For developers, Excel's key features include the following:
♦ File structure: The multisheet orientation makes it easy to organize elements of an application and store it in a single file. For example, a single workbook file can hold any number of worksheets and chart sheets. UserForms and VBA modules are stored with a workbook but are invisible to the end user.
♦ Visual Basic for Applications: This macro language lets you create structured programs directly in Excel. Excel isn't the only spreadsheet to include a structured scripting language (1-2-3 offers LotusScript, for example), but it's certainly the best implementation.
♦ Easy access to controls: Excel makes it very easy to add controls such as buttons, list boxes, and option buttons to a worksheet. Implementing these controls often requires little or no macro programming.
♦ Custom dialog boxes: You can easily create professional-looking dialog boxes. Excel's UserForm feature (introduced in Excel 97) is a vast improvement over the old dialog sheets.
♦ Custom worksheet functions: With VBA, you can create custom worksheet functions to simplify formulas and calculations.
♦ Customizable menus: You can change menu elements, add to existing menus, or create entirely new menus. Other products enable you to do this as well, but Excel makes it extremely easy.
♦ Customizable shortcut menus: Excel is the only spreadsheet that lets you customize the right-click, context-sensitive shortcut menus.
♦ Customizable toolbars: It's easy to create new toolbars as another user interface option. Again, other spreadsheets let you do this as well, but Excel outmuscles them all.
♦ Powerful data analysis options: Excel's pivot table feature makes it very easy to summarize large amounts of data with very little effort.
♦ Microsoft Query: You can access important data directly from the spreadsheet environment. Data sources include standard database file formats, text files, and Web pages.
♦ Data Access Objects (DAO) and ActiveX Data Objects (ADO): These features make it easy to work with external databases using VBA.
♦ Extensive protection options: Your applications can be kept confidential and protected from changes. Again, pretty standard fare, but Excel has some advantages.
♦ Ability to create "compiled" add-ins: With a single command, you can create XLA add-in files that install seamlessly.
♦ Support for automation: With VBA, you can control other applications that support automation. For example, you can generate a report in Microsoft Word.
♦ Ability to create Web pages: It's very easy to create a HyperText Markup Language (HTML) document from an Excel workbook.
♦ Ability to import an XML file and map the fields to spreadsheet cells.
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