Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Joel on VBA for Macintosh and the Office alternatives

Another example of Microsoft on the skids: VBA for Macintosh goes away (Joel on Software).

Joel wrote the spec for VBA. It was a lock-in strategy from start, which is no surprise of course. The loss of VBA on the Mac won't have much impact on most users of Office/Mac, but Joel's story is interesting for several reasons:
1. It's a story about Microsoft's only great product - Excel.
2. Joel's a longtime supporter of Microsoft as a company (he grew up there) and even he's advising friends to avoid Vista at this time.
3. He gets fed up with Office 2007.
Most Mac users who really need Office are going to run Office Pro/Windows in emulation under Windows 2000 or XP. I don't care so much about VBA, but I need Microsoft Access.

Mac users who want a quality word processor should probably use Nisus Writer Express (Pro is in beta). Every other product that works well on the Mac uses a lock-in proprietary file format or an (unfortunately) little supported open alternative. NWE uses RTF.

For presentations, if you can escape PowerPoint (few can) I hear Keynote is good. For an end-user non-pro database you're limited to Filemaker (kind of hurting really). For a spreadsheet you can, err, uhhh, hmmm. That' s a problem, isn't it? When I started writing this post I didn't know of any. I decided to research the question first ...

I was able to find 6 alternatives, not counting OpenOffice since it still requires an X Window front-end:
  1. AppleWorks if you can find a copy (runs in cpu emulation on intel macs)
  2. MarinerCalc 5.5.1
  3. Google Apps with Firefox/Camino (not Safari)
  4. Tables
  5. Mesa (NextStep originally) is still around and is a universal binary
  6. NeoOffice: (update 5/29/07: I tried the spreadsheet with a modestly large data series. It died trying to create a chart. It's not a real contender.)

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