Guide to Writing Custom Functions in Excel: Part III, C++ RTD add-in
Saturday, 03 September 2011 03:58
Last Updated on Monday, 23 July 2012 17:45
In the previous article we developed a custom function in Excel using an Automation Add-in. It was fairly straightforward and didn’t take long but performance isn’t one of it’s strengths and there is no way to properly document it within Excel for the user. The RTD is an automation add-in that implements the IRtdServer interface so creating it is similar. The RTD add-in is different from the other options in that it allows asynchronous calls which is a huge advantage when the function needs to make a call to a database or web service. Because RTDs are asynchronous, the user can continue to work in Excel while the function is calculating. The downsides of RTDs are that they do not appear in the function wizard and the user is forced to use a clunky syntax.
Asynchronous XLLs (topic of a future post) are similar to RTDs in that they can pull data into Excel but the difference with RTD add-ins is that they can also push data into Excel. So if the RTD server provided stock prices and the value of a stock updated, the RTD could tell Excel that there is a new value and update Excel. An XLL cannot do that, the user would be forced to re-calculate the formula in order to get updated values.
There are several articles online about creating RTD servers. I find most of them overly complex, so in this post I hope to show you a more straightforward approach that takes advantage of the Visual Studio IDE and requires the minimum of code changes (more clicking, less code).