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Professional Excel Development

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the mah-daddy-don't-have-no-excel-book dept.

Software 318

r3lody (Raymond Lodato) writes "Over the years, I've read a number of books on Excel programming. Each one seemed much like the previous one, generally talking about writing macros and creating data-entry forms. Professional Excel Development takes the concept quite a bit farther. Rather than giving you the same old tired lessons, this book goes into detail on exactly how to build professional level applications. It even explains how to make your Excel-based application look as though Excel had nothing to do with it. Suffice it to say, this ain't your daddy's Excel book." Read on for the rest of Lodato's review.

The authors, Stephen Bullen, Rob Bovey, and John Green, show a level of sophistication well beyond the norm. They'd rather teach you the proper way to program instead of teaching you how to use Excel. In fact, the first thing they do is distinguish five different levels of usage: Excel users, Excel power users, VBA developers, Excel developers, and professional Excel developers. The book is written for the highest level, so expect a lot of depth.

Rather than simply show how to record a macro and reuse it, they start by talking about coding practices, naming conventions and application structure. That's followed by an entire chapter on worksheet design, including names, styles, validation, formatting and controls. After a chapter on add-ins, they launch into the topic of dictator applications, that is, applications that completely take over the Excel interface and look like a regular, non-Excel program.

The following chapters go into much more detail about wringing every ounce of functionality from Excel, and then turning to the operating system and Visual Basic for more help. After discussing data manipulation with databases, they talk about using XLLs and the C API, VB.NET, and writing Help files to complete the application. The entire structure of the book builds around a time-entry application that is developed from a simple spreadsheet to a full-blown, production quality program. A CD-ROM is also included with all of the source code and multiple examples that are scattered throughout the book.

Reading Professional Excel Development is not something to be taken lightly. The authors have done a fine job putting together a cohesive methodology for using Excel as an application development platform. I know of no other book that covers this platform in such depth. At times I found myself lost in the details, but I suspect a "professional Excel developer" (which I am not) would be delighted in the depth of description and copious examples provided.

I tried to relate a lot of what Stephen, Rob, and John discussed to OpenOffice Calc, to see if it could be ported to an open source environment. I was surprised by how much actually came across. Granted, items in OpenOffice are sometimes in different places, or named differently, than their counterparts in Excel, but most of the same functionality is there. Unfortunately, most of the examples are written in VBA, which doesn't translate cleanly into OpenOffice. Still, with perseverance, you would probably be able to develop most of what is described in the book.

Professional Excel Development is an extremely well-written book that covers the use of Excel to a depth few authors have dared to tread. The text gives you the tools to build applications that are much more than automated spreadsheets. Almost any program your imagination can devise can be created using the techniques given, which is a testimony to the power of Excel. Bash Microsoft if you want, but they do sometimes come up with a winner, and Professional Excel Development allows you to take full advantage of its capabilities.


You can purchase Professional Excel Development: The Definitive Guide to Developing Applications Using Microsoft Excel and VBA from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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318 comments

Professional Excel Development (4, Funny)

ShaniaTwain (197446) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364852)

Isn't this like painting a house with tomato paste?

you could do it, but why?

Re: Professional Excel Development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12364880)

When the kids decide to egg your house, you have a giant sammich

Re: Professional Excel Development (3, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364919)

I'm with you. "Because you can" is a poor excuse for attempting something like that. There are plenty of F/OSS and proprietary development environments that are infinitely more suitable for application development than a scripted spreadsheet ever could be.

Put another way, I don't do accounting in Python - why would I want to write applications in Excel? Spreadsheets are the right tool for quite a few jobs, but this isn't one of them.

Re: Professional Excel Development (0, Redundant)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365002)

I don't do accounting in Python - why would I want to write applications in Excel?
Because it's an accounting application?

Re: Professional Excel Development (1)

Anonymous Luddite (808273) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365245)

>> Because it's an accounting application?

umm, it's an application not a development environment.

How many of us have been asked to fix an "application" only to find it's an Excel spreadsheet with page after page of uncommented macros and VBA behind it? arg.

"Excel" and "development" don't belong in the same sentence.

