Excel needs a new script, not a new script • The register

opinion There is an eternal fad to find deep truths in religion. In fact, there is only one concept: without reincarnation, how can the constant reappearance of old ideas be explained as new in IT?

This past week has seen a few turns of the cosmic wheel of technology. LG’s 2015 V series The second screen idea woke up in the body of the iPhone 14 Pros Dynamic island notch.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft’s All-New Rebirth has more repeats than The Simpsons and equal aging. Beginning in October 2022, the company announced, the lucky ones running native Excel on PC and Mac will get — are you seated yet? – scripting.

You don’t need the full list of automated spreadsheets, macros, VBA programming, and other ways Excel has been animated over the decades. You could always do it, and people always did. This time they are Office Scripts imported from Office 365 where they already prevail.

Microsoft talks about improving productivity, with users creating and sharing scripts across the enterprise. If you’ve always been an admin in this vale of tears, you’ll be talking about new attack vectors, new ways to reduce productivity and spread chaos, and generally empower users to unleash demons. Microsoft’s own advice on managing Office Scripts starts with strong messages about licenses, because that’s what matters, and then goes on to say that Office Scripts are enabled by default and if you turn off sharing, everyone can keep running what they’ve got far. We all know how this anthem goes.

Yes to malware scanning; Yes to block attachments; Yes to anti-phishing. But honestly, as a very experienced and infosec-aware admin, how does one import useful script snippets from the ghoul-infested shadow lands of the internet? You cut and paste. You Git (sorry, that came out wrong.) you know what to trust and what to look out for: the same tools are available to users who don’t.

Excel is already the most dangerous tool you can give to civilians. They can make mistakes in Word and PowerPoint all day, and while they have their own security fun, you can’t go wrong with a series of tiny mailboxes that may hold the company’s most important numeric data. The Excel Blunder is a genre of corporate terror of its own: it brings down companies, it breaks data like an agitated whale seeking sunlight, it can mock the fight against the pandemic. And since Excel is the only universal tool most users are given for organizing any type of data, the abuses and perversions it is subjected to are endless.

Adding user-created automation is like handing out chopsticks of sweaty gelignite to visitors to the British Museum and advising them to be careful. It doesn’t matter what the details are of the scripting language or the macro system or whatever; They are all Turing-complete and can do whatever they want.

Here’s a better idea for Microsoft: why not make spreadsheets better?

Perhaps surprisingly, the table error was very good educated [PDF]. It turns out that some Excel users are forensic accountants, data analysts and others for whom errors are the enemy and who have the tools to eliminate them. The data suggests that more than seven in 10 spreadsheets have errors, with perhaps half of those operating business models having significant errors.

They are also great for hiding scams and bugs elsewhere. All the things you suspect are causing problems—poor ergonomics, no training in creating spreadsheets, few error detection and correction methods—do exactly what you think. Encourage automation and script-sharing among users who can’t code, let alone code confidently, and these problems will be amplified. The idea of ​​users only recording and sharing when an editor is around doesn’t stand up to anyone who’s met them.

Microsoft has a monopoly on enterprise spreadsheets, and we know how much effort Microsoft puts into improving monopoly products. It knows as well as we do how bad things are, how much solid research and constant push for improvement generates its most experienced and concerned users. It knows that the cost of entry for a competitor is overwhelming. It has the resources to create spreadsheets from scratch to solve any problems that arise from a 40-year-old design.

But what does Microsoft do? Add scripting. Again.

The purpose of reincarnation is to finally attain enlightenment and escape from suffering. That doesn’t happen when you just repeat mistakes; it is most likely to happen when you are trying to alleviate the suffering of others. Excel is caught in a cycle of pain and its nearly billions of users are suffering as a result.

If Microsoft isn’t educated more on this, there will come a day when that other component of rebirth, karma, will surely manifest. The cosmic table alone is error-free, and each recalculation brings that final reckoning closer. Regret! ®

https://www.theregister.com/2022/09/20/excels_comedy_of_errors_desperately/ Excel needs a new script, not a new script • The register

Laura Coffey

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