Monday, December 8, 2014

Extending the adventure beyond Excel and VBA

Why extend the adventure?

New projects are a bit slow so I find myself doing less developing of my own skills in VBA and more "free consulting" on different discussion boards on how to do this or that, mainly with Excel but some with VBA.  I've learned in that process, but can see I'm getting to the point of learning things that are more esoteric, i.e. more important to the Excel gurus and less to the people who I support with my work.

Where will I venture?

A year or so ago I was approached to write tips on Google Docs and Drive.  I didn't because of a lack of time and the learning curve.  I felt I wasn't ready to be an "expert" who was only a step or two ahead of some of the pack.

Since then I've heard of a school district that has decided to go from MS-Office to Google Drive and Docs.

With that, Google Drive and  Docs became part of my new horizon.  Thinking about that got me to thinking about OpenOffice.  That would give me a choice of A or B if I found one path was not to my liking.  It would also make two doors more likely to open for future opportunities.

So the new adventures will include learning the ins and outs of the two environments, probably with more emphasis on spreadsheets since that has been my focus with VBA.  The spreadsheet paradigm seems to have more widespread and variations in use that word-processing and presentations. 

Databases are interesting, but I have not had the need to build an Access application, often using tables where the complexity exceeds Excel's capabilities.  Attempts to write macros and hooking them to UI components (forms) hasn't worked well for me.  The cost of the learning curve was higher than the benefits derived for the project.

Learning will include comparisons and contrast of the normal user's experience, e.g. a comparison of spreadsheet functions.  Do Google Docs and OpenOffice have similar features I use and how do they compare?

Further, I will be writing code in two different languages: PHP for OpenOffice and JavaScript for Google Docs.  The strategy is to 
  1. Learn the basic syntax of each language.
  2. Re-write some of the current functions and subroutines, and maybe whole projects, in those languages.
  3. Venture into areas that the MS-VBA environment ill-serve, e.g. changing ribbons is a process that I see as overwhelming.
Of course there is the argument that one cannot serve two masters.  

I think this is more akin to the entrepreneur who has developed a business to serve one clientele and is now looking to expand the menu of goods/services.  Some of what had been done is re-usable and the expansion is an overall with probable benefits back into the original business.

Expectations

Admittedly, these won't be as technically informative as my VBA and Excel posts.  OTOH, some research psychologist might use it as part of a study on the existence of Sado-Masochism in one being. (There's a thought for further development.)

I hope to do these things with this part of my blog

  1. Give myself a log of what I am doing.  Gee, a log in a blog!  What a concept!
  2. Using this log as notes for a possible book or series on being a self-developed programmer, at least as far as one can take it as a lone wolf.
  3. Keep focused on the learning.