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.