

Dolphin Inc. (formerly was a boutique educational software company that worked primarily for educational publishers including McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin, and Educational Testing Services (ETS) creating software for textbooks and other educational products. Dolphin's work was nominated for Codie awards several times and the Criterion product by ETS (Dolphin worked on the web interface) was awarded a Codie in 2005. At its peak Dolphin had approximately 40 employees.

The first products developed by Dolphin were on MS-DOS and the Apple II (6502 assembler!) in the 80s and the company migrated with technology into Windows and Macintosh software and then to web-based products.

The company was acquired by Byron Preiss Multimedia in approximately 1996 and then when that merger unwound, the company was sold to American Education Corporate (AEC) in approximately 1999. Dolphin continued to develop product for external clients until 2005 when the missions was changed to working only on AEC internal projects. AEC was subsequently purchased by K12.

Some materials including screen shots from software products can be found on Dolphin's Facebook page.

Dolphin Write (WordPerfect 5.1 Compatible SW circa 1995)

Ah, remembering programming in earlier years... Dolphin Inc. created software for a variety of educational publishers including Glencoe/McGraw-Hill and its Gregg line of keyboarding software products. Part of the product included a WordPerfect 5.1 compatible word processor that I created in my basement (of course!) around 1993/1994 shortly after coming to work for Dolphin in Gibbsboro, NJ (near Cherry Hill). The product was written in C and was an interesting, if intense, project created under a tight deadline and pressure from the client to replace a word processor (NYWord) that we had attempted to adapt unsuccessfully.

A Gap Buffer approach was used for managing the insertion of text and of course implementing base WordPerfect 5.1 functionality including the Show Codes feature, endnotes/footnotes, and even basic keystroke macros was fun.

The first screen shot shows some of the features in action including indent, bold, italics, underline, footnotes, and endnotes. The Show Codes feature is at the bottom of the screen and below the (1) you can see the indent code and below the (2) the footnote (FN) code.

What follows are screen shots of the pulldown menus to give a feel for the features supported. We even had a modest set of print drivers included that covered many of the printers found it schools at the time (LaserJet III, Epson, etc.) Dolphin Write used the vLib library for the windows-like user interface.

Here's a link to the Dolphin Write folder where you can download the files needed to run Dolphin Write (dw.exe, dw.hlp, dw.lst, dw.pdb, dw.cfg, dw.err). You'll probably need to download DOSBox to run the 16-bit EXE file on any recent Windows (64-bit) system.