I've worked at Microsoft long enough that some of the products I helped deliver are now a bit long in the tooth.  As one of the people who helped deliver OLE Automation and Visual Basic for Applications (aka VBA), I was very happy to see today's announcement today of Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Applications.  Over the years, VBA has delivered a ton of value for VBA hosts and their developers.  It's great to see Microsofta building a strong successor technology in Visual Studio Tools for Applications.

Visual Studio for Applications follows a similar model to VBA, in which:

  • A host application integrates the Visual Studio for Applications development environment, and exposes an application object model or framework.  For VBA, the application model was exposed via OLE Automation.  For Visual Studio for Applications, the application model is exposed via the .NET Framework.
  • Developers, which might include third party ISV's, corporate developers, power users, etc., write code that adds value for them or their customers.  Developers using Visual Studio for Applications can use either VB or C# for this purpose.

It is important to note that VBA is not going away.  For many ISV's, moving forward the large installed base of VBA code is very important.  Dropping VBA would be a huge compatibility break for them.  For this reason, many VBA licensees will choose to continue to support VBA while adding support for more modern application customization via Visual Studio Tools for Applications.

As the manager of the C# team, I'm excited to see these advances.  I expect that Visual Studio Tools for Applications will provide an interesting new set of opportunities for C# and VB developers, whether in a hosting or customization role.

--Scott