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XLCue Introduction

Page history last edited by aff@... 13 years, 1 month ago

Where do I get XLCue?




You can view some sample shows at




but those are older versions of the XLCue program which should not be used for starting new shows.


What is XLCue and what does it do?


XLCue is an Excel spreadsheet with Visual Basic For Applications (VBA) code working behind the scenes.   It allows you to setup Submasters, Groups, and Patching, and to write lighting Cues, in a spreadsheet format.  XLCue then writes a specially formatted text file, as defined by the USITT ASCII standard, which can be imported by many lighting consoles and off-line editors.  XLCue can also import USITT ASCII files written by other systems.  The newest version of XLCue can also communicate with an Enttec OpenDMX USB->DMX converter to control DMX devices directly.  This is intended to be used as an aid during programming, using XLCue to control a live performance is not recommended.


XLCue is primarily focused on writing cues in a spreadsheet format.  It has special functions that are intended for controlling color changing devices (scrollers, etc.) and other devices controlled using DMX (moving lights, fog machines, gobo rotators, etc.).


You can use XLCue to pre-program a show then do all editing with an off-line editor or console.  Or you can use XLCue for all programming and editing, importing changes made elsewhere as necessary.  You can also use XLCue to import a show programmed elsewhere to make bulk edits that might otherwise be cumbersome on many lighting consoles.


XLCue was originally created to work with and has been tested with ETC's Express Off-Line Editor.  It should be generally compatible with any lighting console or off-line editor which can read and write the USITT ASCII standard.


What doesn't XLCue do?


XLCue is limited because it interacts with your console only through the USITT ASCII format, which specifics things like channel levels in individual cues.  Popular modern lighting consoles running software such as the High End's Wholehog 3 system, MA Lighting's GrandMA system, or ETC's EOS or Congo systems, have a huge range of functionality beyond what is represented in the USITT ASCII standard.  These systems may be able to read and write the USITT ASCII files to communicate with XLCue, but XLCue can't talk to them about things like moving light profiles, palettes, effects, and tracking.


XLCue was designed as a complement to ETC's Express series, although even that console line has many, many features, especially for dealing with automated lighting, that XLCue can't understand.


XLCue is best for working with shows that use conventional lighting instruments and color changing devices.  It has features to help you work with automated lighting instruments, but if you are experienced with and can use one of the more advanced consoles described above, it is unlikely that you would find an advantage by using XLCue, and there is always overhead effort in moving information between XLCue and a lighting console.


XLCue also has a few limitations which are arbitrary or linked to Excel's limitations or the limitations of the Express console that XLCue was designed to work with.  Currently, XLCue can only work with 250 channels.  While the USITT ASCII standard allows channel values to be written in 0-100 or in hex values 0-255 (as DMX data is actually stored), XLCue works like the Express console line and only deals with percentage values 0-100.  This may be incompatible or at least restricting when using some specific automated lighting instruments or other non-dimmer devices controlled by DMX.

XLCue works to generate a precisely formatted text file from a spreadsheet, and the otherway around.  While you can probably expect that the text file generated by your console or off-line editor is perfect, or at least consistent, the spreadsheet that you've created may not be.  XLCue does not fully verify the validity of many pieces of data you've given it, so it can either write an invalid text file, or just "crash" (see Appendix: Crashing and debugging for how to deal with this), with or without giving you a useful error message.  Exhaustively verifying all user inputs on the spreadsheet is beyond XLCue's scope, so many decisions have to be made about what to check.  Adding more verification of user inputs, in the most advantageous places, is an area of ongoing development that we'd like to hear feedback about.




XLCue Requirements:



PC running Microsoft Excel (Excel 2003 recommended, 2000 and 2007 not fully tested)

A lighting console or off-line editor which can read and write USITT ASCII files (such as ETC's Express Off-Line Editor)

3.5" Floppy disk drive (if required to transfer data to your lighting console, such as with ETC's Express series)


Live Mode:

Enttec OpenDMX USB and drivers.  See the Appendix: OpenDMX USB Drivers.



You should be familiar with basic Excel operations.  See the Appendix: Basic Excel.

You should be familiar with basic lighting console concepts and terminology.  See the Appendix: Lighting Concepts & Terms.



Macro Security settings to use XLCue:


XLCue relies heavily on Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) or "Excel macros".  Because malicious code such as a virus could use VBA to damage your computer, Excel has Security settings allowing you to turn off macros or to prompt a user asking whether to run macros in every Excel file.  To make sure you can use XLCue, follow these steps:


1)  In Microsoft Excel, select the Tools->Macro->Security menu item.


2)  Set the Security Level to Medium (recommended, you will be asked whether to enable macros every time you open XLCue) or Low (you will not be asked, use this only if you're 100% confident you'll never open an Excel file that might contain malicious code).

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