Aquarium Blog

Thursday, June 30, 2005

How to recover source code from your old VBA projects

Yes, I have been on blog vacations, or hiatus for the Nth time. I have much going on in my life, but I just don't feel like writing lately. Not every day.

Anyway, I have just found by myself a solution for a long standing problem, and I wanted to share in on the web, just in case somebody else needs it. The fact is that I have googled a lot for a solution for this, and I have found the same question formulated several times, but never an useful answer.

Now, straight to the story...

Some years ago, using Office 2000 Developer (or was it Office XP Developer?) I created a little Outlook addIn that helped me remove duplicate mail items with ease.

If you are wondering why did I need that, there are several possible reasons. Think about POP3 server request that timeout too fast and download the same emails on each retry. It happens to me all the time with large attachments in my GMail account. Another reason would be odd rules in Outlook that creat create duplicate emails.

On the days of Office 2000 and XP Microsoft used to provide the option to create addIns straight from within VBA. Those projects were saved as .VBA files and you could also compile them to DLLs. That functionality used to come with the Developer Edition of Office.

Later, when Office 2003 came out, this functionality was cut. I mean, Office 2003 Developer Edition does not exist at all. What exist is Access 2003 Developer Extensions, which covers most, but not all the Access related functionality found in previous Developer Editions, and Visual Studio Tools for Office, which is a brand new creature.

Among the most important features that Microsoft left orphaned on Office 2003 I can mention:
  • Access - Source Safe Integration (which was fortunatelly addressed more recently via a free download)
  • The ability to create compilable, self contained VBA Projects and Office addIns.
I am not really interested in continuing the development of my "remove duplicates" addIn as a VBA project, as this is clearly obsolete technology. But I recently found a few bugs on it, and I wanted to get access to the original source code in order to migrate it to VSTO. But, I haven't been able to see the source code since support for VBA projects was discontinued.

Mine is a really simple addIn, but I am too lazy to write it again. So, being laziness the mother of invention (or, er... hacking), this is what I found today:

Off all Microsoft Office 2003 applications, there is at least one that allows you to create macros in VBA but don't have an application specific file format: FrontPage. Instead of defining a proprietary file format, FrontPage allows you to edit standard HTML and related files, so I guessed FrontPage had to save VBA macros somewhere else. Yes, you guessed it! It saves its macros in a file called "Microsoft FrontPage.fpm" in %USERPROFILE%\Application Data\Microsoft\FrontPage\Macros.

Update: A few minutes after posting this, I found that I could have used Outlook's own VbaProject.OTM, with the advantage that the code could possibly run.

A simple binary comparison revealed that both the .FPM file and my old .VBA shared the same header format. Hmmm.... So the .FPM file uses the same conspicuous self contained format that .VBA projects used!

The obvious solution was to temporarily rename the .FPM and to copy my VBA project to the same folder with name "Microsoft FrontPage.fpm". Next you open FrontPage, you go to the Tools menu, Macro, Visual Basic Editor, voilaá, your VBA code is back.

I copied it to a text file, closed FrontPage and restored the files to their original names and locations. Enough for today. Lazinesss rules!

Disclaimer: if you want to reproduce the steps described above, and you make a mistake, you are on your own.

PS: Isn't it amazing how many problems you can solve by temporarily renaming files? I have found quite a few otherwise unsolvable problems with SQL Server and Outlook that I could solve this way. Well, they are otherwise unsolvable because I don't have access to source code!

PS2: I plan to publish the lame code for this addIn in a future post. Maybe when I am able to port it to VSTO I will publish both sources and a detailed comparison.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Microsoft giving some goods for free, based on customer feedback

A few days ago, I learned trough Tim Heuer's blog that Microsoft has decided to include a Team System Server for 5 users with each copy of Visual Studio Team System. That is great. A testimony to how much a company can improve customer relationships just by listening (mostly listening to what is said in the blogsphere).

Also, today I learned that Reporting Services is going to be included in every version of SQL Server 2005, even in the Express edition (without the report builder). Oh dude! That is great news, and the good thing to do. A reporting runtime that will be everywhere and will be used by everybody was born.

My entry on the "Blog your way to the PDC" contest

So, now I have to explain why I would like to go to the PDC?

First, the same reasons the others want to go: It is the best place to learn about the present and future of software development for the Microsoft platforms (although, a Geek Cruise would be good enough ;)).

Second, the place is going to be filled with bloggers I read every day. Some of them are like rock stars to me. I want to meet them in person for once. By the way, is the Don Box Band playing this year?

I have never been in such a major event, but in local dev days in Argentina and in conferences in the Dominican Republic.

If I win, however, I would like to buy a Tablet PC and blog the PDC in real-time, but in Spanish (yes, my Spanish is WAY BETTER than my English). That would be, I think, a nice way to share the gift with the community.

I can think of other ways. What about writing some code with the new tools and publishing some articles in both Spanish and English? Well, were you going to ask me for proof that I can actually do that, you would put me in trouble because I am not doing it at present. But I know I could do fine.

blogging my way to pdc

Ok, I know I am not going to win this contest... But, what the hell? Choose me!!!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Microsoft to be third Transitive customer?

I woke up to late to the Internet today, and everybody is talking about Apple's inminent switch to Intel hardware. I read a few articles about it, and the rumor is that the main reason is the DRM hardware support included in upcomming Pentium D processors. Fascinating. I wonder how is this related to Paladium. They also mention future video iPods, which Apple has hinted int the past were a terrible idea. So, were Apple playing pocker then or is industry journalism too dizzy today? Only time will tell.

Reports also mention Apple will be liscencing Transitive hardware virtualization technology to ease the transtition of Mac OSX applications to the new processor. This company is said to claim that it can run anything on any platform without performance penalties (uh?). Fascinating also.

Even if I my last crystal ball prediction (that Google would buy Skype within a month, more than a month ago) was incorrect or perhaps too much ahead of time, I will risk again. Transitive says in its site that they have "engaged with six of the world’s largest computer companies", but they can only tell about one, SGI. The also add:

Transitive expects to announce that a second computer OEM will deploy products enabled by its technology during the 1st half of 2005 and that others will deploy QuickTransit before the end of the year. Unfortunately, strict confidentiality obligations prevent us from discussing these relationships in any detail.

So, if the the second would be Apple (to be probably officialy announced today), my guess is that the third and four would be Microsoft and Sony, that would use Transit for XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3 respectively. Let's wait an see what happens.