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Leading Edge Technology

Our development focuses exclusively on Microsoft ExcelTM and integration with other members of the Microsoft family of applications. (Word, Access, PowerPoint, Outlook, Visual Basic, Project Manager, SQL Server, etc.), running on the Microsoft Windows platform*.

Microsoft Excel

Based solely on our own opinions, which are derived from many years of working with Excel; we estimate that roughly 70% to 80% of Excel's total capability resides in the world of spreadsheet automation. This means that users and purchasers of Excel who have no knowledge or understanding of spreadsheet automation are getting only 20% to 30% of the value and power of the package they purchased. Probably, in most cases, they are getting much less.

Even at that level of efficiency, Excel and the Office Suite has to be one of the greatest bargains on the planet. Fortunately you are sharing the cost of its development with the majority of every other desktop computer user in the world. I think we can conservatively say that if you have MS Office on your desktop, then you have at your complete disposal, a billion dollar piece of software for which you paid less than $500 US.

An Excel power user who has mastered every Excel menu function, (which is an awesome accomplishment on its own), has reached a proficiency level allowing only 20% to 30% of Excel's total capability to be unleashed. Frankly, this 30 percent capability is an awesome amount of power for many users.

Spreadsheet automation unlocks and makes available to you that other 70% to 80%. Technical people with complex analytical tasks can vastly expand their reach using automation. The most amazing thing is that it is done in what looks and feels like, an open, un-controlling and totally rational environment.

In our opinion, Excel and the MS Office environment it operates in, is truly one of the most amazing software applications ever developed. We say this because we know of no other software application that can "out of the box" satisfy the majority of the needs of a 6th grader, and as well as many of the complex needs of a chemical engineer, physical chemist, physicist, biologist, geologist, accountant, manager, statistician, etc. All these people work simultaneously in the same user friendly, intuitive, and extremely sophisticated data manipulation platform. We are constantly in awe and obviously obsessed with this monumental intellectual achievement.

Spreadsheet Automation

Actually, there is no universally accepted definition for this frequently used term. To many professionals intimately involved with Excel, they would use this phrase to mean all those things required to allow the control of one application by another (OLE automation or ActiveX automation). This would be like Excel controlling Acccess or Access controlling Outlook.

We adhere to the broader definition of spreadsheet automation.

    The world of spreadsheet automation begins when any or all of the following apply:

    • the user invokes the Excel macro recorder
    • the user opens the VBA editor and begins to insert code
    • the user includes an Excel Addin to his application
    • the spreadsheet application is embedded in and/or controlled by another application
All of these instances normally share in common the introduction of custom programming code.

In many cases automation makes “automatic” those things that a user could make happen by hand. They can be made automatic, because Excel can be controlled by custom programming code. The macro recorder allows you to do this with no knowledge of programming. Aside from making automatic those things that you could accomplish as a user, there are a number of things available via automation that you could never accomplish using the standard Excel interface.

Benefits Of Automation

In general automation can:
  • save you time in accomplishing tasks
  • expand the richness, power and flexibility of your data environment
  • both of the above
All of the features of automation have the capability to do both. The key to the benefit is how you use them. Item 1 can save your company money; Item 2 can empower employees to make your company a market leader.

Most Commonly Used Automation Features

The following are representative of the most commonly used automation features:
  • Custom calculation functions including dynamic SQL, array functions, complex logic functions
  • Query, update, and dynamic SQL interaction with ODBC databases
  • Query, update and dynamic SQL interaction with ASP web pages
  • Control and enhancement of pivot tables and pivot table data sources
  • Control and enhancement of charts and chart data sources
  • Control and enhancement of toolbars, menu bars, toolbar commands, wizards, popup menus
  • Custom navigation of cells, ranges, sheets, windows, charts, pivot tables, workbooks
  • Custom manipulation of the keyboard and mouse interaction
  • Advanced iterative, circular, and manual calculation modes
  • Advanced control of visible and hidden excel objects
  • Custom use of an extensive choice of worksheet and workbook events (this is huge)
  • Use of Excel forms, form events, ActiveX controls
  • Control and enhancement of formatting features
  • Control and enhancement of goal seek and solver features
  • Control enhancement of file import and export features
  • Advanced error checking and system status information
  • Advanced text manipulation and search features
  • Control of other MS Office and OLE compliant applications
  • Control of multiple Excel applications, workbooks, and windows
  • Control and manipulation of Excel object protection and environment properties
  • Creation of custom Excel object classes, methods, and properties
Some examples of spreadsheets using these features are given in the section titled Spreadsheet Automation Examples.

Without seeing these examples in action, it’s hard to fully appreciate how different and powerful they are. If you have Excel 2000 or Excel 2002 on your desktop you may want to go the section Downloads and download example spreadsheets that will show you "Live" what automation can do for you.

The Current Environment

It goes without saying, the current hardware and software environment is brimming with new opportunities. It is a very exciting field to work in as a developer and as a user.

There are so many things happening that we have focused in on a few. We think the following are, or soon will be, hot topics surrounding our business.
  • Web integration and implementation of the Microsoft.Net framework
  • Multi-monitors, wide aspect LCD monitors, and big screen hi-resolution displays
  • OLAP data warehouses (ERP's and industrial process control data historians)
  • Microsoft Outlook customization and integration

Links To Other Sections Of This Site

Phone: 863.676.3248
Fax: 863.679.9254
Email: info@true-north-usa.com
true north usa LLC
225 East Stuart Avenue
Lake Wales, FL 33853-3712
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