Bits and pieces from the XL Toolbox developer.

Exit ThinkPad T430s, enter ThinkPad T480s

24 Aug 2018 | ThinkPad, hardware, review

My experience with my new T480s, coming from a T430s that served me very well for the past 5 years.

Linux and VirtualBox on a T480s with high-resolution display

26 Jul 2018 | Hardware, Thinkpad, Troubleshooting, VirtualBox

High-resolution (HiDPI) displays can cause all sorts of trouble. Here’s how I solved mine.

What I like and dislike about Ubuntu 18.04

3 May 2018 | Ubuntu

Ubuntu 18.04 is out, and similarly to 17.10, there are a couple of things that I like and dislike about it.

What I like and dislike about Ubuntu 17.10

18 Oct 2017 | Ubuntu

The release of Ubuntu 17.10 marks (yet another) paradigm shift in the development history of this Linux distribution. The home-grown Unity desktop shell is gone; Ubuntu 17.10 offers a Ubuntu-flavored Gnome desktop experience. This article lists my impressions with Ubuntu 17.10. It’s really mostly negative impressions, but some things are better than with Ubuntu 17.04. May it help others make the decision whether to upgrade to 17.10 or not.

Getting Phatch to work on Ubuntu 17.04

19 Jul 2017 | Linux, Ubuntu

Phatch is a fantastic tool to process a large number of photos in the same manner. For example, I use it to shrink images to show on a digital picture frame. Unfortunately it has not been maintained for years, and it will not start on recent versions of Ubuntu. Here’s a workaround.

Running Windows applications on a Samba share

1 Jun 2017 | Linux, Samba, Tips & Tricks, Windows

I have some (virtual) Windows machines running in a network of Linux hosts. I keep some Windows applications (most notably, WSUS Offline Update) on an external hard drive that is connected to a Linux host via USB and shared with the Windows machines via Samba. Despite relaxing the Windows security settings more and more, Windows refused to run the applications on the shared drive until I made a change to the Samba configuration on the Linux host.

Deploying a Discourse forum with Capistrano

7 Jan 2017 | Howto, Linux, Server, Tutorial

[Updated] Here I describe how to automate deployment of Discourse to your own server using Capistrano.

Upgrading Ruby for a Rails application

12 Dec 2016 | Rails, Ruby, Server, Tips

A quick reminder how to upgrade a Ruby version for a Rails Application.

A new user forum for the XL Toolbox

3 Nov 2016 | Forum, News

The new forum runs on the Discourse software, which greatly enhances usability.

How to host a Discourse forum on your own server

29 Oct 2016 | Howto, Linux, Server, Tutorial

[Updated] Discourse is a fairly new forum software that is very comfortable to use. As a server administrator, you can either run it from a Docker container, or pay a fee to use a hosted version. However, if neither Docker nor subscription fees are feasible options, setting up a Discourse instance without Docker involves a bit of work.

Fixing Rails deployment errors with Capistrano

28 Aug 2016 | Rails, Server, Tips & Tricks, troubleshooting

After upgrading a Rails web application from Rails 4.2 to Rails 5.0 and attempting to deploy it using Capistrano, I got stuck on “Your Ruby version is 1.9.3, but your Gemfile specified 2.3.1” errors that gave me quite a headache – but the solution is really simple.

Beta 4: Stability, keyboard shortcuts, user settings

18 May 2016 | NG, beta

Beta 4 of the NG series is a major step towards version 7.0 final. It sports significant stability fixes, the ability to …

Introducing XL Toolbox Version 7.0.0-beta.1

30 Mar 2016 | NG, beta

After about a year and half of early alpha releases, I am proud to finally release the first beta version of the ‘Next Generation’ of the XL Toolbox.

Alpha 19 and the State of the Project

17 Mar 2016 | NG, alpha

It’s been a while since I published the last alpha version of the Next Generation XL Toolbox. In fact, it’s been a while since anything happened at all with this project. Today I however I released a new alpha version and explain what’s going on.

