Distributing the application to the user

You've completed your project, and you're ready to release it to the end users. How do you go about doing this? You can choose from many ways to distribute your application, and the method that you choose depends on many factors.

You could just hand over a CD-ROM, scribble a few instructions, and be on your way. Or, you may want to install the application yourself—but this is not always feasible. Another option is to develop an official setup program that performs the task automatically. You can write such a program in a traditional programming language, purchase a generic setup program, or write your own in VBA.

Excel 2000 and later uses Microsoft Authenticode technology to enable developers to digitally "sign" their applications. This process is designed to help end users identify the author of an application, ensure that the project has not been altered, and help prevent the spread of macro viruses or other potentially destructive code. To digitally sign a project, you just first apply for a digital certificate from a formal certificate authority (or, you can self-sign your project by creating your own digital certificate). Refer to the Help system or the Microsoft Web site for additional information.

Why Is There No Runtime Version of Excel?

When you distribute your application, you need to be sure that each end user has a licensed copy of the appropriate version of Excel. It's illegal to distribute a copy of Excel along with your application. Why, you might ask, doesn't Microsoft provide a runtime version of Excel? A runtime version is an executable program that can load files but not create them. With a runtime version, the end user wouldn't need a copy of Excel to run your application. (This is common with database programs.)

I've never seen a clear or convincing reason why Microsoft does not have a runtime version of Excel, and no other spreadsheet manufacturer offers a runtime version of its product, either. The most likely reason is that spreadsheet vendors fear that doing so would reduce sales of the software. Or, it could be that developing a runtime version would require a tremendous amount of programming that would just never pay off.

On a related note . . . Microsoft does offer an Excel file viewer. This product lets you view Excel files if you don't own a copy of Excel. Macros, however, will not execute. You can get a copy of this free file viewer from the Microsoft Web site

(http://office.microsoft.com/downloads).

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