After quite a long time we released a new beta version of Ivercy this week.

This is the first beta for the upcoming new 1.1 release. From now on we will not work on new features until the release of version 1.1. Instead we focus on fixing bugs now. And there is still is some work to do in that regard. In other words: We are feature complete for the next release.

What was planned

Today I would like to compare the features we planned back in October to what is actually in the current beta.

Back then, we declared three major objectives.

  1. Improve Performance
    • Optimize status management and reduce the number of queries to the SCC backend.
    • Move automatic status updates to a non-blocking background thread.
  2. Reduce the number of “false positive” change detections.
  3. Optionally exclude Data&Misc-Objects from source code control.

So let’s look at these one by one, and see what we’ve got.

What we’ve got

I’ll look at the sub items of primary objective first.

Optimize status management and reduce the number of queries to the SCC backend

We improved our internal state management, use Access’ Date Modified property (unfortunately it’s not reliable), cache our checksum calculation and remove every query to the SCC-Backend that was not absolutely necessary. - This all significantly improved performance of Refresh Status and most notable Get Latest.

Move automatic status updates to a non-blocking background thread

Oh boy. This played a major part in wrecking our original schedule. In theory implementing multithreading based on the .Net Framework should not be too difficult. - Reality was quite different.

Multithreading in a COM-Add-In is somewhat different than in normal .Net-WinForms-Applications. You’ll need to manage some of the COM references yourself, otherwise the host (Access) might crash on shutdown. Thread synchronization with the UI-Thread does not work reliably in the way you would expect. – And even thought we tried to work around that, I suspect there still is a problem in version 1.0.15 with that, as I observed some weird application freeze situations since its release.

An even more serious issue exists however with Microsoft’s TFS-MSSCCI-Provider. It reacts quite hostile, by un-initializing itself, if ever invoked by more than one thread from the same process. I don’t think we can solve this problem without some fundamental changes to Ivercy’s design.

As any further work on this would have delayed the new version even more, I decided to disable any multithreaded use of the SCC-Backend. For now we only do the local preparation work for Status Update in the background. That slightly improves the situation, by reducing the time the Access UI is blocked.

So back to the top objective…

Improve Performance

We certainly achieved a lot in that regard. Considering execution time, there is not much left we could have improved further. Still the intrusive, blocking automatic status updates remain. – For now. But the improvements we have got already are so useful, I did not want to withhold them from you any longer.

Reduce the number of “false positive” change detections

Those false positive change detections result from modifications Access makes to the sources automatically. So we added two new features to deal with those. The first one are the SourceProcessingSettings, which allow you to configure lines and blocks of code to remove from the source files and thus ignoring any automatic changes to them.

Second we made it possible to ignore case of the text in the source files. You can configure that with the IgnoreCaseModifications option.

By using these two new options, you can reduce false positives to almost none (see the article above for the limitations). So I think we fully delivered on this objective.

So remaining is the third objective.

Optionally exclude Data&Misc-Objects from source code control

So the answer to this is simple. It’s not implemented at all. We total dropped that from our list for now. In last months we received lots of support emails and feature requests about the first and second objective, but none about this one. So the decision was easy to defer this item to a later release. This makes the other two available sooner, as they provide value to more of our customers; to you.

Check out the beta

Ok that’s it for now. If you are curious check out the most recent beta from the download page (scroll down, the betas are below the regular releases). Version 1.0.15 seems to have an issue with freezing Access on occasion though. I will send out a newsletter as soon as we’ve got a more stable release.


Recently I was nearly driven crazy by the task to create an msi-setup for my version control add-in for Microsoft Access in Visual Studio 2013. I referenced the correct PIA assemblies in my Visual Studio project, but other versions of them ended up on the target machines. My add-in was not working properly on some computers. Actually it was not working at all then.

I finally managed to solve the problem to reliably target multiple versions of an Office Application (Access in my case) with a single add-in. But as it required a bit of research and a lot of trial and error, I am writing this down to help you preserve your sanity if to want to achieve the same.

