VBA & JavaScript – glue languages

What have Javascript and VBA in common? Not much on the surface and their respective user bases rarely if ever overlap. What they do share are their roles as the imperative (the-if-then-else-loop-etc) programming languages of the “I’m not a programmer” programmers, the great unwashed, the “normal” people out there who are just trying to get something done. VBA adds that “something special” to millions of Excel spreadsheets and MS Access databases. JavaScript does likewise for millions of web pages. Most of the code is copied from existing examples or generated by macro recorders. Often the code is not pretty, not well structured, not adequately tested but it is usually “good enough”.

Both languages can also transcend their “ugly duckling” status. If you want to take VBA development to a new level have a look at Professional Excel Development by Bullen et al. GMail, Google Docs & Spreadsheets and the other AJAX powered applications of Web2.0 show the power of JavaScript. Both languages are now starting to move beyond their original home bases, particularly in the case of JavaScript.

VBA has been used in the past as the scripting language for corporate applications such as Siebel; now in an inspired move, Proto opted to use VBA as the scripting environment in their corporate focused mashup tool.

JavaScript is however showing the real expansionist streak. Along side its traditional client-side role in web page DOM manipulation, Mozilla Firefox extensions, widgets and within Flash applications under its ActionScript implementation, it can now be found providing the imperative flourish to many client and server side declarative tools (e.g. Kettle ETL, OpenLaszlo and Grazr). You can even use JavaScript to provide the complete server-side logic for a web application/service by using Zimki.(deadpool)

My decision to spend time to improve my JavaScript skills was as a result of my experience with Zimki. I initially created a web service to sign requests for uploading files to my Amazon S3 account; allowing me to give clients a small executable (developed in VBA’s big brother VB6) with which to securely upload data to S3 without the need to expose my Amazon account credentials. This turned out to be so simple and elegant with Zimki’s Rhino based JavaScript environment that I decided this language deserved some quality time. I had I guess, like many others, confused the mess that is the browser-wars scared DOM with JavaScript (or more correctly, EMACScript) the language. Having looked further, I’ve discovered an elegant,simple yet powerful language that I’m tempted to think may become the universal glue-language.

UPDATE:

As Tom from Fotango (the Canon Europe company behind Zimki also in deadpool) points out, Zimki uses Mozilla’s C implementation of JavaScript, SpiderMonkey rather than Rhino.

UPDATE: Sep 2007

Cannon Europe are to close the Zimki service on Dec 24th, 2007

UPDATE: June 2010

See how I combined VBA and JavaScript, to make JavaScript an Excel scripting language http://blog.gobansaor.com/2010/06/04/javascript-as-an-excel-scripting-language-via-jsdb/

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3 responses to “VBA & JavaScript – glue languages

  1. It’s Spidermonkey-based, actually. 🙂

  2. Pingback: JavaScript 101 « Gobán Saor

  3. Pingback: JavaScript as an Excel scripting language via HAMMER | Gobán Saor