Examining Paint in Windows 7

By now you’ve had time to examine my post, “Examining the Calculator in Windows 7,” which shows some of the bad design decisions Microsoft has made in updating a simple application. It seems that Calculator isn’t the only victim of poor design in Windows 7. My colleague, Rod Stephens, examines how the same fate has affected Windows Paint in his post, “The ribbon interface: sacrificing usability for discoverability.” His take on things is a bit different from mine and it makes for exceptionally good reading. The bottom line in both cases is that Microsoft has taken relatively well-designed applications and made them harder to use for reasons only Microsoft can fathom.

As mentioned in my post, this isn’t about Microsoft bashing. In fact, Rod and I have both been staunch Microsoft supporters over the years. What these posts are about is pointing out that any company, even Microsoft, can make some bad design decisions and that the costs of these decisions are high. It’s incredibly important that you design applications with user needs in mind—not merely to meet some marketing need or follow the latest fashion trends. Both of us strive to provide good design information in our respective books. Of course, it’s always possible to provide better information. Always feel free to let me know your feelings about the application design information in my books by writing me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

SendKeys for Office 2010 Revisited

Some time ago, I wrote a post entitled, “SendKeys in VBA.” In that post, I described a problem where the SendKeys example in Listing 5-8 of VBA for Dummies isn’t working as expected. It turns out that a lot of people are having this problem and not just with Excel—the problem seems to happen with other Office products as well. I’ve played with the macro in Listing 5-8 quite a lot and while it does work in Office 2007 SP2, it doesn’t work in Office 2010 as written.

Apparently, this problem isn’t unique to Office 2010 either. I’ve found threads online that indicate that the problem also existed in early versions of Office 2007, but was fixed in SP2 after a lot of people complained. Wandering around the Internet has proven interesting because I’ve found other blog posts that try to fix the problem, but didn’t work on my system for whatever reason. The bottom line is that SendKeys is broken and quite a few people know it.

Since my original post, I’ve tried several experiments, none of which resolve the problem, but some of which serve to highlight the true essence of the problem. For example, I tried to break the code in Listing 5-8 apart into room selection and row processing pieces. Here is the room selection piece:

Sub SelectRooms()
    ' Select the first data cell in the worksheet.
    Range("A5").Select
     
    ' Use SendKeys to select all of the cells in the column.
    VBA.SendKeys "+^{DOWN}", True
End Sub

and here’s the row processing piece:

Sub ProcessRows()
    Dim ActiveRows As Integer   ' Number of active rows.
    Dim Counter As Integer      ' Current row in process.
     
    ' Get the number of rows to process.
    ActiveRows = ActiveWindow.RangeSelection.Rows.Count
     
    ' Reset the cell pointer.
    Range("C5").Select
     
    ' Keep processing the cells until complete.
    For Counter = 5 To ActiveRows + 5
     
        ' Call the Sub created to change a single cell.
        MakeChoice3
         
        ' Move to the next cell.
        Range("C" + CStr(Counter)).Select
    Next
End Sub

If you run these pieces one at a time, the example will work just as it did with earlier versions of Office. However, that means running two separate macros instead of one, which does cut down on the usability of the technique. The SendKeys function appears to perform its task at the end of the macro, whenever the end of the macro occurs. Initially, I thought that calling these two macros in succession might do the trick, so I created this piece of code:

Sub ChangeAllRooms2()
    ' Select the rooms.
    SelectRooms
     
    ' Process the selections.
    ProcessRows
End Sub

Unfortunately, the result is the same as before. The SendKeys function really does appear not to output anything until the macro is finished. However, because I’m a glutton for punishment, I tried a few other things. For example, I thought perhaps that the wait part of the SendKeys call was to blame, so I created a manual wait like this:

Sub WaitForSendKeys(Timeout As Integer)
    ' Create a variable to hold the wait interval.
    Dim WaitTime
     
    ' Set the interval.
    WaitTime = TimeSerial(Hour(Now()), _
                          Minute(Now()), _
                          Second(Now()) + Timeout)
     
    ' Wait for the event to happen.
    Application.Wait WaitTime
End Sub

I then modified the original macro to look like this:

Public Sub ChangeAllRooms3()
    Dim ActiveRows As Integer   ' Number of active rows.
    Dim Counter As Integer      ' Current row in process.
     
    ' Select the first data cell in the worksheet.
    Range("A5").Select
     
    ' Use SendKeys to select all of the cells in the column.
    SendKeys "+^{DOWN}"
     
    ' Add a wait interval.
    WaitForSendKeys 5
     
    ' Get the number of rows to process.
    ActiveRows = ActiveWindow.RangeSelection.Rows.Count
     
    ' Reset the cell pointer.
    Range("C5").Select
     
    ' Keep processing the cells until complete.
    For Counter = 5 To ActiveRows + 5
     
        ' Call the Sub created to change a single cell.
        MakeChoice3
         
        ' Move to the next cell.
        Range("C" + CStr(Counter)).Select
    Next
End Sub

The results are that the macro runs a lot slower, but still doesn’t do the job. The only way that SendKeys works is to have it at the end of the macro. In short, you need to execute the code in Listing 5-8 in two parts in order to make it work as originally described in the book. As an alternative, you can still use the code in my previous post. The fix that seems to work best is not to use SendKeys at all.

Microsoft has been quiet about this whole issue. Nowhere have I found any word from Microsoft on the problem with SendKeys and I doubt there is a fix in the offing. If someone has a suggestion for fixing this problem, I’m all ears. Please contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com with full details of your fix. Make sure you’ve tested your code using Office 2010 on a Vista or Windows 7 system. I’ll be sure to give full credit to anyone who does come up with a fix for this problem.