10 Comments

Summary:

For casual users, the iPad version of Excel is probably fine. But for experienced spreadsheet hands for whom macros have become lingua franca, it comes up short.

excel for ipad
photo: Microsoft

It is not really news that the new Excel for the iPad does not support Excel macros — it’s been mentioned in passing. But this deficiency — and that is not too strong a word — will be a huge deal for significant numbers of users who built custom macros atop Excel and would like to run them on their iPads. The beauty of macros is that users can boil down repetitive, time-consuming tasks that typically require multiple steps, into one job executed with a single keystroke.

Here’s the problem: Even if only a small subsection of total Excel users actually create macros, I would bet the vast majority of people who run Excel run macros, perhaps without even realizing it.

It’s unclear how much of this is due to Microsoft or to Apple, which has rules about running scripts — it considers macros to be scripts — on its devices. For example, the FAQs on Citrix’s Office2 HD productivity iPad app states that: “The app does not support macros. This is due to a limitation imposed by Apple. Apps which run scripts must have written permission from Apple, and are restricted to providing minor features or functionality.”

A Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed that macros will not run on Excel for the iPad, but would not say why. She did say the company is “focused on delivering a very robust first release of Office for iPad”  and will continue to update Office 365 and applications like Office for iPad, based on customer feedback.

But regardless of whether it’s due to Apple or Microsoft (or a combination of both), the lack of macro support in essence, dumbs down Excel in the words of a long time spreadsheet user and macro expert who requested anonymity because of his relationship with Microsoft.

“If you walk around any office anywhere in the entire world, Excel is running on the nearly all desktops all the time. There are millions of spreadsheets that businesses rely on every day (even if they’re crappy, error-filled end-user files) that will not run in the versions that Microsoft is shipping today for use on Windows Phone, the iPad and in the Browser, etc,” he said via email.

In his view, this is a conscious decision by company management, in the face of heightened competition from Google Apps, to push a less functional “Microsoft Works” quality product for non-PC devices as opposed to the more feature-rich Office that runs on PCs.

  1. Excel on the Surface RT and Surface 2 does not have macro support either.

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    1. You’re right macros seem to be a PC only thing. Is this an issue for you @mike?

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    2. guestguestguest Friday, April 4, 2014

      Could be an x86 vs ARM thing?

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      1. Srikanth Remani Sunday, April 6, 2014

        I think its the issue with VBA on ARM.

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  2. Best ipad………..

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  3. I think you wrote the headline before you thought about the details in this story!

    Reverse engineering a macro framework designed for physical keyboard full-fat operating systems, on low power soft keyboard mobile tablets just isn’t worth the effort. It’s way too complex, would probably violate Apple’s code rules and would be a nightmare to maintain document/functional compatibility. (First problem – where is the CTRL of Fn key on an iPad???)

    If you need macros you should be using your full-fat OS on a desktop or laptop.

    I’m a heavy Excel user and I won’t be disappointed macros are not on my iPad because I know it’s a device not designed to be used with tasks that require macros.

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  4. To say that you wouldn’t want to use Macros on an iPad is kinda presumptious IMHO. Why not?

    Who are you to say how someone uses their iPad? I personally think every version of Excel should have the same capabilities. And why is your opinion more legit than mine?

    I think you should walk back your disrespect there .. Think what you want but no need to phrase your comments the way you did. Your opinion is just your opinion – as is mine.

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    1. ITEvangelist Sunday, April 6, 2014

      I’m not being disrespectful in the slightest. It’s just my opinion, neither rude nor phrased to hurt. Opinionated for sure but you can’t have a debate without an opinion!

      I’m just stating that macro’s for iPad would be tough to implement for minimal benefit.

      It’s not just Excel. Adobe doesn’t do a full version of Photoshop for iPad for exactly the same reasons. Photographers wouldn’t expect to use a full version either I would imagine.

      Certainly in an ideal world all apps would work the same but with a legacy app like Excel it’s not quite the same as it wasn’t built with iOS in mind.

      With the exception of Surface Pro/Windows 8.1 which is a full desktop OS on a tablet, all other tablet OS’s are cut down compared to desktop and therefore are not capable or best suited for all desktop app features and tasks.

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  5. Biggus Dickus Monday, April 7, 2014

    OK I guess … as long as Barb doesn’t feel “dissed” :-) ….

    “With the exception of Surface Pro/Windows 8.1 which is a full desktop OS on a tablet, all other tablet OS’s are cut down compared to desktop and therefore are not capable or best suited for all desktop app features and tasks.”

    I guess the question then is “Is this new software now the template for future versions? By that I mean will MS eventually come out with a Surface/Windows 8.1 Metro version of Excel based on THIS version? And will IT have all the functionality of Excel’s Windows Client software? I fear not.

    If that’s the way it works out, then where would that leave the current full-featured version of Excel that runs on multiple versions of Windows? Will it be rebranded as “old-news” and eventually go into “Maintenance”? Would that be a good thing ? I don’t think so…

    It seems to me that with the focus now, with new management, on Phones and Tablets and Metro in MS, the capabilities of future Excel’s are likely to take a backseat to the importance of squeezing a version into those OS’s at any price functionality. As long as it looks nice :-) …

    Hmmmmm

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  6. Tue G. Christensen Saturday, May 10, 2014

    The problem is that vba macros are often used to validate data entry, make sheets more user friendly etc.

    The reality is that alot of existing excel sheets just dosen’t work on the ipad and I personally think it’s a big short comming.

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