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.

Understanding Add-Ins

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 21, 2014)

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:

  • The program code cannot be altered by others.
  • The program code runs a bit quicker.
  • The add-in is available without needing to open any particular workbook.
  • The functions provided by the add-in appear to be a part of Excel.

    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.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Deleting Duplicate Columns

Got a worksheet in which there may be entire columns that are duplicates of each other? If you want to delete those duplicate ...

Discover More

Hyperlinking to a Specific Excel Worksheet

Creating a hyperlink to an Excel workbook is easy. With the information in this tip you can discover how to hone that ...

Discover More

Moving Section Breaks

Section breaks are used to divide a document into two or more sections that can be independently formatting. If you want to ...

Discover More

Program Successfully in Excel! John Walkenbach's name is synonymous with excellence in deciphering complex technical topics. With this comprehensive guide, "Mr. Spreadsheet" shows how to maximize your Excel experience using professional spreadsheet application development tips from his own personal bookshelf. Check out Excel 2013 Power Programming with VBA today!

MORE EXCELTIPS (MENU)

Excluding a Specific Add-In at Startup

Got an add-in that you don't want loaded each time that Excel starts up? Here's a few ways that you can exclude it.

Discover More

Using Custom Add-Ins

Once you've created your custom add-in, you need to know how you or other people can use it. Here are the simple steps to ...

Discover More

Removing Add-ins

Add-ins are used to extend Excel's capabilities in lots of different ways. If you want to get rid of an add-in completely, ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments for this tip:

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.

Links and Sharing
Share