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Excel VBA Courses Wean Users Off The Macro Recorder

Jul 19, 2008
Most users' first exposure to Excel Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) involves recording a macro. As the user carries out a series of steps (for example opening a workbook going to a particular worksheet, copying some data, and so on) Excel faithfully records each step by generating the necessary Visual Basic code. Each time the user plays back the macro, these same steps are performed exactly as they were recorded.

Recording macros is excellent for really simple operations such as producing a simple report. However, there are definite limitations to this approach. Firstly, because Excel plays back the steps just as they were originally performed by the user, recorded macros are notoriously slow to play back.

Secondly, recorded macros will only run correctly under the conditions in which they were first recorded. For example, if a certain worksheet needs to be active at a given point and it is not active when the macro is run, there will be an error and the macro will stop running.

This means that recorded macros are only of use to the person who records them. They cannot be distributed to work colleagues.

One of the first things we find we have to do on the Excel VBA training courses that we run at our London training centre is to steer users away from the macro recorder. We offer them a good grasp of the Excel object model, a way of programmatically encoding each of the elements within the Excel environment such as the application itself, workbooks, worksheets and cell ranges.

Admittedly, Excel VBA can be difficult to grasp for those users who have done little or no programming. This is one reason why we prefer to run a five day intensive Excel VBA training course aimed at people new to VBA. We find that this approach gives everyone a chance to gain confidence and familiarity with this o environment.

Next we teach them the syntax and structure of VBA. How to use variables to store both data and references to Excel objects, how to create logical and iterative structures and how to allow the user of a macro to make choices.

Despite its initial complexity, attending an Excel VBA training course is a good investment. It can greatly enhance the productivity of an Excel user. Monthly operations and reports which used to take hours can suddenly be streamlined and accomplished with astounding rapidity.

Getting trained on Excel VBA is the only real way of losing one's initial dependency on the macro recorder. However, the recorder will always have its uses. For example, when one is working with an Excel object or procedure which is programmatically complex, recording a few steps then examining code generated is an excellent way to learn new syntax.
About the Author
The author is a trainer and developer with Macresource Computer Solutions, an independent computer training company offering Microsoft Excel VBA Classes at their central London training centre.
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