Emailing Access Report in Email Body

I’ve been doing a fair bit of work in Access lately, which is why I’m so irritable. I like Access for it’s rapid development characteristics, but I have specific user interface requirements that don’t happen in Access out of the box. By the time I implement those quirks, I feel like I should have just written the damn thing from scratch in C#.

The quirk du jure is sending an Access report via email not as an attachment, but rather in the body of the email. I thought this would be pretty darn easy. I would display the report and the user would use some built-in send function under the File menu to send it off. Oddly, to send an Access object via email, you have to look on the External Data tab, not the File menu. The Export Email function does not have the option of putting the report in the body of the email, only as an attachment. At least as far as I can see. Off to VBA, I guess.

Private Sub cmdEmailBlended_Click()
   
    Dim sFile As String, lFile As Long, sHtml As String
    Dim olApp As Outlook.Application
    Dim olMail As Outlook.MailItem
       
    UpdateBlendedQuery
   
    'Output the report to HTML in the temp directory
    sFile = Environ$("TEMP") & "\Blended" & Format(Date, "yyyymmdd") & ".html"
    DoCmd.OutputTo acOutputReport, "BlendedRackReport", acFormatHTML, sFile
   
    'Read in the HTML File
    lFile = FreeFile
   
    Open sFile For Input As lFile
        sHtml = Input$(LOF(lFile) - 1, lFile)
    Close lFile
   
    'Put the file contents in the email body
    Set olApp = New Outlook.Application
    Set olMail = olApp.CreateItem(olMailItem)
    olMail.To = "nobody@example.com"
    olMail.Subject = "Special Pricing"
    olMail.HTMLBody = sHtml
    olMail.Display
   
End Sub

Ah, the ubiquitous DoCmd object. I hate DoCmd (I told you I was irritable). If I was building the Access Object Model, that line would read ActiveReport.Export sFile, acFormatHTML.

In Excel, I like to write my own HTML converters, but not so in Access. Taking an Excel Range and turning into an HTML table is one thing. But taking a Recordset and creating an HTML report out of it is nuts. There’s calculated fields, headers and footers, and a whole bunch of other considerations. So I have no problem using the built-in HTML converter, even though my 18 record report produces 199 lines of HTML (actually less than I expected).

On the first go ’round, I encountered a Input past end of file error. You might notice on my Input$ statement that I take the length of the file minus 1. That’s not how I normally do it. In fact, I have an AutoHotKey for when I type Input$

:*:Input$(::
    sendinput Input$(lof(lfile),lfile)
    Return

I couldn’t figure out why I was getting this error. I’m using LOF to get the length of the file, what more could you possibly want. I subtracted one just to see what would happen and it worked. Then I opened the file in Notepad++ to see if I could see what was happening.

Look at that little guy at the end. What’s that about?

How much faster is the double-VLOOKUP trick?

Quick post. I was writing up the Double-VLOOKUP trick I learnt from Charles Williams for the book.

Standard VLOOKUP on unsorted data:
=VLOOKUP([@ID],Table2,2,FALSE)

Double VLOOKUP trick on sorted data:
=IF(VLOOKUP([@ID],Table2,1,TRUE)=[@ID],VLOOKUP([@ID],Table2,2,TRUE),NA())

The point of the double VLOOKUP trick is this:

  • Standard VLOOKUPS on unsorted data are slow, because your VLOOKUP has to look at each item in turn until it finds a match. So on average, it looks at – and discounts – half the things in your lookup list before it finds that match.
  • Binary searches are lightning fast. Because your data is sorted, they can start half way through the lookup list, and check if the item at that point is bigger or smaller than what they’re looking for. Meaning they can ditch half the list immediately, then look halfway through the remainder. And over and over, ditching half the list each time until they either find the item they are looking for, or rule out all items.
  • VLOOKUP and MATCH will quite happily do a binary search for you. But for reasons known only to Microsoft, they offer an exciting plot-twist: if they don’t find what you’re looking for in the list, they return the closest match they can find to it, which happens to be the only thing left in the list when they’d divided it in half enough times. Only they don’t tell you its not an exact match. Phooey.
  • Charles’ brilliant trick is to do two lightning-fast Binary searches – the first one simply looks for the closest match to your input term among the Lookup terms. If it’s an exact match with what you fed it, you know your lookup term is in the list. So now that you KNOW it’s there for sure, you kick off a second approximate match VLOOKUP, which will grab the corresponding value you want from the lookup table. Go read his blog for the specifics.

