Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) allows programmers to develop highly customized desktop applications that integrate with a variety of Microsoft and non-Microsoft programs. For example, all of the Microsoft Office System products support VBA. In addition, many third-party programs, such as drafting programs as well as WordPerfect, also support VBA.
VBA is actually a subset of the Visual Basic programming language and is a superset of VBScript (another in the Visual Basic family of development programs). VBA includes a robust suite of programming tools based on the Visual Basic development, arguably the world's most popular rapid application development system. Developers can add code to tailor any VBA-enabled application to their specific business processes. A manufacturing company can use VBA within Microsoft Access to develop sophisticated inventory control and management systems with custom toolbars, a back-end database, management reports, and security. Rather than purchasing an off-the-shelf Inventory Control product, usually at a great cost and with a very limited ability to customize, developers can take a product they already have installed (Access as part of the Microsoft Office 2003 System) and build a robust application with no additional expense other than time. Once the application is in place, the developer can respond to customization requests quickly and effectively, rather than waiting for another company to work the customization into their development cycle.
You might be wondering why you should develop in VBA rather than the more robust Visual Basic 6.0 or Visual Basic .NET. Both are robust, popular, and capable programming languages. However, using VBA within Access gives you some key benefits: First, you can take advantage of a built-in Access object library. This means you can take full advantage of a wide variety of Access commands, including executing any command from any toolbar in Access. Second, VBA is included in all Microsoft Office System applications. To develop in Visual Basic, you'll need to purchase Visual Basic 6.0 or Visual Basic .NET either alone or as part of the Visual Studio or Visual Studio .NET suite. It could get very expensive if multiple developers in your organization need access to the Visual Basic development tools.
Despite the advantages of VBA, there are definitely circumstances in which you'll want to use Visual Basic. If you need to deploy an application to a wide variety of computers, especially those without a full installation of Microsoft Access, Visual Basic might be your best bet. We will examine the three languages in the Visual Basic family and why you might want to use each of them.
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