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Build and Integrate Spectral Analysis Functions


This example illustrates the creation of a comprehensive Excel® add-in to perform spectral analysis. It requires knowledge of Visual Basic® forms and controls, and Excel workbook events. See the VBA documentation for a complete discussion of these topics.

You create an Excel add-in that performs a fast Fourier transform (FFT) on an input data set located in a designated worksheet range. The function returns the FFT results, an array of frequency points, and the power spectral density of the input data. It places these results into ranges you indicate in the current worksheet. You can also optionally plot the power spectral density.

You develop the function so that you can invoke it from the Excel Tools menu and can select input and output ranges through a UI.

To create the add-in:

  1. Build a standalone COM component from the MATLAB® code.

  2. Implement the necessary VBA code to collect input and dispatch the calls to your component.

  3. Create the UI.

  4. Create an Excel add-in, and package all necessary components for application deployment.

Building the Component

Your component has one class with two methods:

  • computefft — Compute the FFT and power spectral density of the input data, and compute a vector of frequency points based on the length of the data entered and the sampling interval.

  • plotfft — Perform the same operations as computefft, but also plot the input data and the power spectral density in a MATLAB Figure window.


The MATLAB code for these two functions is in two MATLAB files, computefft.m and plotfft.m.

The code for computefft.m:

function [fftdata, freq, powerspect] = 
                               computefft(data, interval)
    if (isempty(data))
        fftdata = [];
        freq = [];
        powerspect = [];
    if (interval <= 0)
        error('Sampling interval must be greater than zero');
    fftdata = fft(data);
    freq = (0:length(fftdata)-1)/(length(fftdata)*interval);
    powerspect = abs(fftdata)/(sqrt(length(fftdata)));

The code for plotfft.m.m:

function [fftdata, freq, powerspect] = plotfft(data, interval)
    [fftdata, freq, powerspect] = computefft(data, interval);
    len = length(fftdata);
    if (len <= 0)
    t = 0:interval:(len-1)*interval;
    subplot(2,1,1), plot(t, data)
    xlabel('Time'), grid on
    title('Time domain signal')
    subplot(2,1,2), plot(freq(1:len/2), powerspect(1:len/2))
    xlabel('Frequency (Hz)'), grid on
    title('Power spectral density')

Build the COM component using the Library Compiler app and these settings:

Component nameFourier
Class nameFourier
Project folderName of your work folder, followed by the component name
Show verbose outputSelected

For more information, see the instructions in Create Excel Add-In from MATLAB.

Where Is the Example Code?

For more information about accessing the example code from within the product ,see Example File Copying.

Integrate the Component Using VBA

Having built your component, you can implement the necessary VBA code to integrate it into Excel.


To use Fourier.xla directly in the folder xlspectral, (see Example File Copying) add references to Fourier 1.0 Type Library and MWComUtil 7.X Type Library.

Select the Libraries

To open Excel and select the libraries, you should develop the add-in:

  1. Start Excel on your system.

  2. From the Excel main menu, select Tools > Macro > Visual Basic Editor.

  3. In the Visual Basic Editor, select Tools > References to open the Project References dialog box.

  4. Select Fourier 1.0 Type Library and MWComUtil 7.x Type Library.

Create the Main VB Code Module for the Application.  The add-in requires initialization code and global variables to hold the application state between function invocations. To achieve this, implement a Visual Basic code module to manage these tasks:

  1. Right-click the VBAProject item in the project window and select Insert > Module.

    A new module appears under Modules in the VBA Project.

