Recently, I got this comment:


Just browsing and I saw that Jason posted a link to a site that can unprotect projects.

[See the censored comment here]

I’m not sure if you edit/censor the comments, but I don’t like that site. (Yes, I’ve used it!)

But there are too many [Excel developers] who make their living with protected .xla projects.

Yours in censorship,

I hardly think it’s necessary to post the entire comment, but there were two things I loved about it: The admission that he’d used the site that he hates; and the closing “Yours in censorship”. They were just too funny not to share.

To answer the question, I’ve never censored a comment until this one. I want people, like Jason, to feel comfortable that they can comment on this site. Actually, I just don’t want the extra work of monitoring comments. Although I read them all, I don’t want to be the comment police.

I thought about this for a couple of days and I decided to remove the link that Jason provided. There’s no question that I am against people stealing other people’s work. There’s also no question that the method provided by the link could be used to do that. It could also be used to get at your own code for which you lost the password, a reason about which I have no objection. I don’t advocate the outlawing of CD-RWs because they may be used to steal music. So what’s the difference?

The difference is that I and other authors of this site are Excel developers. It is in our best interest that as few people as possible know how to crack code. If we were professional musicians, maybe we would be against CD-RWs. I’m not going to crusade to have that information removed from the internet, I simply choose not to spread it.

I imagine one or two of you has an opinion on this subject and I’d like to hear it. And to Jason: I’m sorry I censored you. I’m sure you meant nothing malicious and were only trying to help. You can call me a communist if you want (but nobody else can).

Posted in Uncategorized

18 thoughts on “Censorship

  1. There is no need and no reason to encourage people on this subject.

    I must admit I find it too funny that You associate it with communism.

    Kind regards,

  2. Dick-

    Sorry for causing such a stir. My only intention of posting that link was to help out novice programmers like myself who want to learn by “looking under the hood” of some the more advanced Excel applications created by Excel gurus. The only way I learn is through example and when I come across an Excel workbook that does some amazing things through VBA, I’d like to know what makes it tick. If I’ve offended any Excel developers, I apologize. My intentions were not malicious in any way.


  3. I must admit to wanting to “look under the hood” of some of the things I download or purchase and merely for the learning experience.

    I believe a thief to be the lowest form of life on the planet.


  4. Even though Dick has removed the URL of the website, any developer distributing his application as a password-protected spreadsheet or XLA is vulnerable to the program, and all developer should be aware that it exists. If a developer wants real assurance that his work won’t be seen by prying eyes, he’d have to program his tools using a language (such as C or C++) that compiles directly to the machine language that’s understood by the processor, and as such is difficult for humans to read. There are utilities out there (such as TurboExcel, which my company publishes) that assist in developing XLLs. Usually, XLLs are written in the computer’s native machine code, making it difficult for the overly curious to see things they shouldn’t.

    Relying solely on Excel’s and VBA’s password protection for security is foolish.

  5. I agree with Dick.

    Ok, there are places where this sort of method is available, but they don’t need further publicity on a blog such as this.


  6. Hi Dick,

    I must admit feeling a bit uneasy when I saw the link and I even considered sending you a message about it.
    Why uneasy? Well, this would make my coding even more open for anyone to check out than it already is and thus expose my sloppy coding technique :-))


    I understand why you removed the link. I have never published it myself, other than by direct email.

    It is a good tool for people wanting to learn from others and for those who misplaced their password.

    It should be off-limits for anyone aiming to steal other people’s hard work.

  7. Hummm, for what it’s worth!, i think that anyone intent on getting into a wkb, can google to lots of sites that offer methods to “crack” passwords.

  8. The “crack” works.
    The only times I’ve used it for real are
    1) My own spreadsheets when I’ve forgotten the password

    2) Company spreadsheets to prove to others (the authors) their security is no as hot as they claim.

    3) Microsoft’s atpvbaen.xla to remove the debug.print lines they left in by accident (needn’t have bothered now I know the password!!)

    BPB to DBx. Whoever thought of that anyway?

  9. I’m learning the ropes of excel and would like to be able to view the code simply for the sake of learning. If you won’t post his site can you put him in touch with me for the info that was censored?

  10. TurboExcel: I thought Microsoft had some issues with that name. How is that going?

  11. I’ve never used the method that I censored, but I did use the demo version of a password cracker once. The lady I replaced told me her password for a particular file, but it’s only a file that you need once per year. By the time the next year rolled around, she was nowhere to be found and I’d forgotten it (I should have put it on a sticky note on my monitor). The demo version only gives the first three letters of the password, but it’s all I needed to remember the whole thing.

    Looking at other people’s work to learn something is very valuable. So I know what you guys are saying. I don’t have any problem reverse engineering, so if you want to know how something works, tell me and I’ll post it. Screw how those other hacks do it, you can learn the right way here (because you know if I post the wrong way, there will be a comment or two).

    I want to know what’s going on with the TurboExcel name too. I’m guessing they want that whole thing to die down and be forgotten.

    Lastly, if you want know how to crack passwords, then do what I do when I want to know something. Google it.

  12. Since the inception of this discussion about the URL that I posted, I’ve already received a few e-mails asking for it. Like you Dick, from now on I just tell ’em to search google.

    And since you made the offer…

    I would love to see an article about DoEvents. It appears to be a critical component in any VBA code for Excel games or the like. For example, I’ve seen it in many of Andy Pope’s cool applications (www.andypope.info) and Kouichi Tani’s amazing games found on Aaron Blood’s website (www.xl-logic.com/pages/games.html).

    While I understand it’s basic application and created a small macro that incorporates it, a formal discussion by the experts about how to implement it properly would be great.

    Thanks Dick.


  13. “And since you made the offer…”

    Oh, I knew that would come back to bite me in the *ss. :) It’s at the top of the list, Jason, unless one of the smarter authors wants to take a stab it, then I humbly step aside.

  14. I didn’t read Jason’s original comment in time to see the link, so for a goof I just googled the starting text of his comment:

    “really want to see VBA code w/out paying for commercial password-breaking”

    I wasn’t surprised to see that Google found the exact comment page from your (Dick’s) site, but I was surprised to see that they also offered up a cached version of the original page that has the url in it! The url is now dead though. In fact, the whole domain seems to be down.

  15. Since a couple of people asked: Microsoft hasn’t shut us down yet over TurboExcel. But they haven’t forgotten about us, either. We continue to volley letters back and forth where we each say the same thing we said the last time in the hopes that this time it will get through the other guy’s thick head.

    In case they are monitoring this discussion: If they offer us $20 million, we will change the name.

    And since their argument is that our name causes people to be confused into thinking the product is from Microsoft, the new name, once they crush us, will be TurboExcelIsNotFromMicrosoft.

  16. “from now on I just tell ’em to search google.”

    At some point you have no value. I’ll just search Google first. In this case, I shouldn’t bother coming here.

    Your paternalism is actually harmful, because the first encounter readers now have with this information might be from less ethical perspectives. It’s like parents that won’t talk about sex and drugs. Their kids learn from pimps and pushers.

    Write a statement about why people shouldn’t crack the code and then link to the products/services that support those ethics on their sites. Your readers are asking about it. If you don’t guide them then someone else will and that might not be good.

  17. “Your paternalism is actually harmful,”

    Paternalism is what I’m trying to avoid. Parents have a responsibility to talk to their children. I don’t have or want a responsibility to direct the morality of the readers. I have ‘chosen’ to shield the passers-by from materials I think are inappropriate. (Chosen makes it sound more noble than it is – passers-by because I’m not concerned with the regular readers, they’re all top notch citizens.)

    Despite my lame justifications, you make a very good point.

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