1. Use the PIAs for the oldest application version you are targeting


The first important thing is to reference the PIAs (Primary Interop Assemblies) for the oldest Office Version you want to support. That is Access 2007 (version 12.0) in my case. Even without the technical requirement to do this to compile an assembly that will run with all intended version, it is helpful during coding, as it prevents you from accidentally using features, which are not available in the older versions of your targeted application.

Downloading and installing the PIAs is fairly straight forward. Referencing them is as well, but that is where the trouble starts. The msi-setup for the PIAs installs them right into the GAC (Global Assembly Cache). When adding the references to your project, you can select the version you need in your project. But if you have got a newer version of the same PIA installed on your machine as well, Visual Studio will automatically perform assembly binding redirection and relink the references to the newer Versions of the files. That is not what I wanted! And the properties of the reference in Visual Studio are somewhat confusing.

Confusing version information in reference properties

2. Put the PIAs in a separate folder specific to your project


To prevent this version mix-up and really compile your add-in with the old PIA-version you selected, you will have to export the PIAs from the GAC to another folder, specific to your project. - I used GACView for this. - Then reference the PIA-files from that folder into your Visual Studio project, using the “browse”- option when adding the references.

It would probably work equally well to disable the assembly binding redirection by editing the policy files in the GAC, as described in this stack-overflow-answer. But that would affect all projects that reference these files on your computer. Therefor I choose the option to put them in a separate folder for my project.

Even now Visual Studio will still write the version number of the highest available version of those files to your project file.

VS project file in text editor showing wrong version information

But that does not affect the build process. If you open the compiled assembly in ILDASM and take a look at the assembly manifest, you’ll see that the correct versions of the PIA are referenced there.

External assembly references in ILDASM

Now with the build issues solved we should take care of the setup/deployment process.

3. Explicitly include your local copies of PIAs in the installer project


I currently use a Visual Studio Installer Project to build an msi setup for the users to install my add-in on the target machines. I think this is the most convenient way to create a setup for simple projects. I probably will use WiX (Windows Installer XML toolset) for that end in the future. WiX gives you much more control over your setup project, but it has a much steeper learning curve as well.

When I first just referenced the Office 12.0 PIAs from the GAC in the add-in-project, I ended up with a reference to the 12.0 version, my assembly was linked to the 15.0 version and yet the installer project, automatically detecting dependencies, added the 14.0 (!?) version to the setup. – That was bound for failure.

After changing the things described in Step 1 and 2 it looks like the installer behaves now and is packing the correct versions. Still I want to take no chances anymore and control this myself instead of using the automatic dependency detection.

Therefore I explicitly exclude the automatically detected dependencies to the PIA files from the setup project and then add the files from the file system folder. That leaves no room for any excuse for VS to mess with my setup project.

Installer project with excluded autodetected PIAs and manually added PIAs

Now I just build the solution and the installer project and upload the msi setup file to my website. Done!




As an afterthought, I would like to mention that there are some interesting alternatives to this approach that might prevent the whole problem.

1. NetOffice

You could use the NetOffice API instead of the PIAs to write add-ins for MS Office. NetOffice looks very promising and I actually tried to use it to address my problem. However I found a couple of Microsoft Access’ Enums and Methods (e.g. AcObjectType-Enum and the ControlType- and SourceObject-Properties) are not implemented yet. If you are writing an add-in for Word- or Excel you should definitely evaluate NetOffice as an option for you. These Office Applications are probably better supported by NetOffice as they are more widely used.

2. Embedded Types

Another option might be to use the CLR 4.0 and embed the types from the PIA you are using. This would have actually been my preferred solution, but my project needs to talk to some other APIs as well and those are having serious issues when called by a CLR 4.0 component.


Do you use another reliable approach to create and distribute COM-Add-Ins for Microsoft Office? – Let me know in the comments.