Like Excel macros? You’ll love this..

One of the most used (and abused) features of Excel is its macro recording facility. How many mundane and repetitive actions have been automated using this feature? How many people found the courage to program in VBA by using the recorder as their training-wheels? Well now iMacros (from German company iOpus GmpH) a Firefox extension and an IE add-on brings macro recording to the web browser. Although Greasemonkey already enables JavaScript programmers to automate Firefox, iMacros offers the same power to non-programmers.

The macros can be saved as bookmarks and can also be shared with others (although I couldn’t get the sharing feature to work). I’ve already automated a number of tedious tasks and had hoped to use it with Google Spreadsheets, alas either the nature of Goggle’s JavaScript or inbuilt protection within Goggle Apps stopped the recorder for working. Pity, as there’s three things missing from Google Spreadsheets as it stands, pivot table support, offline ability and macro support. Google Gears will undoubtedly solve the offline problem, charts are essentially a graphical pivot so I guess a table pivot must be a possibility, iMacros or something like it could perform the duties that VBA provides to Excel. As with Office macros, security issues may well dampen the parade – iMacros allows access to the PC’s file system and a macro can be invoked from a bookmarklet camouflaged as a standard link – but I’ll not worry until (or if) the product goes mainstream.

From an ETL point of view iMacros can act as a powerful web scraping tool and as a automated form-filler. There’s also a commercial version of the product ($499.00) that exposes the tool via an ActiveX API which means Excel/VBA can be used as a web scraping/ form filling environment. If the price tag is too steep then the excellent scRUBTt is both free /open source and is ideal if you’re scraping a lot of data on a frequent basis while for small or once off tasks this equally free and open source Firefox extension is good enough.

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9 responses to “Like Excel macros? You’ll love this..

  1. Fantastic! Thanks for this great article!!! The iMacros tool saves me tons of time.

    I contacted iOpus with a few questions and all were answered promptly. So iOpus provides very responsive support, too.

    Tom

  2. Yes, their technical support appears to be excellent. I left a question on the support forum re: my problems with automating Google Spreadsheets, here’s the reply….

    “At the moment, Google Spreadsheets can only be automated with our DirectScreen Technology, please see http://wiki.imacros.net/DirectScreen_Technology for details. Please note that Firefox does not support DirectScreen yet.

    DirectScreen works always and with every website. But it should be possible to automate Google Spreadsheet via the normal TAG command, too. Currently the main issue is selecting the correct cells. We are working on a solution for this.

    Partial support for Google Docs is already available. For example iMacros for Firefox can enter text and select menu items in Google Docs”

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  6. Hi
    my nam is jamil.
    I have many columns data in excel and for doing my project I have to arrange them just in one column below each other respectively. For example I have to arrange A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, ……… columns just in A column below each other respectively. I know that I have to use Visual Basic parts in the Macro menu in excel but I couldn’t write the good formula in the visual basic for arrange all the columns in the one columns. Is it possible for you help me about my problem.
    I highly appreciate your kind cooperation.
    Best regards

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