Becoming an Excel Programmer : Navigate Samples and Help

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Within each sample, I include a Start Here sheet that provides general instructions on using the samples, a Resources sheet that includes links to other sources of information, and in between I include sheets related to the specific topics covered in the article (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Chapter samples are stored in a workbook; topics are covered on individual sheets

In other words, I've tried to organize stuff as simply as possible.

Excel's Visual Basic Help is also organized fairly simply, however there are a couple gotchas:

  • Make sure that you have installed Visual Basic Help for Excel . Earlier versions of Excel did not install Help for Visual Basic by default. If you press F1 in Visual Basic and Help is not displayed, you probably need to run the Excel Setup program to update your installation so it includes Visual Basic Help.

  • If you are using Excel 2003 you may want to start Help by opening the Help file directly rather than through pressing F1. Excel 2003 provides navigation tools in a Help task pane rather than in the Help window (Figure 2 versus Figure 3), and it's harder to navigate that way!

Figure 2. Excel 2003 navigates Help from the task pane on the right

Figure 3. Earlier Excel versions, or opening the file directly, provides navigation as part of the Help window, on the left

To open the Excel 2003 Help file directly, either click on the link on the Resources sheet or double-click on the Help file in Windows Explorer. The Excel 2003 Help file is stored at C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\1033\VBAXL10.CHM by default. The Visual Basic language reference is stored at C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Vba\Vba6\1033\VBLr6.chm by default.

The graphic in Figure 3 shows how the Excel objects are organized. If you click on one of the boxes, you'll get more information about that object, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Help on the Worksheet object

Excel's Help often does a good job of explaining what a specific object is, but it often lacks good direction on why you might use the object. Those are the blanks I'll try to fill in for you.