Microsoft is planning fundamental changes to its Office 12 desktop productivity suite that could prevent easy integration with many applications built in VBA (Visual Basic for Applications).
Microsoft said changes in the software, due out next year, were driven by the need to improve security.
Mark Quick, head of technology in Microsoft's Developer and Platform Group, said there were more than 700 third-party applications that use VBA. In addition, many businesses have developed their own bespoke VBA applications.
Microsoft has promised that Office 12 will be compatible with previous versions of Office, but documents saved in the new XML file format will not be able to run macros or Office applications developed using VBA.
The company will continue to support VBA in the 32-bit Windows environment on 64-bit systems, but it will not offer 64-bit VBA. Instead, users will need to redevelop applications using Microsoft's .net Framework.
David Roberts, chairman of IT directors group The Corporate IT Forum, said, "Lots of applications depend on VBA. It is crucial that any incompatibility issues with VBA are clarified."
Clive Longbottom, an analyst at Quocirca, urged users to set aside time to understand how Office 12 can be deployed in business. It is more than simply an upgrade of the Office suite. “There will be considerable costs,” he warned.
The shift away from VBA is part of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing security initiative. Speaking at the TechEd Europe conference last week, Microsoft senior product manager BJ Holtgreive, said, “Security in VBA has been problematic. Very few people write secure VBA code.”
Quick said, “We will continue to support VBA well into the future as it is an integral component of Microsoft Windows and of the Microsoft Office System, including continued support in the next version of Office.”
But this support is only available if the user disables the XML file format and does not run native 64-bit Office applications.