Microsoft's Office suite brings to the user a wide range of applications to fulfil the demands of a modern business or home office situation. The software provides word processing, spreadsheets, databases, note taking and presentation, and a good deal else besides; the user can attend to, and millions have attended to, all their operation's administrative needs, within an array of easy-to-use and fully compatible applications.

No question, then, that Office as a whole gives a very powerful and wide-ranging functionality to your organisation's needs. However, as powerful and versatile as it is, the suite still has inevitable constraints. Microsoft have designed their software to provide effective solutions for users in a huge - but not unlimited - number of circumstances. But they could never design it for YOUR circumstances; the software could never be built around your particular demands, it could not be created with your individual needs in mind.

Or could it?

An office suite that fits you in particular is not as unlikely as may seem. Indeed, not only is it possible, but it can be done with some ease, thanks to Microsoft's Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). As a tool for replacing uniformity with individuality, VBA offers tremendous flexibility in enhancing and easing the user's experience of MS Office, particularly Excel, Word and Access.

If there is a task that you need to perform regularly, you can create with VBA a small program - a 'macro' - that will automatically run through the process for you, increasing the effectiveness and precision of your work, and saving you a great deal of time along the way.

For example, if an organisation regularly produces a large number of letters through Word, those letters may well have details that crop up time and time again - addresses, perhaps, or general information - and countless hours can be wasted entering this information over and over again. Or an Access database, or an Excel spreadsheet, could require certain entries to be included repeatedly. Using VBA, these processes can easily be automated, while still maintaining your own individual requirements.

This, then, is the key to VBA, and the role that it can play in improving your work. It's certainly true that there are many things included within MS Office applications that can make tasks run more smoothly - but they aren't designed to fit your own particular needs. VBA makes this software run just as you require it to.

Ah, but programming - that would be the realm of the computer wiz, the fellow in the darkened room, oversized monitor, thick glasses and doughnuts, understanding more about the inner workings than ordinary people could ever want to, wouldn't it? Certainly 'programming' can be a daunting word, sufficiently so that many of us turn off at first mention. Yet it needn't be so; though there are indeed many programming languages out there of great complexity, there also exist languages aimed at the non-expert, non-technically minded amongst us, languages designed to allow us to dip in to easily understood programming as and when we need to.

This latter category is where one finds VBA. What first strikes the eye about the language is that, well, it's a language. More specifically, it is plain English. 'Programming' seems far less daunting when set in such simple, comprehensible terms - instead of rocket science, VBA offers the opportunity to build simple programs of your own, to fit your own needs, in a short time and with little or no expertise. VBA can be picked up very easily indeed, although a short training course can help you get the most out of it.

There's really no reason not to take advantage of a simple (and free!) tool that can dramatically improve your use of Office in so many ways.