Fixing VirtualBox virtual machine startup in Ubuntu.

9 Mar 2016 | Fix, Linux, VirtualBox

VBox 5.0 machines sometimes fail to start in Ubuntu; here’s a hint how to fix it

Getting back custom program icons in Ubuntu 15.10

26 Oct 2015 | Tips & Tricks, Ubuntu

After a clean install of Ubuntu 15.10, all my custom programs had disappeared.

Prevent host-only VirtualBox network from vanishing after suspend/resume

26 Oct 2015 | Network, Tips & Tricks, Ubuntu, VirtualBox

A simple trick prevents VirtualBox host-only networks from disappearing after resume

Alpha 15: more fixes for updating

5 Oct 2015 | NG, alpha

Alpha 15 of the XL Toolbox NG series is all about bug fixes.

Fixing network printing issues on Linux

25 Sep 2015 | Linux, Tips & Tricks, hardware, printing

I have an HP LaserJet P2015dn printer that used to cause me headaches and has been causing trouble for some time now again. …

Alpha 14: Improved CSV export performance and bug fixes.

21 Sep 2015 | CSV, NG, alpha

Title says it all. Download If you have a previous alpha …

Garbage user comments in photos taken with Samsung Galaxy S5 mini

21 Sep 2015 | Galaxy, Photo, Samsung, Tips & Tricks

Photos that contain ‘garbage’ text in their embedded comments can be repaired quite easily on Linux.

Alpha 13: New CSV import and export

15 Sep 2015 | CSV, NG, R, alpha, import/export

The 13th installment of the Next Generation alpha series features a new CSV import and export feature that allows customization of field delimiters and number formatting and can be used for data exchange with other software, such as R.

Uprading OwnCloud: Fixing ‘could not acquire lock’ error

11 Jul 2015 | Linux, OwnCloud, Server, troubleshooting

While upgrading OwnCloud to version 8.1, I experienced strange errors: www-data@server:/var/owncloud$ php occ upgrade PHP Warning: flock() expects parameter 1 to be …

Alpha 10 and alpha 11: Fixing crashing bugs

24 Jun 2015 | NG, alpha

Alpha 10 (released a couple of days ago) and alpha 11 fix a couple of bugs that caused the XL Toolbox add-in to crash.

Alpha 9 with new Import CSV and Quit commands and VBA API

10 Jun 2015 | NG, alpha, code

Alpha 9 of the NG series sports new commands for CSV import and quitting Excel as well as a simple API for Visual Basic for Application projects.

Excel address syntax

17 May 2015 | Excel

An overview of Excel address formatting.

Alpha 8 with minor fixes.

12 May 2015 | NG, alpha

Alpha 8 is a minor update with fixes to the worksheet manager and the ribbon.

Synchronize Horde calendar with Ubuntu using syncevolution

15 Apr 2015 | Horde, Ubuntu

Using `syncevolution` from the Ubuntu repositories makes it easy to synchronize data from a Horde Groupware server to a computer running Ubuntu.

Fixing ‘Server execution failed’ problems on Windows

15 Apr 2015 | Explorer, Fix, Windows

After reorganizing folders on my network shares, my Windows machine (VirtualBox) would refuse to start the Explorer or ‘My Computer’. The solution is to fix ‘User Shell Folders’ settings in the registry editor.

Upgrading PHP APCu on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

2 Apr 2015 | Linux, OwnCloud, Server

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS ships with an outdated version of the PHP user cache driver ‘APCu’. OwnCloud, if installed, will complain about this. Here I describe how to upgrade APCu on Ubuntu.

Configuring SSL for OpenLDAP

30 Mar 2015 | Linux, OpenLDAP, Server, Tutorial, code

Setting up an OpenLDAP server on Ubuntu is quite complicated, and getting SSL connection security to work may be the hardest part of it. Here I describe what worked for me.

