(For Excel 2011 Click Here)

Below are answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Solver for Mac Excel 2008.

Why wasn't Solver included in Excel 2008 as shipped by Microsoft?

Solver wasn't included with Excel 2008 because it used VBA for its user interface, and in Excel 2008 Microsoft made a decision not to include support for VBA.  Solver also relied on the Excel C API while solving, and the C API isn't supported in Excel 2008.

How does this new Solver work with Excel 2008?

Solver's user interface has been rewritten using AppleScript rather than VBA.  Solver also uses AppleScript -- rather than the Excel C API -- to "talk to" Excel while it's solving.  Solver 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.

I'm glad it's a free download, but who is bearing the cost?

Development of this Solver version for Excel 2008 has been a cooperative effort between Frontline Systems and Microsoft, with no money changing hands.  The Solver code in C++ and AppleScript was written by Frontline Systems.  Microsoft's Mac Business Unit has worked hard to assist Frontline with Excel issues, localization, and QA testing.

What about my Solver models created in Excel 2004 -- will they work?

Yes, they should work without any changes.  (But if you used VBA macros to control Solver in Excel 2004, these will not work in Excel 2008.)  If you open a workbook with a Solver model that you created in 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, if your course notes or textbook were written to use the standard Solver in Excel 2004 for Mac or Excel for Windows, you should find that this Solver works almost exactly as described in your notes or book.  You should be able to open course or textbook example workbooks with Solver models in Excel 2008, and use them.

What is Premium Solver for Education?  Is it available for Excel 2008?

Premium Solver for Education is a compatible upgrade for the standard Excel Solver -- with several new features, including an Evolutionary Solver, based on genetic algorithms.  It is bundled with more than 35 textbooks, typically used in MBA programs.

For teaching and learning in MBA programs, we recommend our new Solver for Excel 2011 for Mac.  Its capabilities and user interface match our new Solver for Excel 2010 for Windows, and both of these include the same Evolutionary Solver found in 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

Why does Solver work as a separate application, rather than as an add-in?

This is the nature of AppleScript -- it is designed to enable an application like Excel 2008 to be "scripted" or controlled from outside Excel, in another application.  Excel 2008 exposes its "object model" through AppleScript.

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 Solver is running.  Because Solver is trying to talk to Excel at the same time, the results will be unpredictable -- including crashes in Solver or Excel.

Don't make changes yourself in Excel or your workbook while Solver is solving.  And don't leave the Solver Parameters dialog open while you are making changes in Excel.  Start Solver and use the Solver Parameters dialog only when you need it to solve a problem, then click Solve.

Another consequence of Solver running as a separate application is that it cannot be as fast as Solver would be running as an add-in.  Solver must "talk" intensively to Excel while it is running, and this communication occurs through AppleScript across process boundaries, which is slower than communication between Excel and an add-in running in the same process.

The speed difference is most noticeable for nonlinear optimization problems, which demand the most intensive communication.  On the other hand, you may find that Solver in Excel 2008 is faster than Solver in Excel 2004 on linear mixed-integer (LP/MIP) optimization problems, because it uses updated methods for these problems.