Re: Professional Excel Development (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365014)

If you are using spreadsheets to do your accounting it sounds like maybe you still need to work on this "right tool for the job" thing (unless you've just written a fantastic double-entry system in VB for Excel).

And I can think of lots of reasons to write applications in Excel. The best one being that you probably already have it on your machine (no need to purchase a development environment). Another good one being that probably most of your users will have the "platform" to run your application. What else? How about an insanely good function library, including some amazing graphing tools?

I try to stay away from MS in general, but you can do a lot worse than developing in Excel.

Re: Professional Excel Development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365204)

Nah, if you're really going to make a choice based on reasons like that, the least you could do is pick MS Access so you'd have an actual database. Not to mention decent multi-user capabilities. /Realizes that Access isn't a very good solution either

Wrong (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365074)

You can write excel applications that use .net. No vba, no macros.
It is used for scorecarding, reporting, analysis, etc. The spread sheet is just a presentation layer, if you will.

Would I use a spreadsheet to create an automated sprinkler system? no.
But I would use on to display data in a report form, like every other single fortune 1000 company there is.

Re: Professional Excel Development (1)

pegr (46683) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365211)

Put another way, I don't do accounting in Python - why would I want to write applications in Excel? Spreadsheets are the right tool for quite a few jobs, but this isn't one of them.


Don't think of it as a spreadsheet program. Think of it as a feature-rich set of APIs that are widely distributed... A runtime library, if you will.

Re: Professional Excel Development (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364957)

Excel is a fantastically powerful, flexible tool, and also has a portability advantage when working with people who have Office installed, but not Perl or Python (i.e. pretty much everyone). The fact that people here don't know how to do anything more complicated than adding column A to column B doesn't change that.

Now, if they'd only let me use a Mac at work, instead of making me run Excel on this hideous OS...

Obligatory link to the god of Excel programming [plala.or.jp] ...

Re: Professional Excel Development (0, Troll)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365031)

You make me laugh. Excel is MORE PORTABLE than Perl or Python?

This is an MS Office component we're talking about here. Consider yourself lucky if you can open last year's file format in this year's app properly...

Re: Professional Excel Development (3, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365232)

You make me laugh. Excel is MORE PORTABLE than Perl or Python?

Yeah, God forbid you should bother to read all the way to the end of that sentence.

Excel is more portable than a Perl script in the sense that nobody (to a reasonable approximation of nobody) has Perl installed, or would know what to do with it if they had it. (Yes, I'm sure some way to generate freestanding, cross-platform Perl executables exists. I was about to tell flamers not to bother, but, come to think of it, I'd love to see a link.)

Re: Professional Excel Development (3, Insightful)

blincoln (592401) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365075)

Excel is a fantastically powerful, flexible tool, and also has a portability advantage when working with people who have Office installed, but not Perl or Python (i.e. pretty much everyone). The fact that people here don't know how to do anything more complicated than adding column A to column B doesn't change that.

I'll give you that. You can do some cool stuff with Excel.

But why use it as essentially an application runtime when you could be using .NET, or Java, or C/C++?

If the advantage is supposed to be that it gives you a basis for storing data, my response would be that spreadsheets are not databases (as much as office workers like to pretend they are), and trusting production data to an XLS or CSV file is unwise.

The idea of developing "professional" application in Excel seems to me like ricing out a base model Civic and pretending it's a real race car. You can do it, and the Civic will go pretty fast, but why not get an actual sports car instead of putting a ton of time and effort into working around the limitations that come from starting with a family vehicle?

Years ago I worked at an internal corporate help desk, and I saw way too many people spending way too much time doing wack-ass shit in Excel when they could have used Access and done it all with a single SELECT statement.

This is even more extreme: developers tying themselves to what is not only a proprietary platform, but one that will almost certainly break their app as soon as MS releases the next version.

Re: Professional Excel Development (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365135)

Years ago I worked at an internal corporate help desk, and I saw way too many people spending way too much time doing wack-ass shit in Excel when they could have used Access and done it all with a single SELECT statement.

The problem there is Access is part of Office Pro, Excel comes with basic Office.