I’ve known about this for a while, but it’s only as I’m writing this up for the book that I’ve gained an appeciation of just how much faster Binary Searches – and the Double VLOOKUP trick that gets around Microsoft’s crap implementation of them – are, compared to unsorted/linear VLOOKUPs.

See for yourself:
 
Double VLOOKUPv2
 
 
That says that:

  • At one extreme, if your lookup table has 10,000 things in it, the double VLOOKUP trick on sorted data is 28 times faster than the standard VLOOKUP on unsorted data
  • At the other, if your lookup table has 1,000,000 things in it, the double VLOOKUP trick on sorted data is 3,600 times faster than the standard VLOOKUP on unsorted data

Kinda puts the ‘hassle’ of sorting your lookup table ascending into perspective, don’t it!

Excel 2013 VBA Unreasonably Slow

I’m not the kind of guy to upgrade too soon. I spend a lot of time in VBA, so new features in Excel don’t generally inspire me. Recently a client of mine upgraded to 2013 with, let’s say, disasterous consequences.

First, there’s the Single Document Interface (SDI). That’s where every document is in it’s own application container. But not really. It’s all depends on where you draw the line. If you have two linked documents open and you calculate, both documents go into the calculation tree. So it’s not exactly separate application containers. Its main purpose is to allow you to put one spreadsheet on one monitor and a different spreadsheet on another monitor. A worthy goal.

My problem with SDI is that I was still using Excel 2003 menus for five addins. They don’t work so well in SDI. It forced me to rewrite them using the RibbonUI – not a bad thing, but my client probably wasn’t including that cost in the cost of upgrade. But we have fancy new ribbon icons, so all is well, right?

Next I learn that Excel uses SHA1 to encrypt spreadsheets instead of the previous method, which I assume was some sort of XOR with a one-character password. With the new encryption scheme, protecting and unprotecting a worksheet in code takes a touch longer. And by touch a mean a shit-ton.

I don’t know what exactly to do about the protection problem. My code opens templates, unprotects them, writes stuff, combines them into a final report, and reprotects them. The first thing I did was get stingy about my protection. Whereas before I was pretty liberal, protecting and unprotecting whenever I needed to, now I’m unprotecting and reprotecting exactly one time. That made a little difference, but not enough. As an experiment, I removed all protection from the templates and removed all the unprotecting and reprotecting from my code. Here’s the before and after timing of that.

Process Cum Time ThisProcess Description
Start 0
End 18,700.37 18,700.37 Current 2013
Start
End 10,149.81 10,149.81 No protection 2013

That cuts it in half, although I can’t release this into the wild with no protection. My client reports that it takes ~90 seconds on his machine. Not surprisingly, my desktop has better specs than his company-issued machine. But I think it all scales. I can cut his time down to ~45 seconds by removing the protection. Even if we could stomach having unprotected templates, that’s not good enough.

I sprinkled some splits around the code to see if there was one area causing the problem. Then I ran the same code in Excel 2010. There must be something else in 2013 that’s taking a disproportionately long time compared to 2010.

