Tag Archives: dll

excel c# multithreading

Multithreading VBA using C#.NET

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...

Multithreading in VBA in Excel is possible! No wait… that can’t be true right? Almost everyone knows that VBA runs in a single thread. So am I kidding? Not quite! Although this may seems like a workaround there is actually a way to multithread your VBA algorithms. There is only 1 condition… you must be willing to rewrite it to .NET :). Yeah, now you know the catch. But either way this is not as hard as it seems and can prove really useful. You are probably also curious how efficient the native VBA code is vs. called C# dll methods. Below you will find an answer to both questions – how to introduce multithreading to your VBA code and how efficient will multithreaded C# methods be against single threaded VBA algorithms.

Multithreading VBA: Sorting an array of random values using Quicksort

Quicksort is one of the most popular sorting algorithms. It uses the “Divide and Conquer” strategy in order to sort a array of values, partitioning the array of value for sorting and applying the QuickSort algoirhtm to each partition recursively. Quicksort is therefore a natural and simple example for multithreading.

Below you can find a simple example of executing a native VBA QuickSort procedure and both a C# QuickSort sequential and parallel method.

Executing C# QuickSort in VBA

Declare Function CreateTestClass Lib "C:\[PATH TO DLL]\TestLib.dll" () As Object
Sub TestQuickSort()
  '---Variables
  Dim i As Long, ar() As Long, testClass As Object, StartTime as Date, EndTime As Date, stp As Long
  Set testClass = CreateTestClass() 'Load DLL for the first time to reduce 1st execution overhead

  ReDim ar(0 To 100000)
  '---VBA sort---
  Call Randomize(100)
  Call RandArray(ar)
  StartTime = Timer
  Call QuickSort(ar)
  EndTime = Timer
  qTime = Format((EndTime - StartTime), "0.00")
  
  '---C# sequential sort---
  Call Randomize(100)
  Call RandArray(ar)
  StartTime = Timer
  Set testClass = CreateTestClass()
  Call testClass.QuickSortSequential(ar)
  EndTime = Timer
  qTimeC = Format((EndTime - StartTime), "0.00")
  
  
  '---C# parallel sort---
  Call Randomize(100)
  Call RandArray(ar)
  StartTime = Timer
  Set testClass = CreateTestClass()
  Call testClass.QuickSortParallel(ar)
  EndTime = Timer
  pqTimeC = Format((EndTime - StartTime), "0.00")

  '---Print---
  Call MsgBox("VBA time: " & qTime & ", C# sequential time: " & qTimeC & ", C# parallel time: " & pqTimeC)
End Sub

Simple right? If you read my post on this is probably nothing new to you. However, as you can see the only setback is really the requirement to reference the C# dll. You can of course add it to your libraries and reference it in other VBA projects using “Tools->References”.

How are the C# methods implemented?

C# TestClass implementation (Unmanaged Exports)

using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
using System.Text;
using System.Threading;
using System.Threading.Tasks;

namespace TestLib
{
    [ComVisible(true), ClassInterface(ClassInterfaceType.AutoDual)]
    public class TestClass
    {
        
        [return: MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.SafeArray)]
        public int[] QuickSortParallel([MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.SafeArray)]ref int[] ar)
        {
            ParallelSort.QuicksortParallel<int>(ar);
            return ar;
        }

        [return: MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.SafeArray)]
        public int[] QuickSortSequential([MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.SafeArray)]ref int[] ar)
        {
            ParallelSort.QuicksortSequential<int>(ar);
            return ar;
        }
    }

    static class UnmanagedExports
    {
        [DllExport]
        [return: MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.IDispatch)]
        static Object CreateTestClass()
        {
            return new TestClass();
        }
    }
}

To learn how to build C# dlls which can be referenced from VBA projects see my blog post here: EXCEL: Using C# in Excel VBA

Below you can find also the popular C# QuickSort implementation (from Google Summer of code 2008):

C# QuickSort implementation

public class ParallelSort 
    { 
        #region Public Static Methods 

        public static void QuicksortSequential<T>(T [] arr) where T : IComparable<T> 
        { 
            QuicksortSequential(arr, 0, arr.Length - 1); 
        } 

        public static void QuicksortParallel<T>(T[] arr) where T : IComparable<T> 
        { 
            QuicksortParallel(arr, 0, arr.Length - 1); 
        } 

