TweetFollow Us on Twitter

The REALbasic-Office secret decoder ring

Volume Number: 20 (2004)
Issue Number: 7
Column Tag: Programming

REALBasic Best Practice

by Guyren G Howe

The REALbasic-Office secret decoder ring

How to control Microsoft Office from REALbasic

Last time, I discussed some ways of "breaking out" of REALbasic, to call on external applications to supplement what your REALbasic application can do. I lamented that I was unable to explore controlling Microsoft Office from RB, because although it can do that really well, the documentation for this feature was both inadequate and horribly, egregiously wrong.

Since that time, things have gotten slightly better. There is now a web page (http://www.realsoftware.com/office2004mac/) from which you can download a small number of actual, correct, working examples. But, there is still no documentation to speak of, and what there is, it would lead you to believe that using Office from REALbasic is harder than it really is.

So in this article, I will present the apparently entirely undocumented, super-secret really easy way to control Office from RB.

But First...

Since I can't find anywhere else to put it, a quick aside: there were some errors in my article on REAL World. I had said I thought there were fifty attendees, but it turns out there were over a hundred. I also mistakenly wrote that there were three seminars per day, but what I meant to say was that there were three or four sessions at a time, and a bunch of sessions each day. It was quite a good seminar program.

Ta-Da! The Big Secret

Microsoft Office, on both Macintosh and Windows, incorporates a fairly sophisticated built-in scripting language called Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). The really super secret of controlling Microsoft Office from REALbasic -- the one I had to offer up my first-born and a handful of magic beans for -- is that REALbasic understands the entire VBA namespace. This means that essentially every term you can see in Word's object inspector (more on that in a moment) can be used in REALbasic. Classes from Word can be used in REALbasic just by sticking the letters Word in front of them (and similarly for Excel and PowerPoint), and method and function calls on those classes can (with one type of exception) be used unmodified. So, for example, you can fetch the text of the front most Word document with the following code:

GetTheFrontDocument()
A function that returns the text of the front most Word document
Sub GetTheFrontDocument() As String
dim w As New WordApplication
dim doc As WordDocument = w.ActiveDocument()
Return doc.Content().Text
End Sub

So the Word Document class becomes the WordDocument class in REALbasic. Also, the global methods and properties in VBA become method calls and properties on WordApplication, ExcelApplication, or PowerPointApplication in REALbasic.

There. The secret's out. Not much to it, really. Now I'll just fill in a few details, and explore some code examples.

Named Arguments

The only major difference between VBA and REALbasic is that VBA supports a nice feature called named arguments. This means that rather than having to remember, and write an ordered list of bare values for the arguments to a method call, you can provide them as assignment statements, like the last line of this code snippet (taken from the REALbasic built-in help for the Office class):

Example of Replace in VBA

Example Visual Basic for Applications code to perform a find and replace

Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
With Selection.Find
.Text = "find this"
.Replacement.Text = "replace with"
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = false
.MatchCase = false
.MatchWholeWord = false
.MatchWildcards = false
.MatchSoundsLike = false
.MatchAllWordForms = false
End With
Selection.Find.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll

This is great, but the translation into REALbasic, given in the built-in documentation, doesn't work. Here's how to actually do it:

The previous example, in REALbasic

Using the secret decoder ring, we translate the last example into REALbasic

Dim word as New WordApplication
Dim find As WordFind = word.ActiveDocument.Content.Find

find.ClearFormatting
find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
find.text = "find this"
find.Replacement.Text = "replace with"
find.Wrap = Office.wdFindContinue
find.Format = False
find.MatchCase = false
find.MatchWholeWord = false
find.MatchWildcards = false
find.MatchSoundsLike = false
find.MatchAllWordForms = false

// Now the fun stuff

Dim replaceParam as New OLEParameter
replaceParam.Value = Office.wdReplaceAll

// according to the docs on Find.Execute the Replace parameter is the 11th
replaceParam.Position = 11

find.Execute replaceParam

If you had more than one named parameter, you would use multiple OLEParameter objects, one for each named parameter, and you just pass them all, in any order, to the method call.