Excel as part of an overall app can be quite powerful. Data stored in some more stable backend, excel to do the caculations, output elsewhere.

Re: Professional Excel Development (1)

Balthisar (649688) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365273)

Not to mention that Office Pro: Mac doesn't have Access, either, regrettably.

Re: Professional Excel Development (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365302)

The problem there is Access is part of Office Pro, Excel comes with basic Office.

Ah, I was not aware of that. In our environment, every desktop has the suite that includes Access.


Excel as part of an overall app can be quite powerful. Data stored in some more stable backend, excel to do the caculations, output elsewhere.


Right. That's what Excel is for - importing data and transforming it. It's not designed to be the source of data itself.

Part of my confusion about the premise for this book is (like I said) what it's supposed to buy you. All of the form crap is easily handled with VB.NET, which you can get for super cheap. I got my copy for free during an MS promotion. If someone is a decent enough programmer to come up with something that makes Excel look like a whole other app, they can at least handle VB, and not have to deal with not only bugs in their own code, but bugs and security issues they inherit by using Excel as a runtime environment.

Re: Professional Excel Development (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365402)

As others have said, Access isn't always available. Also, getting a bit more out of the tools you already know is frequently preferable to learning and configuring something else from scratch, even if the latter is more efficient when the two are compared on equal terms.

But more to the point -- obviously there's a point where a real development environment beats Excel. Getting the most out of Excel doesn't require the complete renunciation of Java.

Re: Professional Excel Development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365115)

Because in some environments (certain secure networks) getting new software certified to run on the system can take months. MS Office (as much as I dislike the fact) is already approved for most of these networks. You would be suprised to learn how much the military uses MS Office and associated programs (MS Project). MS Office is meant to be extensible, and customizing Excel or Access with VBA is alot easier then writing software from scratch and then going through a certification process. Build on what exists.

Re: Professional Excel Development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365173)

That was the funniest true statement that i've heard in months. Thank you.

boom niggers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12364858)

smell

My god (0, Flamebait)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364859)

Do you REALLY need a book on how to program EXCEL? Good god, that's pretty pitiful if you think that you need excel to make a program. WHy not just learn a USEFUL language, like basic or C++?

Professional Excel Development? (5, Funny)

Shant3030 (414048) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364864)

Sounds like an oxymoron to me.

Re:Professional Excel Development? (1)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364971)

Professional: n.
Engaging in a given activity as a source of livelihood or as a career: a professional writer.
(dictionary.com)

Excel: n.
Something people use to run their business.

Development: n.
Determination of the best techniques for applying a new device or process to production of goods or services.

Since there will always be a new version of Office, there will always be development to do. And since so many people are stupid enough to pay for it, being a professional developing with it is always going to be possible.

Re:Professional Excel Development? (2, Funny)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365314)

'Excel: n.
Something people use to run their business.'

You misspelt 'ruin'.

(No, I'm not bitter that I didn't get in first with the oxymoron comment.)

Re:Professional Excel Development? (1)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365371)

Heh. In this case, it's probably both at once. No argument there. But if they want it, they feel they need it, and they cut checks that cash........

That's my point. Not that it's a good idea - noone ever said anything of the kind.

Re:Professional Excel Development? (1)

oever (233119) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364990)

And I thought the title of the comment I just posted [slashdot.org] was an oxymoron!

limits (2, Interesting)

vinnythenose (214595) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364869)

So as long as the spreadsheet it's based on never has more than 65536 entries.... or has that limitation finally been removed?

Re:limits (2, Informative)

steve6534 (809539) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364984)

Nope.. It's still there in Office 2003

Re:limits (1)

ogleslurp (631509) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365217)

Ummm...I hate to nitpick, but that's 65535 rows. Remember, each row gets you a whole 256 columns of fun!

Re:limits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365309)

Umm...I hate to nitpick, but it IS 65536 rows.

Experience helps too (3, Interesting)

chris09876 (643289) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364878)

Although it's necessary to get a good idea of how the tool (any tool) works, you really can't replace good experience working with a spreadsheet.

