Recently, an eXtyles customer reported to our support team that eXtyles Cleanup seemed to take considerably more time to process long documents in Word 2013, compared with processing the same document in Word 2010. Tests by Inera support staff confirmed that Cleanup does indeed take longer in Word 2013.

Concerned that the Cleanup code might need to be optimized to improve performance in Word 2013, we investigated the timing difference in more detail to try to identify the particular Cleanup option that was causing the process to run more slowly.

We were quite surprised to discover that almost all Cleanup options took longer to run in Word 2013 than in Word 2010. The difference in timings varied from approximately 50% longer to twice as long in the newer version of Word.

A cursory search on the internet reveals that we are not alone. We found several forum posts complaining of poor performance of add-ins not only in Word 2013, but also in Excel 2013 and other Office 2013 applications compared with earlier Office versions. Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), the language used by many Office applications to access information in Office documents, is used to perform most Cleanup functions and a few other eXtyles operations.

Of particular concern to the eXtyles support team was an experience reported here. A developer opened a support case with Microsoft because his VBA application was taking between five and eight times as long to run in Word 2013 compared with Word 2010. He reported that “Microsoft have acknowledged shortcomings in the performance of Word 2013” to the extent that they had waived the usual fee for Microsoft developer support, and the Microsoft support engineer had reported the problem to the Word development team. Although this experience was posted in May 2013, it appears that Microsoft has not taken steps in the intervening two years to address the VBA performance issues in Word 2013.

Fortunately most eXtyles functions rely only minimally on VBA, so the largest impact is in the eXtyles Activation and Cleanup functions; there is a much smaller impact on Auto-Redact, Advanced Processes, and Export. However the problem remains, and since it appears that Microsoft has been either unable or unwilling to address the issue with updates to Word 2013, we advise users who are concerned about the performance of eXtyles (and other custom Word macros) to avoid upgrading from Word 2010 to Word 2013 unless there are other compelling reasons to do so.

Office 2016 is due to be released later this year. It remains to be seen whether the original VBA performance will be restored in this new version. A query to this effect to the Microsoft developers posted five months ago on a forum for Office 2016 beta testers still awaits an answer…

UPDATE 1/28/16: The VBA performance issue is not resolved in Office 2016. Because of this issue, we continue to recommend the use of Office 2010.