A Larger Example

I'm now going to go through a small, entirely artificial piece of code, intended to cram together a variety of techniques. This article is not remotely large enough to attempt even a quick survey of Office's impressive programming features, but I hope I've presented you with just enough to get you up, and going on your own.

The code will search through all the comments in the front most Word document. It will find all the comments that start with the word test followed by two numbers (all separated by spaces). Any such comment will be replaced by a table with the number of rows and columns given by the two numbers, and then the words "Hello, World" will be placed into the cell in the upper, left corner of the table. I'll go through not only the code, but more importantly how I worked out how to write it. I'll be working with Word X, not Word 2004. I don't consider the new version a worthwhile upgrade, so what you see will probably be slightly different in the newer version (although the code should still work the same).

Note that while the example, and my comments refer to Word, the same ideas apply to Excel and PowerPoint (except that, oddly enough, PowerPoint doesn't support macro recording).

Word's Macro Environment

Most of what you need to know, you can learn from within Word itself. In the Tools menu, you'll find a Macro submenu, which provides access to Word's programming features. In this menu, the REALbasic Editor command just launches REALbasic. The Record New Macro... command opens a dialog for you to name a new Macro, which is what Office calls a program written in VBA.


Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1: The Record Macro dialog

After you click OK in this dialog, you can execute a series of actions, and Word will translate those actions into a VBA program to do the same thing again. Note that you can't click to move the insertion point while you're recording a macro. There isn't any way for Word to turn that action, that only makes sense in that document (scrolling to that point, in a window of that size) into a set of actions repeatable anywhere.

While you're recording the macro, Word shows a tiny little window with stop and pause buttons:


Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 2: The Macro recording palette

Now, just carry out the sorts of actions you want REALbasic to control, then hit the stop button in the little window. Next, go back to the Macro submenu and choose Macros.... You will then see a window showing the name of the macro you just recorded, along with any other macros you have previously written or recorded:


Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 3: The Macros window

Click on the name of the macro you just recorded, then click Edit. Here is what I got when I recorded a macro in which I created a table along the lines of our little project:


Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 4: The Word Macro editor

There are also other windows showing at this point, but describing this whole programming environment is outside the scope of this document, so I will stick to only what you need most for your REALbasic work.

The Object Browser

Recording a macro will generally give you a good idea of the kind of commands you need to execute to do something. You can also examine every available command, and class in Word by opening the Object Browser. You can do this by clicking a button on the toolbar you see in the macro editing environment:


Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 5: The Object Browser button

Alternately, you can choose Object Browser from the View menu. Any of these will show Word's Object Browser:


Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 6: The Word Object Browser

Note the search box in the middle, at the top (results appear in the blank area). The business part for our purposes is below the blank area. The list of Classes is comprehensive. <globals>, shown in the screen shot, are the methods, and properties available in the WordApplication class in REALbasic.

When you click on a class, the properties, methods, and constants are shown to the right of the class name. If you click on something shown there, its details are shown below, and it is all hyperlinked. This is actually how I developed the code for the example. Well, that, and examining the one working Word example that REAL Software has published.

There are some books on VBA (I understand the O'Reilly book -- ISBN 1-56592-358-8 -- is quite good), and a lot of material online. A bit of drill-down in the Object Browser, and some experimentation, gave me code to do my little example fairly easily.

The Example

To finish up, the example.

ReplaceCommentsWithTables

An example that finds comments in the front most Word document, replacing those that begin with the word table with a table whose dimensions depend on the rest of the comment

Sub ReplaceCommentsWithTables()
  Dim word as New WordApplication
  Dim c As WordComments
  c = word.ActiveDocument.Comments
  
  Dim counter As Integer
  Dim comment As WordComment
  Dim content() As String
  Dim width, height as Integer
  Dim location As WordRange
  if c.Count > 0 then
    counter = 1
    do
      comment = c.Item(counter)
      content = Split(comment.Range.Text(), " ")
      if content(0) = "table" then
        height = content(1).val
        width = content(2).val
        location = comment.Reference
        location.Tables.Add(comment.Reference, width, height)
        location.Tables.Item(1).Cell(1, 1).Range.Text = "hello, world"
      else
        counter = counter + 1
      end if
    loop until counter >= c.Count
  end if
End Sub

The only things that bear explaining here are that a Range in VBA is any point in the document, or any continuous section of text in the document. A Comment object has several Range properties. The one called Range is the actual content of the comment. The one called Reference is the location of the comment in the main text. Also, adding something (in this case, a table) to a range replaces the range's contents (in this case, the comment) with that table. Finally, collections of things in VBA will usually have an Item() function to fetch the collection's contents.

