OfficePalooza is like a big online carnival. Well, okay, there isn't any food and there aren't any rides, but it’s like a carnival nonetheless in that it has fun, games, and prizes. The games at this festival come in the form of challenges, challenges that will put your Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) skills to the test. And, as anyone who’s ever been to a carnival knows, when you win at a carnival game your prize is often a goldfish swimming around in a little plastic bag full of water. That's what we always say: how ... nice ....
To be honest, we're not really going to send anyone a real goldfish. However, you will be awarded virtual goldfish for each challenge you complete successfully. (There will be other, real prizes that you'll have a chance to win, too. For more information, read the official sweepstakes rules.) You can earn goldfish in two skill levels: Novice and Experienced. The Novice division is aimed at those of you who’ve either never tried VBA or who’ve merely dabbled in it and are looking for a chance to practice your skills. The Experienced division is for those of you who think you’re experienced pros at this whole VBA thing and want to see how you measure up to a real challenge.
We’ll post all the challenges on April 20, 2009, when OfficePalooza officially begins. In the meantime, take a look at a short description of what challenges are planned. (Why do we say “planned?” Because we reserve the right to change our minds on any particular challenge between now and April 20.)
Challenge 1: Color My Column
Office Programs Required
Microsoft Excel 2007
Deadline for Submission
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 (8:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time)
What would a carnival be without bright lights and colorful displays? We don’t know either, but it wouldn’t be very exciting, would it? The same goes for your Excel applications: what would they be without bright lights and colorful displays? In this challenge, you’ll need to change the colors of cells in a spreadsheet based on the contents of other cells.
Challenge 2: What Did I See?
Microsoft Word 2007
I was walking down the street the other day and saw a…. What did I see? That’s up to you to decide, with the help of some input and a little searching and replacing.
Challenge 3: What Do I Owe You?
Friday, April 24, 2009 (8:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time)
Not everyone gets paid the same wages for the same amount of work; that’s just a fact of life. You’ll prove it in this challenge when you calculate the amount of money authors make on their works. Be prepared to dust off some of your basic math skills.
Challenge 4: I Need a New Style
“What’s the matter with the car I’m driving/Can’t you tell that it’s out of style?” As we contemplate our sense of style with help from these immortal words by Billy Joel, we’ll also contemplate the style of our Word documents. In fact, not only will we contemplate the style, we’ll change it.
Challenge 5: You Name It
Monday, April 27, 2009 (8:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time)
Maybe naming your children Thing1 and Thing2 wasn’t such a good idea. But what’s done is done, right? It's just like naming your worksheets Sheet 1 and Sheet 2 – not much you can do about that. Or is there ....
Challenge 6: How Animated Am I?
Microsoft PowerPoint 2007
The really cool thing about carnivals is all the activity going on. There’s so much to do and so much to see, it’s a pretty exciting place to be. (Oops, we’re sounding a bit like Dr. Seuss. We’ll try to stop that now.) PowerPoint slides can be almost as much fun – you can animate your slides, every one! (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.) But, unlike the excitement of a carnival, too many animations in a PowerPoint presentation can be distracting. How can you avoid that? Why, by knowing just exactly how many animations are in your presentation.
Challenge 7: Switcheroo
Wednesday, April 29, 2009 (8:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time)
You probably make decisions and then change your mind several times every day. (Well, except those special few of us who always make the perfect decision the first time every time.) Should I get a hot dog or a hamburger? Should I play the ring toss to see if I can win a goldfish, or the milk bottle game to see if I can win a little doll? (Or, as is typically the case with carnival games, should I just flush my money down the drain?) Should I have my data going by rows and then columns, or columns and then rows? All very difficult decisions. But if you successfully complete this challenge, at least the rows vs. columns decision will get a little easier. (Oh, and go for the hamburger over the hot dog.)
Challenge 8: It’s Not My Fault
If you don’t like this event, well, that’s okay, because we’ve added a disclaimer. Or, more accurately, you’ll be adding a disclaimer.
Challenge 9: I Need a Break
Friday, May 1, 2009 (8:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time)
You will need a break after this challenge. We’ll have message boxes, page breaks, more message boxes – can you imagine more fun than that? Okay, don’t answer that. Maybe we should have added a disclaimer to this event, too.