        #endregion 

        #region Private Static Methods 

        private static void QuicksortSequential<T>(T[] arr, int left, int right)  
            where T : IComparable<T> 
        { 
            if (right > left) 
            { 
                int pivot = Partition(arr, left, right); 
                QuicksortSequential(arr, left, pivot - 1); 
                QuicksortSequential(arr, pivot + 1, right); 
            } 
        } 

        private static void QuicksortParallel<T>(T[] arr, int left, int right)  
            where T : IComparable<T> 
        { 
            const int SEQUENTIAL_THRESHOLD = 2048; 
            if (right > left) 
            { 
                if (right - left < SEQUENTIAL_THRESHOLD) 
                { 
                    QuicksortSequential(arr, left, right); 
                } 
                else 
                { 
                    int pivot = Partition(arr, left, right); 
                    Parallel.Invoke(new Action[] { delegate {QuicksortParallel(arr, left, pivot - 1);}, 
                                                   delegate {QuicksortParallel(arr, pivot + 1, right);} 
                    }); 
                } 
            } 
        } 

        private static void Swap<T>(T[] arr, int i, int j) 
        { 
            T tmp = arr[i]; 
            arr[i] = arr[j]; 
            arr[j] = tmp; 
        } 

        private static int Partition<T>(T[] arr, int low, int high)  
            where T : IComparable<T> 
        { 
            int pivotPos = (high + low) / 2; 
            T pivot = arr[pivotPos]; 
            Swap(arr, low, pivotPos); 

            int left = low; 
            for (int i = low + 1; i <= high; i++) 
            { 
                if (arr[i].CompareTo(pivot) < 0) 
                { 
                    left++; 
                    Swap(arr, i, left); 
                } 
            } 

            Swap(arr, low, left); 
            return left; 
        } 

        #endregion 
    }

As you will notice the above parallel QuickSort implementation utilizes the C# Parallel.Invoke method which allows you to easily leverage multithreading in C# without the hassle of having to manage thread joining etc. The Parallel C# class facilitates the following methods which make multithreading fairly easy:

  • Parallel.For – for iterating over integers
  • Parallel.ForEach – for iterating over any array of objects
  • Parallel.Invoke – basically invokes any number of actions (threads)

Using the For and ForEach linq methods are very straightforward making it very easy to mulithread exisiting singlethreaded algorithms. See a simple Parallel for example for building a multiplication table below:

Parallel.For(0, maxJ, i =>
        {
            for (int j = 0; j < maxJ; j++)
            {
                result[i, j] = i*j;
            }
        }); 

If you would like to see the VBA implementation of QuickSort see below. This implementation was based on this algorithm: Link

VBA QuickSort implementation

Private Sub QuickSort(ByRef values As Variant, Optional ByVal Left As Long, Optional ByVal Right As Long)
  Dim i As Long
  Dim j As Long
  Dim K As Long
  Dim Item1 As Variant
  Dim Item2 As Variant

  On Error GoTo Catch
  If IsMissing(Left) Or Left = 0 Then Left = LBound(values)
  If IsMissing(Right) Or Right = 0 Then Right = UBound(values)
  i = Left
  j = Right

  Item1 = values((Left + Right)  2)
  Do While i < j
    Do While values(i) < Item1 And i < Right
      i = i + 1
    Loop
    Do While values(j) > Item1 And j > Left
      j = j - 1
    Loop
    If i < j Then
      Call Swap(values, i, j)
    End If
    If i <= j Then
      i = i + 1
      j = j - 1
    End If
  Loop
  If j > Left Then Call QuickSort(values, Left, j)
  If i < Right Then Call QuickSort(values, i, Right)
    Exit Sub
Catch:
  MsgBox Err.Description, vbCritical
End Sub
Private Sub Swap(ByRef values As Variant, ByVal i As Long, ByVal j As Long)
  Dim Temp1 As Double
  Dim Temp2 As Double
  Temp1 = values(i)
  values(i) = values(j)
  values(j) = Temp1
End Sub

QuickSort Performance: Native VBA vs. C# sequential vs. C# multithreading

Now let’s analyze the performance of the various algorithms. The benefits of multithreading will be clearly visible when we’ll compare arrays of several sizes and sort them using the various algorithms:

Disclaimer: The following performance metrics are not precise as they simply measure the time that elapsed during code execution and do not reflect the actual processor time. What is more the QuickSort implementations are also slightly different which might also somewhat influence performance. The statistics can nevertheless be used to show the relative performance between VBA and C# (referenced from within VBA projects).

QuickSort: Native VBA vs. C# sequential vs. C# multithreading
QuickSort: Native VBA vs. C# sequential vs. C# multithreading

While it takes almost 15 seconds to sort 2 mln elements with the VBA singlethreaded QuickSort, the C# singlethreaded algorithm requires only slightly above 1 second and the multithreaded algorithm required approx. half a second! For me it was a real surprise that even without multithreading the C# algorithm was sooo much faster than the native VBA algorithm (over 10-12x). In case of the multithreaded algorithm there are of course several performance parameters to consider like the “SEQUENTIAL_THRESHOLD” parameter.

Conclusions: Multithreading in VBA possible, but not in native VBA

As you can see multithreading in VBA is possible if you export your VBA algorithms to C# and reference them from inside your VBA projects. As shown above you can expect significantly improved performance even in singlethreaded algorithms and leverage additional performance boosts thanks to multithreading!. I know that this may seem like a little unsatisfactory – as it’s not actually native VBA multithreading. On the other hand Excel is not a tool designed and appropriate for implementing processor intensive algorithms. What is more, even if VBA multithreading were possible, I hope you noticed that either way even the singlethreaded imported C# method was still much faster (10-12x) than the one in VBA.