Knowing how the technology works is one thing, but knowing how to set up your tables and the data they contain is key. Depending on your use of the spreadsheet, and what you hope to get out of it, there are different ways you can organize worksheets/data. ...without doing things a number of times and thinking through how the system you're going to be building will be used, you'll likely end up with something inferior. Only experience can help you out there. coding practices, naming conventions and application structure are a good start, but that's about it.

Uh, yeah.. (0, Flamebait)

gUmbi (95629) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364881)

Call me cynical but I don't think it's possible to create "professional level applications" using Excel.

In fact, who is masochistic enough to even attempt writing a complex app in Excel? Let alone write a book about it...

Re:Uh, yeah.. (1)

vidnet (580068) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365061)

That's what they say/said about browsers.

Re:Uh, yeah.. (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365063)

> Call me cynical but I don't think it's possible to create "professional level
> applications" using Excel.

If you mean `for a living` then people write them in Excel, Access, Javascript, batch files... I mean, is this a snobbery thing, or are you making a judgement on the aesthetic appeal of apps?

Re:Uh, yeah.. (5, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365097)

But it's certainly possible to approach the range of things that Excel can do (which are substantial, especially when you use ODBC, etc., to patch into huge databases, etc) with a professional set of skills and business sensibilities.

A well-conceived Excel file can carry with it everything you need for a pretty elaborate bunch of data crunching and presentation, and that can hop from machine to machine very easily. Sales people in the field working up quotes, or managers chewing on inventory info before making a buying decision at a meeting - certainly they could just "use" a spreadsheet to do all of that, but having a purpose-specific UI sitting on top of it (without having to drag around other runtimes, etc) can really help when you're dealing with non-power-users.

"Professional level" can also refer to presentation sensibilities. For example, wise use of font families and graphs can make the tool's output more useful in a wider variety of settings. A pro knows how to wrap it all up in a smooth package, even if some of the logic is very simple. But a huge, complex, what-if business plan package friendly to investor-type users... that's a very cool type of app, with Excel running under the hood.

Re:Uh, yeah.. (4, Interesting)

ALeavitt (636946) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365147)

I'll bite: I'm masochistic enough to write complex apps in Excel. I'm pretty well-versed in Visual Basic, having used it since the 3.1 days, and I work in your typical cube farm. Everyone here "knows how to use Excel" but they often forget how to do those really complex things, like summing a column, or cutting and pasting. It got to the point where I was sick of dealing with inane help calls, so I started programming. Originally it was just going to be a few buttons to make everyone's life easier, but the project ballooned into a number of full-fledged programs that sit on top of Excel and hold the idiot-users' hands. I didn't initially set out to write a complex app in Excel, but I ended up doing it because it was the only way that many of the simpletons would accept and use the program... or even know how to run it.

Re:Uh, yeah.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365178)

Excel has power users just like Emacs does.
Excel is to these "professional level application", what Emacs Lisp is Emacs.

If that doesn't make sense, read on.

Excel power users are just like any other power user. They want the full functionality of the most powerful industry standard tool out there. They want it the way they're used to having it.

The problem is Excel gives them "enough rope to hang themselves", while at the same time it doesn't understand the specific details of their business.

So now you have to write an app for these people that does everything that Excel does, while minimizing their ability to hang themselves, and also understands their business a bit better.

In other words, this app is going to be 95% Excel, and 5% customization.

Who is masochistic enough to even attempt re-implementing Excel for this app? Start with what the user knows, wants, and understands. Then add some customizations.

Re:Uh, yeah.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365188)

Actually it is possible. I'm a C/C++(unix & win)/VB/Java/C# developer and I'm bigotted toward n-teir loosely coupled complex messaging based apps in general (at least this 5-year stretch). That said for reporting apps, on the fly psudo-accounting apps and making spreadsheet happy users feel at home nothing beats Excel and the rapid development available with Excel beats just about any IDE out there. I'd never have felt this way until 4 years ago when I met a true "Professional Excel Developer" and witnessed the horror of what they could do and the speed with which they can do it. It's certainly not a multi-user n-tier system but it's cheaper doesn't cost as much and is an infinitely more justifiable UI (financially speaking) for many enterprise apps.