Apart from that, I hope you find that the mostly clear names for things in VBA, the ready availability of example code online, and the ability to record a macro if you want to know how to do something, will make this very useful feature of REALbasic surprisingly easy to use.

Brief aside: Just before I finished this, REAL Software announced a product called Office Power Pack, based on this feature in REALbasic. And Microsoft themselves have written some of the software that ships with Office (the installer and the query tool) in REALbasic. This is a practical feature indeed, and the market for Office add-ons or applications that can work with Office has to be substantial.

Finally, I will note that REALbasic's Office features are almost perfectly cross-platform, without modification other than to path strings and the like.


Guyren G Howe works in artificial intelligence research, after years of work as a technical write,r and developer. He is married with one child, is an Australian, and lives in Austin, Texas. Guyren has been working with REALbasic for several years. Most notably, he wrote the REALbasic Curriculum Project, an extensive computer science curriculum, for REAL Software (available from the REALbasic website). You can contact Mr. Howe at realbasic@mactech.com

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Ember 1.8.3 - Versatile digital scrapboo...
Ember (formerly LittleSnapper) is your digital scrapbook of things that inspire you: websites, photos, apps or other things. Just drag in images that you want to keep, organize them into relevant... Read more
Apple iTunes 12.1 - Manage your music, m...
Apple iTunes lets you organize and play digital music and video on your computer. It can automatically download new music, app, and book purchases across all your devices and computers. And it's a... Read more
LibreOffice 4.4.3 - Free, open-source of...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
FoldersSynchronizer 4.2.1 - Synchronize...
FoldersSynchronizer is a popular and useful utility that synchronizes and backs-up files, folders, disks and boot disks. On each session you can apply special options like Timers, Multiple Folders,... Read more
Simon 4.0.2 - Monitor changes and crashe...
Simon monitors websites and alerts you of crashes and changes. Select pages to monitor, choose your alert options, and customize your settings. Simon does the rest. Keep a watchful eye on your... Read more
Cocktail 8.1.2 - General maintenance and...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
Cyberduck 4.6.4 - FTP and SFTP browser....
Cyberduck is a robust FTP/FTP-TLS/SFTP browser for the Mac whose lack of visual clutter and cleverly intuitive features make it easy to use. Support for external editors and system technologies such... Read more
Herald 5.0.2 - Notification plugin for M...
Note: Versions 2.1.3 (for OS X 10.7), 3.0.6 (for OS X 10.8), and 4.0.8 (for OS X 10.9) are no longer supported by the developer. Herald is a notification plugin for Mail.app, Apple's Mac OS X email... Read more
DEVONthink Pro 2.8.3 - Knowledge base, i...
Save 10% with our exclusive coupon code: MACUPDATE10 DEVONthink Pro is your essential assistant for today's world, where almost everything is digital. From shopping receipts to important research... Read more
Boom 2 1.0.1 - System-wide pro audio app...
Boom 2 is a system-wide volume booster and equalizer app that is designed especially for OS X 10.10 Yosemite. It comes with a smart interface, self-calibrates itself according to your Mac, offers... Read more

