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Excel Add-in Development

There is a good choice of technology if you want to develop add-ins for Excel. Add-ins come under the application feature heading in the table below

Excel Solution Type Summary

Solution Pattern
Technology Choice   Workbook With Code Behind

Application Level Feature (Add-in)

Custom Worksheet Function Automation Project
VSTO (VS2003)   ü      
COM Add-in     ü    
Automation Add-in       ü  
Win32 XLL     ü ü  
VBA   ü ü ü  
Standalone exe         ü

An add-in, in general adds specific additional functionality to the Excel environment. (They can take functionality away too, often though, this is a sign that Excel might not be the best starting point for the project.) The changes the add-in makes may be applicable all the time (eg controlling the Reviewing toolbar), or just when certain types of workbook are open. If the changes are only required when a specific workbook is open a workbook with code behind may be a better choice.

Quick advice:

  • For speed of development and ease of deployment use a VBA xla (excel add-in).
  • For execution speed and ease of deployment choose xll.
  • If your target users already have the right version of the .net framework installed then consider .net.
  • For robustness use a standalone exe (VB6, .net or C++/MFC).
  • For a fairly fast to develop, fairly easy to deploy, fairly fast running solution use a COM add-in, probably in VB6.


Creating COM Add-ins in VB6

The following resources should help you understand the pros and cons of VB6 and also get you going with a simple working COM add-in.

Simons slides on COM add-ins with VB6 are here.

A basic Excel COM add-in Starter project is here.

If you want your VB6 'New Project' dialog to look like this:

Save the files to somewhere like (ie - depends where your VB is):

D:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio\VB98\Template\Projects

It should then appear next time you open VB, clicking it will give you a good headstart in building Excel COM add-ins.

If you require any more information please get in touch.



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This page was last reviewed on December 21, 2011

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