Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
a gift horse in the mouth?
by Alan German
December meeting, the club held its (now) annual silent
auction in aid of The Ottawa Food Bank. As in the
previous year, O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com/) were munificent in providing
hundreds of dollars worth of computer books for us to
include in theauction. Even better, this year, they
provided a web-link for those attending the auction to
download a complimentary E-book.
I had a specific one of their products in mind when I
went to the web site but, regrettably, my book of choice
wasn't in the list of many dozens of titles that were on
offer. Consequently, I scanned through the books that
were available and selected Excel Programming with
VBA Starter by Robert Martin (Packt Publishing,
The tag line for this book was Get started with
programming in Excel using Visual Basic for Applications
(VBA) which sounded ideal for my purposes. I have
used VBA to develop a number of Excel macros, but have
never had any real idea of what I was doing. I just used
the macro recorder to give me some code to start with,
and then checked on Google for specific insights into
various VBA commands.
Clearly, a get-started guide was precisely what I needed.
Furthermore, my past experience with O'Reilly's how-to
guides primarily aimed at various aspects of Linux
had been very positive. As a result of the latter,
I was somewhat disappointed with this particular Excel
It was almost as if the author had a Jekyll-and-Hyde
persona. In one section of the book there was an
excellent outline of the use of loop-programming
techniques (e.g. for-next, do-while and do-until) and
then a fairly obscure section dealing with enumeration,
classes, and external libraries. For me, the latter are
quite advanced topics and a little out of place without
some much more basic information about the macro
I found the really odd part of the book to be that there
was never any specific indication of how to read from or
write a value to a cell. Sure, some relevant commands
were present in some of the examples, but the author
didnt actually explain things like cell referencing
and ranges, which are pretty important if you hope to be
able to use the values of data elements in a worksheet.
There is a useful section on using Excels macro
recorder, the visual basic editor, and the file (module)
management system. But, there is also a large section on
how to categorize user-defined functions which, once
again, I would consider an advanced topic since it is
entirely possible to use functions without using this
One of the problems that I have with this book is that it
is quite short. One cant really hope to do justice
to VBA programming in 61 pages. And, this is certainly
the case if one chooses to discuss fairly advanced
techniques at the expense of more basic concepts.
So, for once, OReilly get a failing grade from me
on one of their user guides. However, anyone interested
in learning about Excel macro programming, shouldnt
be discouraged. A search for Excel VBA in
OReillys catalogue lists 21 other titles.
But, for my part, perhaps I will seek a review copy of
the book I was initially looking for. It doesnt
relate to VBA in any way but it does have 744
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Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON K2G 1S6
opinions expressed in these reviews do not necessarily
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