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Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Understanding Add-Ins.
Many features of Excel are available only through what are called add-ins. For instance, the Analysis ToolPak is a good example of an add-in. The tools available in add-ins such as the Analysis ToolPak are not part of the basic Excel system, but can be added to the system as needs dictate. These add-ins are nothing more than programs which have been "added to" Excel in such a way that they appear to be part of Excel itself.
You also know that macros are nothing more than programs that you write using a language understood by Excel. These programs instruct Excel to perform tasks that otherwise might be time consuming or repetitious on your part. These programs, if elaborate enough, can become full-fledged applications that operate under Excel.
Excel allows you to translate your macro programs into add-ins, which can become part of Excel—the same as the Analysis ToolPak and others. Eventually you might want to take advantage of this capability. The files you convert to add-ins do not need to be elaborate, nor do they have to be fancy. Converting them to add-ins does have several advantages, however:
In essence, add-ins are nothing but a special type of workbook which you have converted to an add-in format that is understood by Excel.
You may want to make sure your macro code which is destined to be an add-in performs some initializing routine that modifies, in some way, the Excel user interface. For instance, most add-ins modify the menu structure in some way so that the functions in the add-in can be accessed. Your macros should take care of the menu modification so that people can access your add-ins. If you don't modify the interface in some way, then users can only get to the macro code in your add-in by directly referencing in a worksheet formula the names of any functions in your add-in.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2276) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Understanding Add-Ins.
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