Process Cum Time ThisProcess Description
Start
Open Templates 1,544.60 1,544.60
Fill and validate dump 1,630.98 86.38
Dump page setup 1,763.43 132.45
Store dump properties 2,062.55 299.12
Fill solutions 2,186.50 123.95
Fill waves 4,380.67 2,194.16
Sort Solutions 4,388.46 7.79
Fill Finals 9,937.29 5,548.83
End 9,937.60 0.31 No protection splits 2013
Start
Open Templates 513.72 513.72
Fill and validate dump 547.94 34.22
Dump page setup 571.68 23.74
Store dump properties 666.54 94.86
Fill solutions 735.07 68.54
Fill waves 2,146.86 1,411.78
Sort Solutions 2,154.69 7.83
Fill Finals 4,288.38 2,133.69
End 4,288.79 0.40 No protection split 2010

Nope. Everything just takes longer as far as I can tell. I’m going to increase my number of splits, but I’m not hopeful I’ll find the golden key.

Have you experienced performance problems with 2013? What caused them? How did you solve it?

AET Excel Utilities

Hi there. For the last few months I’ve been working on my main add-in, AET Excel Utilities.

Update
So far I’m in the process of setting up some partners, had a translation offer, and downloads are happening as I write this. Thanks very much to everybody for your help. Don’t be shy if you are interested!


I first started working on it in 2005, as a hobby, and a way to learn VBA. Over time it’s grown from having a handful of very simple tools, to what it is now – well over a hundred utilities (more like over two hundred), and some of them quite complex, even if I do say so myself. Useful? I like to think so. Not a day goes by that I don’t use it, and I can honestly say it saves me lots of time.

But there’s a problem. Even though I like these utilities, I’m not very good at selling myself, letting alone anything I’ve made. And in the world of Excel, most folk have either never heard of me or think I’ve retired if they have. That’s been fine until now, with me plugging away in a corner, tinkering away, but it’s always bothered me that my tools could be so much more.

So, I’d ask all of you for some help. I’m making the tools shareware. And I’m looking for people to help sell them. Do you have a site? If so, are you willing to become a partner or an affiliate? Like I say, I’m not great at sales so any assistance would be appreciated. Translations? Great! Let’s talk about a percentage. I guess the main thing is making people aware of them. Apart from making a bit of pocket money, serious interest will give me incentive to improve them and maybe even try to give my site a bit of an overhaul. (Please contact me using aengwirda [at] gmail.com if you are interested).

Here’s a few screenshots to whet your interest. (Well maybe more than a few…). Look to the left, the AET UTILITIES tab shares both my main utilities and free add-ins (which you can download here).

Worksheet Tools

Rows And Columns

Formula Tools

Deletion Tools

Object Tools

Export Tools

Text Tools

Number Tools

Time And Date

Chart Tools

Path And Folder

Workbook Tools

Developer Tools

Fun And Games

Other Utilities

Cell Menu

Row Menu

Column Menu

Sheet Menu

Here’s the download page link. On the same webpage, you can also download a copy of the Help files for more details on the individual tools, plus the password to see how the code works.

In addition to adding more tools over the next few weeks, I’ll be working on my free utilities too. More details on them, and also some new code samples, that I’m looking forward to posting about in the near future.

April Fools, Excel-style.

Thought I’d share my two favorite pranks with you.

Number one: Take a screenshot of an MVP from their own website, subtly change it somehow, then email it back to them saying “Did you really say this, or was your site hacked”.

Here’s an example. Spot the original.
Jon Originaljon

Number two: Take a screenshot of someone’s spreadsheet next time they walk away from their desk, then paste it neatly over the real thing – like this one that I’m in the process of doing:

 
screenshot

 
 

Hopefully you’ll catch them before they quit Excel forcibly using End Task. (But don’t worry if you don’t…they’ll be none the wiser.)

My only problem is that I’m forced to play this last prank on myself, which kinda ruins the surprise. But I’ve still got that first one to get me through.

