Excel 2013 Spreadsheet Inquire & Compare


As noted in recent blog posts, Office 2013 includes an add-in called Inquire. Inquire appears to be at least part of the Prodiance Spreadsheet IQ acquired by Microsoft at the end of 2010.

Although presented as a 2013 add-in it appears the add-in is separate from Excel and even works in Excel 2007 and 2010 (licencing restrictions probably apply). The screenshot shows the Inquire tab in three versions of Excel:

Summary

The purpose of this post is not to look in-depth at the functionality offered by Inquire but to look at the structure of the add-in. Looks to me like the Microsoft team has done the minimum necessary to expose their Prodiance acquisition as they have plonked the Prodiance software into a folder and registered the add-in. Here’s screenshot of one Inquire function.

Activating the add-in

The add-in is installed by Office 2013 but is not activated. It’s a COM add-in so you will need to go to the Excel options in the backstage area (or whatever they call it these days), select COM Add-ins from the drop down then press the Go button to see the list of available COM add-ins and to active this one.

The software

The add-in is located in the “DCF” folder under the Office15 install folder. In this folder you will see many files. There are two executables, one of which implements workbook comparison function. These can be used independently of Excel/Office.

The add-in is is hosted in Excel using Add-in Express. This is a developer tool able to create add-ins which implement a safe ‘shim’ as recommended by the Microsoft Office team. As an experiment, I copied the DCF folder to another machine (just into the root of the C: not any special Microsoft folder) and registered the add-in using regsrv32.exe. When I started Excel I found the Inquire tab available and the software (apparently) operational. So I wonder if the add-in is going to be licensed for use with other versions of Excel.

You can see from the other files in the DCF folder the SpreadsheetIQ heritage not least SpreadsheetIQ.ExcelAddIn.dll. This is the core add-in wrapped by the Add-in Express shim. It’s a .NET assembly indicating that Spreadsheet IQ is a .NET application. It appears the add-in uses software components from Infragistics and Syncfusion. We also use Infragistics because they provide high quality .NET tools.

SpreadsheetIQ.ExcelAddIn
   SpreadsheetGear (from SpreadsheetGear LLC)
   SpreadsheetIQ.Diagram (presents diagrams drawn by Northwoods.Go)
      Northwoods.Go
   Infragistics2.Win.UltraWinTree.v11.1

Bloated

The DCF folder weighs in at 91MB so it not a lightweight. From a quick analysis of the relationships between the assemblies it appear many can be removed without affecting the application. For example I removed files with a total size of 34MB which do not appear to be used. Certainly the Inquire add-in continued to work when these files were removed.

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