Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I don't know what they're smoking, but I want some

So I've just spent a couple of days frantically coding in (you guessed it) Excel/VBA. And I'm actually feeling surprisingly good about it.

This is because the task I'm dealing with involves extracting large blocks of data from various databases and then processing it in Excel. Up until a week ago, this was a truly hideous task for me, requiring a big messy chunk of partially-hardwired code to handle dumping the data into Excel.

Now, though, I'm happy. I've discovered a feature that takes care of all that: the QueryTable object. You just feed it an SQL query, point it at a cell, and it handles the rest. It has its limitations, but is generally rather nice. Apart from one issue.

Yes, there's always something. But this particular problem had me scratching my head in bewilderment: this lovely little feature has only the most cursory mention in the help file. I'd have been using it for months if I'd known about it.

The documentation it does have is likewise minimal. It took me two hours to figure out how to use a parametrised query, and actually getting a system up and running took a full working day.

Why, Microsoft? You actually did something right for a change: you produced a conceptually-elegant tool to solve a clearly-defined and commonly-occurring problem. There is almost nothing about QueryTables that I can complain about. So why the blazes aren't you shouting to the world about it?

Please please get the hang of when it's appropriate to blow your own trumpet. Or alternatively, pass me that spliff.

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