Alpha 7: Working batch export and new screenshot-quality exporter

6 Mar 2015 | NG, alpha

Alpha 7 fixes batch export and numerous other things, and offers a new screenshot-quality export function.

On payment options

3 Mar 2015 | payments, website

Since March 2015, only Paypal can be used to make voluntary payments for the XL Toolbox. In this post I explain why.

Alpha 6: Fixes for installer and DLL woes

3 Feb 2015 | NG, alpha

For alpha 6, the installer was updated once again in order to more reliably handle different combinations of operating system and Office version.

.NET & VSTO add-ins: Getting the prerequisites right

30 Jan 2015 | .NET, NG, VSTO

Depending on Windows and Office version, there are various different scenarios of the prerequisites that need to be met in order to install and run a VSTO add-in.

Alpha 5: Fixing installer issues

28 Jan 2015 | NG, alpha

Within a few days after the release of alpha 4, I received several bug reports that evidently related to the install process. Today I release alpha 5 which fixes these problems.

Troubleshooting VSTO add-ins for Office

28 Jan 2015 | VSTO, troubleshooting

If an Office add-in that is created with Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) does not load, one has a hard time debugging since no error messages are displayed. However, there is a remedy.

Alpha 4: Color profiles, CMYK support

26 Jan 2015 | NG, alpha

Today I release the fourth alpha version of the Next Generation Toolbox. This version features support for CMYK color space and color profiles for graphic export.

Project template for DFG proposals

8 Jan 2015 | funding, research

In this article I share an OpenDocument text template file for use in research project proposals to the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG).

Alpha 2 and 3 with graphic export and Apache license

4 Jan 2015 | NG, alpha, license

The second and third preview versions (“alphas”) of the XL Toolbox offers basic graphic export features. It is released under the Apache License V. 2.0 rather than the GNU General Public License.

Introducing first alpha of XL Toolbox NG

6 Aug 2014 | NG, alpha

The very first alpha version of the Next Generation XL Toolbox add-in is available for download. It can’t do much for users besides checking for updates, but it represents the foundation of the Toolbox rewrite. Now I can start adding features.

Building FreeImage with Visual Studio 2013, including 64-bit

23 Jul 2014 | FreeImage, code, rewrite

The FreeImage library is an indispensable tool to create graphics files. Building it with Visual Studio 2013 requires some adjustments to the solution and project files that I describe in this article. Furthermore, I provide a compiled a 64-bit .DLL of FreeImage 3.16.0.

Sharing folders in a home network with Samba

16 Jun 2014 | Linux, Network, Samba

File and folder sharing using Samba on Linux is easy to set up, but authorizations and permissions need to be set up properly to get it to work. Here I describe how to do it for a home network.

Inserting images into PowerPoint at the right size

30 Apr 2014 | PowerPoint, Tips & Tricks

Images that are inserted into a PowerPoint® presentation often do not appear at the right size and may look blurry when the size is manually adjusted after inserting them. In newer versions of PowerPoint, there is a special image setting that can be used to achieve a pixel-by-pixel, non-blurry appearance. But using this setting manually for every inserted image is cumbersome and requires lots of clicks. In this post I show how to set the DPI to a value that ensures proper display.

Turning off scrolling in Excel without a scroll-lock key

21 Mar 2014 | Excel, Tips & Tricks

If the arrow keys do not move the cell cursor in Excel, but rather the entire sheet, then the ‘scroll lock’ function is most certainly turned on. To turn it off, simply press the Scroll Lock key on your keyboard. But what if your keyboard does not have a Scroll Lock key? The solution is simple.

Export Excel charts to SVG files

25 Feb 2014 | Charts, InkScape, Tips & Tricks

Using the excellent Inkscape vector graphics program, it is possible to export Excel charts to scalable vector graphics (SVG) files.

ELISA curve-fitting

3 Jan 2014 | 4-PL/5-PL, ELISA, non-linear regression, statistics

Fitting a curve onto the standards results of an ELISA is not straight-forward. However, Excel can be coerced to perform the curve fitting using the Solver addin. In this blog post I collect some online resources on curve fitting.