  2. In the module property page, set the Name property to FourierMain.

  3. Enter the following code in the FourierMain module:

    ' FourierMain - Main module stores global state of controls
    ' and provides initialization code
    Public theFourier As Fourier.Fourier 'Global instance of Fourier object
    Public theFFTData As MWComplex   'Global instance of MWComplex to accept FFT
    Public InputData As Range        'Input data range
    Public Interval As Double        'Sampling interval
    Public Frequency As Range        'Output frequency data range
    Public PowerSpect As Range       'Output power spectral density range
    Public bPlot As Boolean          'Holds the state of plot flag
    Public theUtil As MWUtil         'Global instance of MWUtil object
    Public bInitialized As Boolean   'Module-is-initialized flag
    Private Sub LoadFourier()
    'Initializes globals and Loads the Spectral Analysis form
        Dim MainForm As frmFourier
        On Error GoTo Handle_Error
        Call InitApp
        Set MainForm = New frmFourier
        Call MainForm.Show
        Exit Sub
        MsgBox (Err.Description)
    End Sub
    Private Sub InitApp()
    'Initializes classes and libraries. Executes once
    'for a given session of Excel
        If bInitialized Then Exit Sub
        On Error GoTo Handle_Error
        If theUtil Is Nothing Then
            Set theUtil = New MWUtil
            Call theUtil.MWInitApplication(Application)
        End If
        If theFourier Is Nothing Then
            Set theFourier = New Fourier.Fourierclass
        End If
        If theFFTData Is Nothing Then
            Set theFFTData = New MWComplex
        End If
        bInitialized = True
        Exit Sub
        MsgBox (Err.Description)
    End Sub

Create the Visual Basic Form

Develop a user interface for your add-in using the Visual Basic Editor. To create a new user form and populate it with the necessary controls:

  1. Right-click VBAProject in the VBA project window, and select Insert > UserForm.

    A new form appears under Forms in the VBA project window.

  2. In the form property page, set the Name property to frmFourier and the Caption property to Spectral Analysis.

  3. Add a series of controls to the blank form:

    Controls for Spectral Analysis

    Control TypeControl NamePropertiesPurpose



    Caption = Plot time domain signal and power spectral density

    Plot input data and power spectral density.



    Caption = OK

    Default = True

    Execute the function and dismiss the dialog box.



    Caption = Cancel

    Cancel = True

    Dismisse the dialog box without executing the function.



    Caption = Input Data

    Group all input controls.



    Caption = Output Data

    Group all output controls.



    Caption = Input Data:

    Label the RefEdit for input data.


    Not applicable

    Not applicable



    Caption = Sampling Interval

    Label the TextBox for sampling interval.



    Caption = Frequency:

    Label the RefEdit for frequency output.



    Caption = FFT - Real Part:

    Label the RefEdit for real part of FFT.



    Caption = FFT - Imaginary Part:

    Label the RefEdit for imaginary part of FFT.



    Caption = Power Spectral Density

    Label the RefEdit for power spectral density.



    Not applicable

    Select range for input data.



    Not applicable

    Select output range for frequency points.



    Not applicable

    Select output range for real part of FFT of input data.



    Not applicable

    Select output range for imaginary part of FFT of input data.



    Not applicable

    Select output range for power spectral density of input data.

  4. When the form and controls are complete, right-click the form, and select View code.

    The following code listing shows the code to implement. Notice that this code references the control and variable names listed in Controls for Spectral Analysis. If you used different names for any of the controls or any global variable, change this code to reflect those differences.

'frmFourier Event handlers
Private Sub UserForm_Activate()
'UserForm Activate event handler. This function gets called before
'showing the form, and initializes all controls with values stored
'in global variables.
    On Error GoTo Handle_Error
    If theFourier Is Nothing Or theFFTData Is Nothing Then Exit Sub
    'Initialize controls with current state
    If Not InputData Is Nothing Then
        refedtInput.Text = InputData.Address
    End If
    edtSample.Text = Format(Interval)
    If Not Frequency Is Nothing Then
        refedtFreq.Text = Frequency.Address
    End If
    If Not IsEmpty (theFFTData.Real) Then
    If IsObject(theFFTData.Real) And TypeOf theFFTData.Real Is Range Then
            refedtReal.Text = theFFTData.Real.Address
        End If
    End If
    If Not IsEmpty (theFFTData.Imag) Then
    If IsObject(theFFTData.Imag) And TypeOf theFFTData.Imag Is Range Then
            refedtImag.Text = theFFTData.Imag.Address
        End If
    End If
    If Not PowerSpect Is Nothing Then
        refedtPowSpect.Text = PowerSpect.Address
    End If
    chkPlot.Value = bPlot
    Exit Sub
    MsgBox (Err.Description)
End Sub

