FAQ about Solver for Excel 2011 for Mac

 (for Excel 2008 Click Here)

Below are answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Solver for Excel 2011 for Mac.

How is Solver for Excel 2011 different from Solver for Excel 2008?

IMPORTANT:  Starting with Excel 2011 Service Pack 1 (Version 14.1.0), Solver is once again bundled with Microsoft Excel for Mac.  You do not have to download and install Solver from this site -- simply ensure that you have the latest update of Excel 2011 (use Help - Check for Updates on the Excel menu).

Solver is substantially improved in Excel 2011, compared to Solver for Excel 2008.  Its new features include an Evolutionary Solver, based on genetic algorithms, new multistart methods for global optimization using the GRG Nonlinear Solver, a new type of constraint called "alldifferent," and new reports.  Its performance is greatly improved, especially on linear problems with integer constraints.

Solver for Excel 2011 for Mac matches the functionality and user interface of Solver for Excel 2010 for Windows.  Excel workbooks containing Solver models and VBA macros controlling Solver can be created in Windows and used on the Mac, and vice versa.

How does this new Solver work with Excel 2011?

Solver's user interface is now written in VBA.  Solver uses Apple's new Scripting Bridge technology to "talk to" Excel when you are solving a problem.  The Solver computational engine runs as a separate application outside Excel, rather than as an add-in inside Excel.

Who do I contact if I need technical support for Solver?

You can contact Frontline Systems at support@solver.com, or by phone at 775-831-0300 during normal business hours, Pacific time (GMT-7).  Since this Solver is a free download, please understand that we're here to help, but our commercial (paying) customers come first.

What about my Solver models created in Excel 2008 or earlier -- will they work?

Yes, they should work without any changes.  If you open a workbook with a Solver model that you created in Excel 2008 or Excel 2004, your model should automatically appear in the Solver Parameters dialog -- you can just click Solve.

I need to use Solver in a course, or with a textbook that uses Solver -- will I be OK?

Yes -- you can open course or textbook example Excel workbooks containing Solver models and use them as-is, whether they were created in Excel 2003 or 2004, Excel 2007 or 2008, or Excel 2010 or 2011.

Only the newest editions of certain textbooks include screen shots of the Solver dialogs as seen in Excel 2010 and Excel 2011.  But if your textbook has screen shots of the older Solver dialogs, you should be able to relate them to the new dialogs fairly easily.

What is Premium Solver for Education?  Is it available for Excel 2011?

Premium Solver for Education is a compatible upgrade for the standard Excel Solver for Windows that has been bundled with more than 35 textbooks, often used in MBA programs.  It is not available for the Mac, but you can use Solver for Excel 2011 for Mac to open and solve models in workbooks created with Premium Solver for Education.

Does Frontline Systems offer any other software products for the Macintosh?

We've been working throughout 2009-2010 to bring you new and more powerful products for optimization and simulation on the Mac.  If you'd like to know more, contact us or watch Solver.com for some near-term exciting news!

Of course, you can use Frontline's software for Windows on your Mac if you have Parallels, VMWare Fusion, or a dual-boot setup and you have Windows installed (XP, Vista and Win7 are all fine).

Solver as a Separate Application

If Solver uses VBA, why does it run as a separate application?

VBA is back in Excel 2011, and Solver uses VBA for its user interface -- the Solver Parameters dialog, Solver Options dialog, Solver Results and other dialogs.  But the C API not available in Excel 2011.  So the Solver computational engine (which is written in C++) runs as a separate application.

How does the Solver engine talk to Excel, if it runs as a separate application?

Solver uses Apple's new Scripting Bridge technology to "talk to" Excel.  Excel 2011 exposes an object model through Scripting Bridge, that Solver can access.  Scripting Bridge is generally faster than AppleScript.  But since it crosses process boundaries, it cannot be as fast as a computational add-in running inside the Excel process.

What are the consequences of Solver running as a separate application?

The most important consequence is that it's possible -- but certainly not advisable -- to make changes in Excel or your workbook while the Solver engine is solving your problem.  Because Solver is trying to talk to Excel at the same time, the results will be unpredictable -- including crashes in Solver or Excel.

The important message is:  Don't make changes yourself in Excel or your workbook while Solver is solving.