Is excel really for development? (0, Flamebait)

airjrdn (681898) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364883)

Do people really "develop" in Excel?

Re:Is excel really for development? (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365045)

Do people really "develop" in Excel?

Yes, they do. They start as newbies, then they begin to grow up...

Mr Burns says (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12364886)

Mr Burns: Excel(lent!)

excel?! (2, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364887)

hmm excel? isn't that what everyone here complains about leading to a huge mess of macros backed onto a spreadsheet that was never intended for it.

if you think something will grow beyond a triviality a database is a much better idea

Re:excel?! (1)

Beetjebrak (545819) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365054)

But we have Access for that!!

..erm.. oh well.. at least it *LOOKS* like a database. Better make sure you have a decent backup strategy in place before you trust anything important to a .MDB file.

Re:excel?! (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365335)

yeah iirc microsoft provides a migration path for access soloutions though.

i belive its known as the upsizing wizard and lets you move the backend to sql server whilst keeping the frontend in access.

Why are we encouraging this? (-1)

SmellyCarney (160389) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364899)

Spreadsheets SHOULD NOT BE PROGRAMS for fsck's sake. This is just encouraging more idiocy. I think it's time for me to go home now.

Re:Why are we encouraging this? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365052)

Well spreadsheets are not programs - but there is no reason not to attach behaviour to a spreadsheet. You probably are happy to write code that manipulates a database - just think of the spreadsheet as a noddy database perhaps.

What the hell is going on today? (1, Insightful)

HyperChicken (794660) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364900)

Excel book review? IRC chat log? "Converting Users to Open Source- Why Do You Care?"? Has Slashdot suddenly become not so Slashdot?

This is throwing my entire perception of reality into question.

Re:What the hell is going on today? (1)

CyberKnet (184349) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365187)

Nope. It's just the new "SlashNot" feature that shows the worst of the worst from the rejected articles pool... go into your options and you can disable it =)

-1 Oxymoron (0, Flamebait)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364910)

``Excel'' and ``professional'' still don't go together, though it's getting better [66.102.7.104] .

Programming? (4, Funny)

daeley (126313) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364911)

My daddy didn't need Excel to make grocery lists, nor PowerPoint to give a speech, nor Word to send a letter.

My daddy also called "spreadsheet programming" "math" and did it in his head or with a slide rule. ;D

Re:Programming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12364948)

And now he's dead. Shows what he knew.

Re:Programming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12364951)

What else did your daddy do? Did he do something dirty in the garden shed when mommy was away?

Bloody peasant! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365339)

What else did your daddy do? Did he do something dirty in the garden shed when mommy was away?

I emplore you to continue in your mockery of tapping one's plowshare into soil and spilling fertilizer among the grass.

This better be for Office 2003 (3, Informative)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364914)

My advice is to not build huge applications in Office unless you have absolutely up-to-date versions. There are certain points in Office 97 / 2000 where you get to a critical load area of your code and suddenly die. Function calls are in the help but don't quite work properly. Old products aren't supported. I'm buying this book because I need it, but building an app with older tools - something many office users are relegated to - is not that great an idea.

Note: this could all change in Office 2003.

Re:This better be for Office 2003 (2, Insightful)

Decaff (42676) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365403)

My advice is to not build huge applications in Office unless you have absolutely up-to-date versions.

My advice is not to build any huge applications in Pffice, as sooner or later your versions won't be up-to-date, and porting this kind of thing between different versions of Office has been a huge and messy exercise in the past, and there is no guarantee it won't be in the future. There is a place for large amounts of code, and it is not tied to Office-type calculations. It should be in libraries which can then be accessed by any application. This is why Windows allows COM/ActiveX development.

Amateur Access Development (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12364931)

I fear that becoming pro will render my qualification for the upcoming Computer olympics void.

Damn that Olympic committee!

Re:Amateur Access Development (2, Funny)

devoss (717340) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365136)

Excel development might actually be part of the special olympics, I'll check on that.

Programming (1)

PenGun (794213) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364933)

Please don't let your students use basic or visual basic, it will destroy any chance of learning to write real code. It's been said before by smarter people than me and it's _true_ folks.