Selecting the right tool for the Toolbox

24 Dec 2013 | NG, future, rewrite

In this second installment of the series on ‘Shaping a new XL Toolbox’, I examine the available choices of software tools for modern Office development.

Combining two A5 pages into one A4 page

24 Dec 2013 | Linux, Tips & Tricks, code

In this article, I describe how to create a single A4-sized PDF document containing two copied of a single-page, A5-sized PDF document. This is useful for custom A5 forms that are to be printed in duplicate on A4 sheets, so that two A5 forms can be obtained by cutting the A4 paper.

Using InnoSetup to install Excel addins

22 Dec 2013 | Excel, code, deployment

Introducing ExcelAddinInstaller, an InnoSetup script that serves to comfortably deploy native Excel addins.

Local file sharing with Samba and VirtualBox guests

26 Nov 2013 | Linux, Network, Samba, VirtualBox, code

VirtualBox is an excellent tool to run one or many virtual Windows machines on a Linux host. Its shared folders offer convenient access to the host file system from the virtual machines. However, shared folders may not be suitable for specialized tasks such as storing .NET application-level Office addins. In this article I describe an alternative way to share folders between the host and guest operating systems using the Samba file server.

Fixing LaserJet network connectivity

20 Nov 2013 | Tips & Tricks, hardware, printing

The LaserJet P2015dn printer may lose network connectivity and no longer respond to printing requests. A commonly used, albeit weird solution for this problem is to bake the ‘formatter board’ on the oven. In this post I describe how I accessed the formatter board in order to bake it in the oven.

Shaping a new XL Toolbox

22 Oct 2013 | NG, future, rewrite

This is the first in a series of articles on the development of a new, better XL Toolbox.

Upgrading to Ubuntu 13.10 with Apache 2.4

20 Oct 2013 | Linux

In this post I describe what I had to do to make my local website work again after upgrading to Ubuntu 13.10 with Apache 2.4.

Thinkpad T430s Experience

18 May 2013 | code, hardware, personal note, review

Although a little off topic, I would like to write about my experience with a Thinkpad® T430s. I recently upgraded from my old machine, which was a Thinkpad T61. Prior to purchasing the new machine, I read lots of reviews of the T430s, but still had a few questions, so maybe writing down my impressions will help other people trying to decide which laptop to buy.

Preparing for the next major release (4.00)

19 Jan 2012 | future, translation

Slowly, but steadily, I am working towards the release of version 4.00.

Creating charts with labeled data clouds

23 Jun 2011 | charts, data cloud, spread scatter, tutorial

Scatter plots are a great way to visualize groups of data. Compared with bar graphs (with or without error bars), they have the added advantage of showing how the data are spread out. However, the basic scatter plot that Excel creates needs some tweaking to get it right.

Finding files in Mendeley

27 Mar 2011 | Linux, Mendeley, Tips & Tricks, code

Mendeley is a great piece of Software to organize one’s collection of PDF articles. It did a fairly good job indexing the several thousand …

Road map for 2011

1 Dec 2010 | future

For those users who are interested in my future plans for the XL Toolbox after the 2.73 release, here is my personal wish list.


15 May 2010 | personal note

I’m kind of busy at the moment and won’t be able to publish any updates for the XL Toolbox for a while… If there’s …

Excel 2010 Beta

28 Nov 2009 | Excel 2010, future

The public beta version of Office 2010 is available for download from Of course I got it right away and tried the …

Upcoming future additions

18 Nov 2009 | future

I am currently working on several new features for the upcoming release 2.60.

Road map

21 Sep 2009 | future

In this post I lay out the road map for 2009/2010


26 Jul 2009 | personal note

Welcome to the XL Toolbox developer’s blog. As the addin is getting increasingly popular, I am planning to post thoughts about the current status …