Utility applications

No one is ever completely satisfied with his or her spreadsheet product. Good as it is, I still find quite a bit lacking in Excel. This brings me to the next category of spreadsheets: utility applications. Utilities are special tools designed to perform a single recurring task. For example, if you often import text into Excel, you may want some additional text-handling commands, such as the ability to convert selected text to uppercase (without using formulas). The solution? Develop a text-handling utility that does exactly what you want.

The Power Utility Pak is a collection of utility applications for Excel. I developed these utilities to extend Excel's functionality. These utilities work just like normal Excel commands. You can find the shareware version of the Power Utility Pak on the companion CD-ROM,and you can get a free copy of the full version by using the coupon located at the back of the book. And if you're interested, the complete VBA source code is also available.

Utility applications are very general in nature. Most macros are designed to perform a specific operation on a specific type of data found in a specific type of workbook. A good utility application essentially works like a command normally found in Excel. In other words, the utility needs to recognize the context in which a command is executed and take appropriate action. This usually requires quite a bit of error-handling code so that the utility can handle any situation that comes up.

Utility applications always use macros and may or may not use custom dialog boxes. Fortunately, Excel makes it relatively easy to create such utilities, and they can be converted to add-ins and attached to Excel's user interface so that they appear to be part of Excel.

The topic of creating utilities is so important that I devote an entire chapter to it. Chapter 16 discusses how to create custom Excel utilities with VBA.

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