Ideas Park : Excel to Web Applications
One of the worlds most popular RAD environments is Excel. But Excel is a pain to share and god forbid you need a third party to enter data into your carefully crafted spreadsheets. Now imagine this problem compounded n times over when an organisation attempts to collate data via a shared spreadsheet. You get to play our favourite corporate gamesÂ such as,
- Who has the master copy?
- Where did all my changes go?
- I updated that last week
- We’ve changed the format this month
So we all love Excel, but we need better ways to control data entry and sharing.
So take your Excel spreadsheet and parse all the presentation material out it in order to generate a web page.Â Now use an AJAX interface to hide intermediate workbooks, behinds the scenes tables etc. etc. Now ink in the data entry fields so they become highlighted. You now have a AJAX/HTML application version of your spreadsheet.
Now you load this into a runtime framework (probably encompassing the Excel DLL ‘cos who wants to rewrite all that code) and you wrap it in a proper web login environment along with profile and preference information and you store all computation and changes in a database so every version of the spreadsheet is kept when each set of values is changed by each user.
Finally you allow the designer to upload new versions of the spreadsheet and store that in a history as well. Finally you offer a sharing capability so a user can invite other users to access and use spreadsheet, safe in the knowledge that a single master and all changes are held centrally.
Now you can offer it as a hosted service, charging each user a few cents for each spreadsheet they access or charging the owner a most substantial fee on a monthly basis for hosting their application.
How hard can that be?