Any new Excel-related April Fools pranks out there from anyone? I still have a chapter to write of my Evil Genius book on arrays or something unimportant like that, but I’m running out of steam. So I’ll just put your nastiest pranks in there instead. That outta help folk out with career progression, one way or the other…

I want a global feed of them there comments

I wish more Excel blogs had a global site-wide comments feed that you could subscribe to, like this one does. (Daily Dose of Excel: http://www.dailydoseofexcel.com/comments/feed/)

Comments are where the party is. Sure, you can subscribe to comments on blogs post by post, but sometimes the article doesn’t seem that relevant to you at the time, so you don’t bother. And then someone posts some gem that you wished you had known about. And you missed it, because it wasn’t in the original piece.

And on a site like this one that predates my interest in Excel by like over a decade, I find comments from the Comment Feed often alert me to helpful stuff I’ve missed. But retrospectively subscribing one post at a time in order to catch them ain’t a serious option. So a global comments feed is one of the handiest ways for people to consume great content – often NOT written by the original author – for years to come.

Here’s the site-wide comments feeds for the main sites I know about that have ‘em:
Chandoo: http://feeds2.feedburner.com/CommentsForPointyHairedDilbert-Chandoo
Contextures: http://feeds.feedburner.com/ContexturesBlogComments
ExcelXOR: http://excelxor.com/comments/feed/
Newton Excel Bach: http://newtonexcelbach.wordpress.com/comments/feed/
Bacon Bits: http://feeds.feedburner.com/CommentsForBaconBits
PowerPivotPro: http://www.powerpivotpro.com/comments/feed/
Excel & UDF Performance (Charles Williams): http://fastexcel.wordpress.com/comments/feed/
YourSumBuddy: http://yoursumbuddy.com/comments/feed/
MyOnlineTrainingHub (Mynda Treacy): http://www.myonlinetraininghub.com/comments/feed
Jon Peltier: http://feeds.feedburner.com/CommentsForPtsBlog
RAD Excel (Colin Legg): http://feeds.feedburner.com/CommentsForRadExcel
Andrew’s Excel Tips: http://andrewexcel.blogspot.com/feeds/comments/default

My favorite used to be the Bacon Bits comments feed: most of those comments were as risque as Mike’ articles. But then he had to go spoil things by adding a spam filter.

Ah well…the Captcha almost makes up for it:
 
Bacon Bits Captcha

Anyone else have any great global comments feeds on the main Excel sites out there worth sharing?

Today() ain’t so bad…

Finding non-VBA alternatives for the volatile TODAY and NOW functions is tricky, but here’s an example of some creative workarounds for the Evil Boss’ report generator.
 
Non volatile today 2
 
 
That last one that uses a dropdown I pulled from a at the ExcelHero LinkedIn group . It’s pretty clever: what you do is create a small Table somewhere, and populate it using the naughtily volatile =TODAY() function, as well as the words “Please choose…” .
 
Please Choose
 
(An alternate wording to “Please choose…” would be “Choose wisely…”).

Then you point a dropdown list at that Table. And then you assign the name TodaysDate to the cell that the dropdown lives in, and use that instead of TODAY() throughout the rest of your workbook.

The beauty of dropdowns is that while they may reference that volatile function, as soon as the Evil Boss makes a choice, the choice gets written to the cell as a string, and not as a reference to that volatile function. So it IS today’s date, but it is NOT volatile. Of course, you need a big obnoxious message pointing at it so that:

  1. The Evil Boss remembers to fill it out today; and
  2. The Evil Boss also remembers to update it tomorrow

But obnoxious is my middle name.

The Amsterdam Excel Summit Last-minute discount

Hi everyone,

Our event is coming real soon now and we’re very much looking forward to it. We have outstanding speakers and excellent content, so everything is lined up to make this a superb Excel event.

To entice the undecisive Excel lovers to make up their minds and subscribe after all, we decided to make it even more attractive to attend.

As of March 27st, 2015 we offer a € 200 last-minute discount per attendee for both days and € 100 for one day!

Register now at http://topexcelclass.com/index.php/amsterdam-excel-summit/registration/ and meet us on April 13th and 14th in Amsterdam.

Regards,

Jan Karel Pieterse

www.jkp-ads.com