Beta 4: Stability, keyboard shortcuts, user settings

Beta 4 of the NG series is a major step towards version 7.0 final. It sports significant stability fixes, the ability to write technical log files, human-friendly configuration files, a revamped worksheet manager and configurable keyboard shortcuts.

Worksheet Manager in a task pane

I have decided to put the Worksheet Manager in a task pane, rather than its own window. A task pane is a special area on the side of a worksheet:

XL Toolbox NG Worksheet Manager
XL Toolbox NG Worksheet Manager

Just for the record, the task pane can be detached by clicking and dragging the title bar, and then it behaves almost like any other window.

When working with large workbooks, I use the Worksheet Manager pretty much all of the time, and it is much more comfortable to have it integrate with the Excel window as a task pane. The Toolbox now remembers whether the Worksheet Manager was visible, and restores it on startup.

The width of the Worksheet Manager task pane can be adjusted in the new User Settings. Unfortunately, it is not possible to automatically save the current width of the task pane when Excel is closed. However, if you edit the User Settings while the Worksheet Manager is visible, the current width will be shown in the User Setings, where you can inspect the value and adjust it to your liking.

Keyboard shortcuts

Beta 4 introduces a new keyboard shortcut manager. You can set keyboard shortcuts for the legacy Toolbox functions as well as the new functions introduced by the NG series.

User settings

The user settings facility provided by the .NET framework has caused me a lot of trouble. One issue is that the settings are saved as XML files, which are not very human-friendly. More importantly, if there is an error or inconsistency in the XML settings file, the add-in will start up with an error message and will be unusable. I’ve had this a couple of times during development.

Beta 4 has a custom user settings facility that produces files in the YAML format, which is much more human-friendly than XML files:

User settings use the YAML format
User settings use the YAML format

I’d say it does not take a rocket scientist to understand the information.

While the .NET settings are stored in a rather obscure location, the XL Toolbox NG now uses a subfolder “Daniel’s Xl Toolbox” in your application data folder. You can easily access this folder by typing %appdata% in the Windows Explorer, or by clicking on the link provided in the User Settings dialog.

Log files

Sometimes, Excel crashes, and it is hard to tell if it is the Toolbox’ fault or some other bug in Excel. The XL Toolbox will now detect if it was not shut down properly, and offer to start writing technical log files the next time Excel is started.

This is an example of an XL Toolbox log file:

XL Toolbox log file
XL Toolbox log file

You can turn on or off logging at any time with the User Settings.

What’s next

If the XL Toolbox NG beta 4 proves to be stable in everyday use, I will release one final version of the ‘old’ XL Toolbox that has the ability to upgrade to version 7, and then release version 7.

It should be noted that version 7 (NG) will only work with Office 2007 and newer.

Download the beta version

If you have a previous version of XL Toolbox NG installed, you can update via “Check for updates”.

What’s new?

See the new changelog.