Private Sub btnCancel_Click()
'Cancel button click event handler. Exits form without computing fft
'or updating variables.
    Unload Me
End Sub
Private Sub btnOK_Click()
'OK button click event handler. Updates state of all variables from controls
'and executes the computefft or plotfft method.
    Dim R As Range
    If theFourier Is Nothing Or theFFTData Is Nothing Then GoTo Exit_Form
    On Error Resume Next
    'Process inputs
    Set R = Range(refedtInput.Text)
    If Err <> 0 Then
        MsgBox ("Invalid range entered for Input Data")
        Exit Sub
    End If
    Set InputData = R
    Interval = CDbl(edtSample.Text)
    If Err <> 0 Or Interval <= 0 Then
        MsgBox ("Sampling interval must be greater than zero")
        Exit Sub
    End If
    'Process Outputs
    Set R = Range(refedtFreq.Text)
    If Err = 0 Then
        Set Frequency = R
    End If
    Set R = Range(refedtReal.Text)
    If Err = 0 Then
        theFFTData.Real = R
    End If
    Set R = Range(refedtImag.Text)
    If Err = 0 Then
        theFFTData.Imag = R
    End If
    Set R = Range(refedtPowSpect.Text)
    If Err = 0 Then
        Set PowerSpect = R
    End If
    bPlot = chkPlot.Value
    'Compute the fft and optionally plot power spectral density
    If bPlot Then
        Call theFourier.plotfft(3, theFFTData, Frequency, PowerSpect, _ 
     InputData, Interval)
        Call theFourier.computefft(3, theFFTData, Frequency, PowerSpect, _ 
     InputData, Interval)
    End If
    GoTo Exit_Form
    MsgBox (Err.Description)
    Unload Me
End Sub

Add the Spectral Analysis Menu Item to Excel

Add a menu item to Excel so that you can open the tool from the Excel Tools menu. To do this, add event handlers for the workbook events AddinInstall and AddinUninstall that install and uninstall menu items. The menu item calls the LoadFourier function in the FourierMain module.

To implement the menu item:

  1. Right-click the ThisWorkbook item in the VBA project window, and select View code.

  2. Place the following code into ThisWorkbook.

    Private Sub Workbook_AddinInstall()
    'Called when Addin is installed
        Call AddFourierMenuItem
    End Sub
    Private Sub Workbook_AddinUninstall()
    'Called when Addin is uninstalled
        Call RemoveFourierMenuItem
    End Sub
    Private Sub AddFourierMenuItem()
        Dim ToolsMenu As CommandBarPopup
        Dim NewMenuItem As CommandBarButton
        'Remove if already exists
        Call RemoveFourierMenuItem
        'Find Tools menu
        Set ToolsMenu = Application.CommandBars(1).FindControl(ID:=30007)
        If ToolsMenu Is Nothing Then Exit Sub
        'Add Spectral Analysis menu item
        Set NewMenuItem = ToolsMenu.Controls.Add(Type:=msoControlButton)
        NewMenuItem.Caption = "Spectral Analysis..."
        NewMenuItem.OnAction = "LoadFourier"
    End Sub
    Private Sub RemoveFourierMenuItem() 
    Dim CmdBar As CommandBar 
    Dim Ctrl As CommandBarControl 
    On Error Resume Next 
    'Find tools menu and remove Spectral Analysis menu item 
    Set CmdBar = Application.CommandBars(1) 
    Set Ctrl = CmdBar.FindControl(ID:=30007) 
    Call Ctrl.Controls("Spectral Analysis...").Delete 
    End Sub
  3. Save the add-in into the <project-folder>\for_testing.

    <project-folder> refers to the project folder that Library Compiler used to save the Fourier project.

    Name the add-in Spectral Analysis.