You may rarely experience such situations in which your VBA algorithms will take more than a couple of seconds to execute. However, for those of you working in analytics – hopefully this will be a useful tool.

Let me know what you think!

Be sure to checkout a comparison of all available approaches to VBA multithreading:
EXCEL: Multithreading VBA – VBA vs. VBscript vs. C#.NET.

Here you can download the Excel xlsm file and the C# Project:

c# excel

Using C# in Excel VBA

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 3.67 out of 5)
Loading...

Today’s topic concerns using C# from within VBA code(Excel C#). Ever had a C#.NET library you wanted to use in Excel VBA (Excel C#)? Well, as a matter of fact it is possible using the Visual Studio Nuget Unmanaged Exports package.

Now why on earth would you want to use C# in Excel by using dll libaries? Well there are a bunch of reasons to consider. Top of mind:

  • Utilizing many available existing C#.NET libraries in Excel VBA
  • Multi-threading – Excel VBA is limited to 1 thread whereas C#.NET can leverage multithreading
  • Use drivers and connections not available Excel VBA (connect to NoSQL databases and custom systems)
  • Protect your code and algorithms compiling them to dll libraries – VBA project protection is not a safe method of protecting your code!
  • Ease of creating and managing complicated solutions with the support of VS tools (debugging, performance analysis, testing)
  • Portability – make sure you algorithms runs exactly the same in VBA, your C#.NET project and your ASP.NET application

Before you follow this tutorial be sure to check-out my VBA Compiler Add-In for Excel which allows you to easily export and compile your VBA Functions to VB.NET DLL!

This tutorial will show you how to create a COM-visible DLL in C#.NET in just 5 easy steps:

Create New Visual Studio Project

  • Create a new VS project
  • Select Class library from the C# group
  • Go to Project Properties and make your library to be COM-visible
New Class Library project
New Class Library project

Show Package Manager Console

To install the Unmanaged Exports template you will need to use the Nuget Package Manager Console. Enable it as shown below:

Show Package Manager Console
Show Package Manager Console

Install the Unmanaged Exports template to the project

  • Open the Package Manager Console
  • Paste Install-Package UnmanagedExports into the console and hit enter
Install the UnmanagedExports template
Install the UnmanagedExports template

Create a class with some example code

  • Create a sample “Sample.cs” class
  • Insert the code below to the “Sample.cs” file
  • Build the Project
using RGiesecke.DllExport;
using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
using System.Text;
using System.Threading.Tasks;

namespace TestLib
{
    [ComVisible(true), ClassInterface(ClassInterfaceType.AutoDual)]
    public class TestClass
    {
        public string Text
        {
            [return: MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.BStr)]
            get;
            [param: MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.BStr)]
            set;
        }

        public int Numbers
        {
            [return: MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.SysInt)]
            get;
            [param: MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.SysInt)]
            set;
        }

        [return: MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.SysInt)]
        public int GetRandomNumber()
        {
            Random x = new Random();
            return x.Next(100);
        }
    }

    static class UnmanagedExports
    {
        [DllExport]
        [return: MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.IDispatch)]
        static Object CreateTestClass()
        {
            return new TestClass();
        }
    }
}

Use the C# class in Excel VBA (Excel C#)

Just insert the following code into your Excel VBA project and you are good!

Declare Function CreateTestClass Lib "C:\[Path to the DLL]\TestLib.dll" () As Object

Sub TestTheTestClass()
  Dim testClass As Object
  Set testClass = CreateTestClass()'Creates an instance of TestClass
  Debug.Print testClass.GetRandomNumber'Executes the method
  testClass.text = "Some text"'Set the value of the Text property
  testClass.Number = 23'Set the value of the Number property
  Debug.Print testClass.text
  Debug.Print testClass.Number
End Sub

Notice that C# types have to be converted to VBA types using the MarshalAs tag. Read more about the different Umanaged Types in C# here: Link.
Below is a list of some typical types you might want to leverage:

C# Type Unmanaged Type VBA Type Comment
String UnmanagedType.BStr String
int UnmanagedType.SysInt Integer
bool UnmanagedType.VariantBool Boolean
Class UnmanagedType.IDispatch Object Return a class object to VBA
Array e.g. int[] ar UnmanagedType.SafeArray Array e.g. Dim ar() As Long If you are using an array as an argument be sure to use the C# “ref” get by reference option e.g. ref int[] ar

Excel C# troubleshooting

In case you are experiencing issues with interfacing with the DLL please check the following:

  • Did you mark the DLL to be COM-visible in your Project Properties in Visual Studio
  • Have you switched the Platform Target in the class library properties to “x86”
  • Is the filename of the DLL in your VBA code correct
  • Are there any typos in e.g. the class name, methods etc.