The incredible popularity of Visual Basic shortly after its launch prompted Microsoft to wonder if a "cut down" version of the product could replace the many different macro languages lurking behind its range of business applications. Bill Gates talked for many years—since the days of DOS—of a universal batch language. This goal is now coming to fruition in the shape of VBA. However, as the following chronology shows, this goal wasn't achieved overnight:
1993—VBA launched with Microsoft Excel
VBA first saw the light of day as a replacement for the macro language in Microsoft Excel. Its power and sophistication in comparison to the original macro languages made it an instant success with those developers creating custom solutions with Excel.
1994— VBA included with Microsoft Project
Perhaps because Microsoft Project had to be customized in many situations to satisfy the wide and varied needs of project managers, Project was next on the list of applications to be VBA-enabled.
1995—Included with Microsoft Access, replacing Access Basic
Perhaps the biggest boost to VBA came when Access Basic (a subset of VBA written specifically for Access) was replaced with the full version of VBA. Many of today's VB programmers apprenticed on VBA in Access, cutting their teeth on custom applications using VBA and Access. Many Access developers have moved on to the full version of Visual Basic to create full three-tier client server applications.
1996—— VBA becomes the language element of Visual Basic
1996 saw the launch of Visual Basic 4.0, a massive leap forward and almost a totally different product from VB3. Written in C++, Version 4 was a ground-up rewrite of VB, whose previous versions were written in assembler. With VB4, VB became object-oriented; VB could be used to create class models and DLLs, as well as to easily reference external object libraries. Part of the componentization of Visual Basic was the use of a separate language library, VBA. Some intrinsic language elements remained in the VB and VB runtime libraries for backward compatibility, but most were transferred to the VBA library, and many were completely rewritten.
1996-—Included with Word, replacing Word Basic
Many people were surprised that Word Basic was the last of the Microsoft macro languages to hit the dust. This appears to have happened partly because the demand for customized word processor applications is much smaller than for customized applications using the other components of the Office suite, and because the core of Word developers were initially opposed to a change to VBA.
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1997-—VBA 5.0 launched, covering the complete range of Office 97 products
With the inclusion of VBA in PowerPoint, all the members of Office 97 (with the exception of Outlook, which is VBScript-enabled) now include VBA as their programming language.
1997-—Microsoft licenses VBA for use with other software
Over 50 major software vendors licensed VBA within the first few weeks of Microsoft's announcement. The fact that so many leading companies have chosen to license VBA bodes well for the future. In learning VBA now, you are building a skill set that will be in demand for a long time to come.
1998— VB and VBA Version 6 launched
The language continues to expand, although not at the same rate as previously. Interestingly, with the exception of two functions, the new functions in VBA have come from VBScript. The rest of the new functionality available to VB/VBA developers comes in the form of several new object models, which is likely to be the way VB and VBA will expand in the future.
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