Challenge 10: Skip It
Predictability can be comforting, but a little randomness can make life interesting. That's especially true if you’re talking about a PowerPoint presentation. In this challenge we’ll be mixing up our slides just a bit and seeing what we come up with.
Challenge 1: That’s a Lot of Jellybeans … Isn’t It?
You know how carnivals and sideshows inevitably have a Guess Your Weight booth, a booth where someone tries to guess how much you weigh, and you win a prize if you can stump them? Well, we wanted to do the same thing for OfficePalooza, except for one thing: we couldn’t figure out how to do that. Therefore, we reverted to plan B: guess how many jellybeans are on the Microsoft PowerPoint slide. (Hint: You probably shouldn’t guess how many jellybeans there are; instead, you should probably write some VBA code that will tell you exactly how many jellybeans are on the PowerPoint slide.).
Challenge 2: The Secret Word is FGJAJGSHSBSW
So what does “FGJAJGSHSBSW” actually mean? Beats us. That’s why we were hoping you could write some VBA code that – using a simple letter-substitution cipher – could decode this message for us. What’s that? Is this the sort of thing that real spies and real secret agents do? As far as we know, yes, this is exactly what real spies and secret agents do.
Challenge 3: Are You Smarter Than a PowerPoint Developer?
Good point: no one is smarter than a PowerPoint developer, are they? In that case, then, this challenge should be a breeze: all you have to do is use VBA to write a simple little quiz program in Microsoft PowerPoint. Will completing this simple task be the most fun thing you’ve ever done in your entire life? We hope so!
Challenge 4: Hmmm, So Maybe This is Rocket Science After All
At last, a truly practical challenge: in this one, we’ll give you a formula and you’ll be asked to write some VBA code that can calculate – and plot – a missile trajectory. Got a garage-full of guided missiles that you don’t know what to do with? Then this should definitely be of interest to you. (Let’s see your manager give you a poor performance review this year, eh?)
Challenge 5: I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane
Microsoft Access 2007
According to the old joke, there’s only one way to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. Of course, it also helps if you can get to New York in the first place. So how do you get from, say, Denver to New York? We have no idea. But that’s only because we didn’t bother to enter Challenge 5, in which you’ll write some VBA code that can search a database of airline routes and determine all the different ways you can get from Denver to New York. (And how are you supposed to write this VBA code? There’s only one way: practice, practice, practice.)
Challenge 6: How Do You Spell That Again?
Microsoft Word already includes a very powerful, easy-to-use spell checker. So then why would you want to write some VBA code that can take any given word, determine whether or not the word is spelled correctly, and, if it is misspelled, offer some suggested spelling corrections? That’s easy: you’d want to do that because … because … Wait, we know: because it’s the only way to solve Challenge 6, and to earn 5 goldfish in the process.
Challenge 7: It’s Show time!
Or is it? Actually, we don’t know when the PowerPoint presentation is supposed to start. Boy, it sure would be nice if someone would write some VBA code that could count down the minutes and seconds until show time. Yes, that would be nice, wouldn’t it ….
Challenge 8: Twenty Questions
We’re thinking of an animal; do you know what animal we’re thinking of? No, sorry; in fact, we’re not sure a rutabaga even is an animal. Tell you what: instead of randomly shouting out animal names, why don’t you enter this Challenge and write some VBA code that, using a database of animal facts, can figure out which animal we’re thinking of? Sound like fun? We thought so, too. In fact, we – oh, you’re right: we were thinking of a ring-tailed lemur. Well, go ahead and enter Challenge 8 anyway; obviously this one will be easy for you.
Challenge 9: And They’re Off!
What could possibly be more exciting than a horse race? You got it: a horse race conducted in Microsoft PowerPoint! In Challenge 9, you’ll be asked to write some VBA code that spurs (get it? spurs) a quartet of clip art horses to race across the PowerPoint screen. No wonder they call it the sport of kings, eh?
Challenge 10: Don’t Get Ten of Those Little Red Cells
OK, so this is actually a simple game of Hangman. So then why didn’t we just call this “Hangman”? Well, to be honest, we weren’t sure if “Hangman” was copyrighted; because of that, we had to come up with some other name, and this was the only one we could think of. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about the name: you just have to worry about writing some VBA code that enables someone to play a simple game of Hang – um, a simple game of “Don’t Get Ten of Those Little Red Cells”. And yes, we’ll try to come up with a better name than that.