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Excel 4.0 Comments

You would think that with three parts spread out over a month, we would have covered Excel 4.0 sufficiently. However, as a testament to the product's added complexity and flexibility, we've received two comments about it in the past few weeks, one good, one bad.

Object model -- First, the good news. Jon Pugh wrote to tell us to be sure to mention the fact that Excel 4.0 is perhaps the first major program to be fully Apple event and AppleScript aware. Excel 4.0 supports the object model, and for those of you using UserLand Frontier or pre-release versions of AppleScript, you can do essentially everything in the program via Apple events. This is, of course, wonderful news that also fits in the "so what?" category until enough other programs are similarly full-featured and AppleScript eventually ships. In the meantime, Frontier can do some pretty amazing things, and along with a hack from Steve Zellers of Berkeley Systems, you can even have a Scripts menu in your Finder that contains Frontier scripts. Frontier must be running as well, but with sufficient RAM to hold both apps at the same time you could control Excel (or any of the other Apple event-aware applications like PageMaker) from a Finder menu, which would be pretty neat.

Workbook bugs -- Now, the bad news. Andy J. Williams writes to tell us about a serious bug with workbooks in Excel 4.0:

I just had a disaster that taught me a valuable lesson about Excel 4.0's Workbook feature. File this under "Don't let this happen to you."

The scenario: I have five spreadsheets and one macro sheet bound together in a workbook. At the bottom of the screen for each page of the workbook is a "control panel" of five buttons each leading to the other sheets (referencing macros on the macro sheet).

I went to save the workbook. Just after saving the first of the six documents my machine crashed.

After restarting the workbook was trashed. Only the first sheet was visible or usable. Using the standard forward/backward page buttons I can go between the index page and that one sheet. No others are visible. Clicking on my control panel of buttons produces a system crash.

I spoke with someone at Microsoft Tech Support, and I surmise that Excel is completely rebuilding the workbook up from scratch rather than changing the existing workbook. Thus, any crash while saving will ensure that there is NO copy anywhere around except the one that was in memory, in the process of being written. This is a wonderfully unsafe way to do things.

So, my advice is: always backup workbooks BEFORE starting work.

[A clever macro programmer could probably whip something up to do this automatically, and it would be a piece of cake to do in Frontier. -Adam]

Information from:
Jon Pugh --
Andy J. Williams --


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