    1. From the Excel main menu, select File > Properties.

    2. In the Workbook Properties dialog box, click the Summary tab, and enter Spectral Analysis as the workbook title.

    3. Click OK to save the edits.

    4. From the Excel main menu, select File > Save As.

    5. In the Save As dialog box, select Microsoft Excel Add-In (*.xla) as the file type, and browse to <project-folder>\for_testing.

    6. Enter Fourier.xla as the file name, and click Save.

Test the Add-In

Before distributing the add-in, test it with a sample problem. Spectral analysis is commonly used to find the frequency components of a signal buried in a noisy time domain signal. Create a data representation of a signal containing two distinct components, and add to it a random component. This data along with the output is stored in columns of an Excel worksheet, and you plot the time-domain signal along with the power spectral density.

Create the Test Problem

  1. Start a new session of Excel with a blank workbook.

  2. From the main menu, select Tools > Add-Ins.

  3. In the Add-Ins dialog box, click Browse.

  4. Browse to the <project-folder>\for_testing folder, select Fourier.xla, and click OK.

    The Spectral Analysis add-in appears in the available Add-Ins list and is selected.

  5. Click OK to load the add-in.

This add-in installs a menu item under the Excel Tools menu. To display the Spectral Analysis UI, select Tools > Spectral Analysis. Before invoking the add-in, create some data, in this case a signal with components at 15 Hz and 40 Hz. Sample the signal for 10 seconds at a sampling rate of 0.01 s. Put the time points into column A and the signal points into column B.

Create the Data

  1. Enter 0 for cell A1 in the current worksheet.

  2. Click cell A2, and type the formula "= A1 + 0.01".

  3. Click and hold the lower-right corner of cell A2 and drag the formula down the column to cell A1001. This procedure fills the range A1:A1001 with the interval 0–10 incremented by 0.01.

  4. Click cell B1, and type the following formula

    "= SIN(2*PI()*15*A1) + SIN(2*PI()*40*A1) + RAND()"

    Repeat the drag procedure to copy this formula to all cells in the range B1:B1001.

Run the Test

Using the column of data (column B), test the add-in as follows:

  1. Select Tools > Spectral Analysis from the main menu.

  2. Click the Input Data box.

  3. Select the B1:B1001 range from the worksheet, or type this address into the Input Data field.

  4. In the Sampling Interval field, type 0.01.

  5. Select Plot time domain signal and power spectral density.

  6. Enter C1:C1001 for frequency output, and likewise enter D1:D1001, E1:E1001, and F1:F1001 for the FFT real and imaginary parts, and spectral density.

  7. Click OK to run the analysis.

The next figure shows the output.

The power spectral density reveals the two signals at 15 Hz and 40 Hz.

Package and Distribute the Add-In

Package the add-in, the COM component, and all supporting libraries into a self-extracting executable. This package can be installed on other computers that use the Spectral Analysis add-in.

  1. On the Main File section of the toolstrip, choose one of these two options.

    OptionWhat Does This Option Do?When Should I Use This Option?
    Runtime downloaded from webThe MATLAB Runtime installer downloads the MATLAB Runtime from the MathWorks website.
    • You have many end users who deploy applications frequently

    • Your users have Internet access

    • Resources such as disk space, performance, and processing time are significant concerns for your organization

    Runtime included in packageThe MATLAB Runtime is included in the generated installer, which uses the included MATLAB Runtime.
    • You have a limited number of end users who deploy a few applications at sporadic intervals

    • Your users have no Internet access

    • Resources such as disk space, performance, and processing time are not significant concerns


      Distributing the MATLAB Runtime with the application requires more resources.

  2. Add others files that would be useful to end users.

    To package additional files or folders, add them to the Files installed for your end user field. See Specify Files to Install with Application.

  3. Click Package.

Install the Add-In

To install this add-in on another computer, copy the Fourier_pkg.exe package to that machine, run it from a command prompt, and follow the instructions in the GettingStarted.html file that is automatically generated with your packaged output.