Microsoft has announced a service pack for Office 2008 for Mac and said it is bringing back Visual Basic for Applications for the next release of the Mac office suite.
The software giant's Macintosh Business Unit introduced Service Pack 1 of Office 2008 for Mac on May 13. The release provides increased stability, security and performance enhancements to the suite, company officials said.
The Macintosh Business Unit also is providing a look at the road map for Office for Mac by announcing the return of VBA in the next version.
VBA is an implementation of Microsoft's Visual Basic, an event-driven programming language and associated IDE (integrated development environment) that is built into most Microsoft Office applications.
Developers can build custom software using Visual Basic by embedding the VBA IDE in their applications, Microsoft said. It was also built into Office applications up to Version 2004 for Apple's Mac OS X, and into other applications such as Microsoft MapPoint and Microsoft Visio.
VBA first appeared in 1993, but as of July 2007, Microsoft stopped offering VBA licenses to new customers. Yet, with the release of Visual Studio 2005, Microsoft announced VSTA (Visual Studio Tools for Applications), an application customization tool kit based on the .Net Framework 2.0 and built on the same architecture as VSTO (Visual Studio Tools for Office).
"Sharing information with customers as early as possible continues to be a priority for the Mac BU to allow customers to plan for their software needs," said a Microsoft statement announcing the move to bring VBA back.
"Although the Mac BU increased support in Office 2008 with alternate scripting tools such as Automator and AppleScript-and also worked with MacTech Magazine to create a reference guide, available at http://www.mactech.com/vba-transition-guide-the team recognizes that VBA-language support is important to a select group of customers who rely on sharing macros across platforms. The Mac BU is always working to meet customers' needs and already is hard at work on the next version of Office for Mac," the statement said.
Bringing back VBA "is proof that Microsoft is taking the Mac market seriously," said Stephen Forte, chief strategy officer for Telerik, a .Net component vendor. Forte is also a Microsoft Regional Director. "The reason why Office on Windows was, and still is, so successful verses its competitors is the extensibility that VBA (and now VSTO) provides. This will give independent software developers a chance to automate and customize Office on the Mac and help Microsoft keep its market share on the Mac."
Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at Twentysix New York, a consulting company, observed, "I see two interesting tidbits here: One is that users and ISVs prefer VBA to AppleScript, and, two, there are seemingly enough Macs out there in corporate environments such that IT departments want to be able to make their PC-originated VBA code run on them. This bodes well for Microsoft's decision to provide Mac support for Silverlight, by the way."