Playworld Superheroes Review
Playworld Superheroes Review By Tre Lawrence on January 30th, 2015 Our Rating: :: HERO CRAFTINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad It’s all about the imagination, fighting bad creatures — and looking good while doing so.   | Read more »
Join the SpongeBob Bubble Party in this...
Join the SpongeBob Bubble Party in this New Match 3 Bubble Poppin’ Frenzy Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 30th, 2015 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Handpick Review
Handpick Review By Jennifer Allen on January 30th, 2015 Our Rating: :: TANTALIZING SUGGESTIONSiPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad Handpick will make you hungry, as well as inspire you to cook something... | Read more »
Storm the Halls of Echo Base in First St...
Storm the Halls of Echo Base in First Star Wars: Galactic Defense Event Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 30th, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Contradiction Review
Contradiction Review By Tre Lawrence on January 30th, 2015 Our Rating: :: SPOT THE LIEiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Contradiction is a live action point and click adventure that’s pretty engaging.   Developer: Tim Follin... | Read more »
Unlock Sunshine Girl in Ironkill with th...
Unlock Sunshine Girl in Ironkill with this special 148Apps code Posted by Rob Rich on January 29th, 2015 [ permalink ] Robo-fighter Ironkill has been out on iOS a | Read more »
Crossroad Zombies Review
Crossroad Zombies Review By Jordan Minor on January 29th, 2015 Our Rating: :: CROSSWALKING DEADiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Crossroad Zombies is a rough draft of a cool genre mash-up.   | Read more »
Blood Brothers 2 – Tips, Cheats, and Str...
War is hell: Is it the kind of hell you want to check out? Read our Blood Brothers 2 review to find out! Blood Brothers 2, DeNA’s follow-up to the original Blood Brothers, is an intriguing card collecting / role-playing / strategy hybrid. There’s... | Read more »
Blood Brothers 2 Review
Blood Brothers 2 Review By Nadia Oxford on January 29th, 2015 Our Rating: :: AN AGGRAVATING RELATIVEUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Blood Brothers 2 is built on a simple, solid foundation, but its free-to-play system... | Read more »
I AM BREAD, the Toast of the Town, is Ro...
Have you ever dreamt of being deliciously gluten-y? Do you feel passionate about Rye and Wheat? The guys at Bossa Studios do and that is why they are bringing I AM BREAD to iOS soon. The loafy app will feature all the new content that is being... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Intel Aims to Transform Workplace With 5th-Ge...
Intel Corporation today announced the availability of its 5th generation Intel Core vPro processor family that provides cutting-edge features to enable a new and rapidly shifting workplace. To meet... Read more
iOS App Sharalike Introduces New Instant Smar...
Sharalike slideshow and photo management software for iOS, is making it easier than ever to create shareable meaningful moments with its new instant SmartShow technology. Staying organized is a goal... Read more
Apple Becomes World’s Largest Smartphone Vend...
According to the latest research data from Strategy Analytics, as global smartphone shipments grew 31 percent annually to reach a record 380 million units in the fourth quarter of 2014. Apple became... Read more
Cut the Cord: OtterBox Resurgence Power Case...
Dead batteries and broken phones are two of the biggest issues for smartphone users today. Otterbox addresses both with the new Resurgence Power Case for Apple iPhone 6, promising to make those panic... Read more
13-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1199.99 save $100 - 13″ 2.6GHz/... Read more
15-inch 2.5GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
 B&H Photo has the 15″ 2.5GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $2319.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $180 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this... Read more
Back in stock: Refurbished iPod nanos for $99...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 16GB iPod nanos available for $99 including free shipping and Apple’s standard one-year warranty. That’s $50 off the cost of new nanos. Most colors are... Read more
Apple lowers price on refurbished 256GB MacBo...
The Apple Store has lowered prices on Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs with 256GB SSDs, now available for up to $200 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included... Read more
New Good Management Suite Simplifies Enterpri...
Good Technology has announced the availability of the Good Management Suite, a comprehensive cross-platform solution for organizations getting started with mobile business initiatives. Built on the... Read more
15-inch 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pro (refurbishe...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1489 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant- Retail Sales (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Event Director, *Apple* Retail Marketing -...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global engagement strategy and team. Delivering an overarching brand Read more
At-Home Chat Specialist- *Apple* Online Stor...
**Job Summary** At Apple , we believe in hard work, a fun environment, and the kind of creativity and innovation that only comes about when talented people from diverse Read more
SW QA Engineer - *Apple* TV - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** The Apple TV team is looking for experienced Quality Assurance Engineers with a passion for delivering first in class home entertainment solutions. **Key Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions(US) - Ap...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you re also the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.