PenGun
Do What Now ??? ... Standards and Practices !

Re:Programming (3, Insightful)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365087)

Please don't let your students use basic or visual basic, it will destroy any chance of learning to write real code.

Malarkey. I started programming in Tandy BASIC in the early 1980's, and it didn't instill in me any bad habits that I was unable to shake once I moved on to Pascal, C, C++, Perl, Java, etc. "GOTO Considered Harmful"? In modern high level languages, yes, we have more elegant syntaxes for branching. But in assembly, what is a JMP instruction anyway but a GOTO?

Visual Basic, I have no experience with and do not wish to gain any.

Re:Programming (1)

PenGun (794213) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365172)

Exceptions prove rules. A cheap copout true, but you are an exception. Many people don't recover from basic. Visual basic will finish almost anyone.

PenGun
Do What Now ??? ... Standards and Practices !

Re:Programming (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365243)

Oh, like I'm the ONLY Slashdotter who got their start in some flavor of BASIC. What's true of me is true of AN ENTIRE GENERATION of programmers.

Tell me, what language did YOU start with? Did you spring fully formed from your father's head, clutching a disk full of flawless C code?

Re:Programming (1)

Decaff (42676) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365348)

In modern high level languages, yes, we have more elegant syntaxes for branching. But in assembly, what is a JMP instruction anyway but a GOTO?

Which is fine if you want to program in assembler. The elegant syntaxes in high level languages are there for a reason - to help make code easier to maintain and develop.

Search for "Excel" on Askjolene (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12364939)

returns http://shanesworldgalleries.com/maeva/1.jpg [shanesworldgalleries.com] Shanesw orld
maybe Microsoft didnt trademarked the string "excel"?

God help us (3, Informative)

oniony (228405) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364945)

Heaven forbid any of the traders in the investment bank I work in get a hold of a copy of this. It's bad enough as it is trying to get them to move over to the manageable, scalable applications we build for them without encouraging them to build more spreadsheet solutions.

Re:God help us (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365238)

Yeah, but when you're looking for more work, won't some "requirements development"
in an .xls be just the "God help us" boon you seek?

Professional Excel Development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12364964)

Isn't this like painting a house with tomato paste?

you could do it, but why?

all hail the ignorant masses! (4, Insightful)

Jailbrekr (73837) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364968)

To quote the first two:

"Professional Excel Development? Isn't that an oxymoron?"

"Professional Excel Development is like painting a house with tomatoe paste"

The entire financial sector bases its existance on Excel. Brokers, bankers, and virtually every banking or stock related position has a deep dependance on Excel. Laugh all you like at the thought of a professional excel developer, but I highly doubt that these firms will simply drop Excel in favour of some smelly nerds coding in C#.

Re:all hail the ignorant masses! (0, Flamebait)

Soko (17987) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365043)

The entire financial sector bases its existance on Excel. Brokers, bankers, and virtually every banking or stock related position has a deep dependance on Excel. Laugh all you like at the thought of a professional excel developer, but I highly doubt that these firms will simply drop Excel in favour of some smelly nerds coding in C#.

--
Feed the need: Digitaladdiction.net


A very apropos sig, friend. Now you know why I wouldn't code anything overly importatnt in Excel/VBA.

Soko

Re:all hail the ignorant masses! (3, Insightful)

Arker (91948) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365130)

Umm no. The financial sector uses mainframes, minicomputers, serious database applications... and in many cases even the clients are on OS/2. You may see excel on the desktop of some mid-level folks in the sector, but claiming that 'the entire financial sector bases it's existance[sic] on Excel' is ludicrous in the extreme.


The stereotype/gratuitous insult about 'smelly nerds' just adds confirmation - you haven't a clue what you're talking about.



Re:all hail the ignorant masses! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365283)

Oops, looks like a few people with actual experience have replied. Sorry, but it looks like you're staring into a mirror there dude.

Re:all hail the ignorant masses! (2, Informative)

Gailin (138488) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365210)

I personally work for an S&P 500 company whose primary role is as a bank, and providing financial services to other companies.

