What is OAK Desktop Edition and when should you use it? 7 Jun 2019
Many readers will already be aware of the Operis Analysis Toolkit or OAK, the Excel plug-in that assists in building, analysing and editing complex spreadsheets. The OAK plug-in functions as a core part of Excel, integrating with the Excel ribbon interface.
Excel’s ribbon interface provides quick and easy access to OAK features – to launch an OAK tool you simply tap the tool button on the ribbon interface. Many OAK users like the direct integration with Excel, but under some circumstances, OAK Desktop Edition makes more sense.
Introducing OAK Desktop Edition
The rationale for OAK Desktop Edition centres around application performance and the memory limitations inherent in 32-bit Excel. While the OAK plug-in will perform adequately when manipulating small to medium-sized workbooks, complex and large workbooks can present performance and out of memory issues if OAK is used inside of Excel.
For this reason, Operis developed a standalone edition of OAK which operates as a distinct desktop application.
Instead of launching Excel and opening a workbook, OAK Desktop Edition utilises a dialog box that lets you directly open a single workbook or a pair of workbooks, executing your choice of one of three commands on that workbook.
Benefits of using OAK Desktop Edition
Executing OAK tasks in OAK Desktop Edition ensures that Excel overheads and memory limitation do not disrupt OAK when it is processing a workbook. OAK Desktop Edition offers four advantages:
• Improved performance. Because OAK is not running inside of Excel many Excel overheads are cut out which means that running OAK features on large workbooks is simply faster. In turn there is less chance of a user running out of patience with OAK and abandoning the operation.
• Bypass memory restrictions. OAK in Desktop Edition can utilise all of the available memory on your PC, it is not restricted by the 1.3 GB memory allocation limit imposed by Excel’s 32-bit edition. Bypassing this memory limitation helps avoid the out of memory errors that can cause OAK to fail.
• Better reliability. Again, because Excel’s overheads are reduced, OAK runs more reliably in its desktop guise. You can tackle larger spreadsheets with OAK Desktop Edition with much less risk of Excel crashing while you are processing a complicated file.
• Ease of access. OAK Desktop Edition lets you dip into essential OAK features without launching Excel. For some users this is a useful shortcut, making it quicker to access a frequently used OAK function when required.
Note that OAK Desktop Edition does not replicate all the functions available in the OAK plug-in. We may add further functionality in the future but for the moment we have included some of the most popular, and resource-intensive features.
OAK features available in OAK Desktop Edition
OAK 4’s Desktop Edition includes three commonly used OAK features. When you run OAK in desktop guise you can execute one of the following three commands without launching Excel:
• Map. Use Map to get a detailed insight into the layout of a workbook. The tool uses text, colour, and symbols to create a graphical map of the structure of a workbook, giving you rapid insight into the workbook functionality.
• Summarize. A great tool to get an oversight of the complexity of and risk inherent to a workbook. Summarize lets you do a risk analysis on formulas, while also listing all constants in a workbook.
• Compare. Select two workbooks in OAK Desktop Edition to enable the Compare function. Just like the Compare function in the OAK plug-in, Compare lets you easily find the genuine differences between two workbooks.
Each of these features function exactly the way it does in the OAK plug-in, presenting you with the same dialog boxes, and delivering the same output. The only difference is that you launch Map, Summarize or Compare directly from OAK Desktop Edition instead of opening the workbook in Excel first.
The future of OAK Desktop Edition
We included three of the most popular OAK features in OAK 4 Desktop Edition and we are planning on adding additional features in due course. Also on the cards is the ability for OAK to directly modify the XML in XLSX files, completely bypassing Excel for workbook operations in order to further improve on performance.
In the meantime, we encourage existing OAK users to try using OAK Desktop Edition, especially where they are using complex workbooks as the performance improvements are clear and we find that OAK Desktop Edition handles larger workbooks more reliably.