I whole-heartedly agree that excel is used a lot when it comes to sharing data amongst colleagues or when providing reports.

But the serious number crunching, the real work and administration is done mostly with Mainframes and Oracle databases, which are accessed by Delphi, J2EE, and proprietary C++ apps.

Not that my experiences invalidate your assertion. I just figured I would toss in my own anectdote.

Gailin

Re:all hail the ignorant masses! (1)

Jailbrekr (73837) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365261)

Thank you. I will admit that my statement was quite broad and simplistic, but lets be honest here, this is slashdot. Broad and simplistic is all these people can handle.

So based on your experience, would you agree that Excel is an integral component of your firm? A component which would benefit from "professional excel development"?

Re:all hail the ignorant masses! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365225)

The entire financial sector bases its existance on Excel

Yup. I'm getting paid over $100 per hour by some financial guys at Big Company to turn some excel spreadsheets into web applications for their intranet. Do I want to write VB.Net code for these financial wankers? Hell no. The stuff they want is insane, but they have very deep pockets and spend money like it's going out of style on seeminly trivial stuff. The things they think are important... wow.

But my point is, Excel is what they know. It's what they want. They'll pay you lots and lots to give them what they want. Laugh it you want, I'm laughing all the way to the bank.

All hail the fanboys! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365359)

As soon as anybody questions or otherwise scoffs at use of a Microsoft product, the first thing you need to do is question their connection to reality. Remember - nobody ever got fired for using Microsoft. Secondly, further alienate the indivudal with name calling. The name should reenforce a tenious grasp of reality and alienate the individual. "Smelly nerd" was an excellent choice. Note that "hippie" or "zealot" would have also been acceptable (although these terms tend to be a bit more agressive and may alienate the attacker).

Papa? (4, Funny)

blueadept1 (844312) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364974)

Suffice it to say, this ain't your daddy's Excel book. You know what, it's generalizations like this that make me sick. My father is a professional Excel developer, and he would be VERY disgusted to hear this comment.

fine and well, but... (1)

yagu (721525) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364987)

I'm happy for the authors and the glowing review of their work, but I continue to wonder that "production" apps be written with that tool (but then, I wonder about VB apps, too). Amazing apps can be written using Excel (I know, I've written some, but only for me) but I think there is a danger in granting spreadsheets the imprimatur of "production". Not because Excel isn't up to the task but more because of the casual treatment of the world of spreadsheets in IT. I don't believe I've ever seen project management and version control around spreadsheets though both are possible. Also, the level of sophistication to create these applications introduces another problem (in my opinion...): the sophistication required is far beyond the typical Excel user and/or spreadsheet creator (in my anecdotal experiences), and the allure of Excel as a real programming tool is non-existent for the typical IT person... leaving Excel in an interesting netherland.

Re:fine and well, but... (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365299)

I did one time-management application for a small group of people
where an MS Abcess database published .xls files for people to track time usage.
Files were returned to an "inbox" folder on the network, and periodically merged to the .mdb for reporting.
The .xls was the moral equivalent of an HTTP form, and the whole system a beautifully retro batch application.
Of course, even such a dert simple tool still can have problems; this one was perceived as PHB-ware, and I haven't heard whether or not it ever achieved reasonable acceptance.

SQL? (1)

Nikademus (631739) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364992)

What about making a real professional job using a [Postgre|My]SQL database instead and a web server? Instead of something that will just break by itself with time?

Re:SQL? (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365126)

What about making a real professional job using a [Postgre|My]SQL database instead and a web server?

Portability. Not everyone has access to a web server, even running locally. Just about everyone in the business world knows, loves, and uses Excel. So it's a natural fit.

Re:SQL? (1)

Nikademus (631739) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365296)

Do you intend that Excel is portable??? I don't think so.

Re:SQL? (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365150)

If you want to completely re-write the massive presentation layer, and you think that you can without using an Excel ActiveX Control, I say go right ahead. You'll have people beating down your door to buy it. Excel isn't designed for data storage, it's designed for presentation, and certain kinds of simple data manipulation.

Not worth the trouble (1, Troll)

omibus (116064) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364996)

It isn't worth the trouble to do it in Excel, expecially not anything professional!

Buckle down and do it for real--write an application. Heck, even VB6 is a step up from that.

Note: I actually tried to do a large project in excel, utilizing Pivot Tables, VBA, and outside DLLs. It was a MESS! The speadsheet would corrupt monthly, sometimes weekly, and it took forever to compile the data in. Later on I rebuilt it as a SQL Server, MSOLAP, and ASP.NET application. It hasn't crashed once since then.

Re:Not worth the trouble (1)

GileadGreene (539584) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365207)

It isn't worth the trouble to do it in Excel, expecially not anything professional!

Whether or not it's worth the trouble depends largely on what you're trying to do. While your particular application worked better with SQL and ASP.NET, there are others that work better with Excel. Just like there are some applications where Java or C++ is a better choice than SQL and ASP.NET. Don't make the mistake of assuming that your problem domain is the same as everyone elses.

I've seen several applications where Excel really was the best tool for the job, and one or two where an Excel front end combined with e.g. a PostgreSQL backend accessed through ODBC was a great solution. I've also seen Excel used for things it really shouldn't be (like orbit propagation and solar illumination analysis - it can be done, but why bother when there's Matlab?). It all comes down to picking the right tool for the job.

I know where they use excel (3, Insightful)

Mantorp (142371) | more than 9 years ago | (#12364998)

It's called the real world, based on the ridiculous comments thus far I suggest a visit.

Re:I know where they use excel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365138)

The parent is right.

I used to work in finance for one of the worlds largest and most respected technology companies. We had thousands of engineers working on all sorts of amazing things but when it came to making sure they got paid, the accounting was right, the money was invested and the budget balanced EVERYTHING was done with Excel, and then of course fed into the ERP. I've seen some of the best (better than any commercially available product) and worst Excel applications. Trust me there are a lot of people who could benefit from a book like this.

Sure, *use* it (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365291)

It's just a spreadsheet. But FFS use a real programming environment to produce applications. Hell, even use an MS programming environment. "Developing" an application on Excel is the height of short sightedness, it's positively myopic.

Sophistication (0, Troll)

amightywind (691887) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365011)

The authors, Stephen Bullen, Rob Bovey, and John Green, show a level of sophistication well beyond the norm

If they showed that then they would not develop in Excel at all. Why would /. run a puff piece on one of the most reviled of M$ bloatware?

Bleh (1)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365019)

"This ain't your daddy's Excel book"???

No, it isn't. My daddy's Excel book steered clear of the trite cliches.

Professional Excel Development? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365023)

Sounds like an oxymoron to me.

but what I really want (2, Interesting)

Soong (7225) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365033)

Is a light weight Free/free spreadsheet either written in Java or otherwise ported to MacOS X. I specifiy "light weight" because OO.org seems just as bulky and bloated as M$-ware.

Yes people develop excel, no not with VBA (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365047)

it's called VSTO. You can creat a full expandable, scalable application with it.
I know, I am doing it now.
It doesn't use macros, or VBA. You can write clean OO code.

Re:Yes people develop excel, no not with VBA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365122)

I know, I am doing it now.

No, Mr doo-doo head. You are surfing the net and posting on /. instead of working.

Get back to work, you lazy bum! Or else your boss may outsource your job to Pakistan.

Excel - geeky clever stuff (2, Interesting)

datafr0g (831498) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365111)

I've seen a hell of a lot of spreadsheets but these ones are brilliant. Space Invaders and Pacman coded in Excel [geocities.jp] .
Each cell represents a pixel.

Productivity with VBA(R) scripting (2, Insightful)

ion_ (176174) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365129)

With some Excel(R) scripting, you can create sophisticated applications that really boost your productivity.

Here are some programs I use daily:

  • Pacelman [geocities.jp]
  • Excellence(TM) [pouet.net] (sorry to wh.+ my own product -- but hey, it's open source!)

etch-a-sketch and spirograph (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365222)

Hold on... I almost have my "etch-a-sketch and spirograph" Excel-based programs complete! Now with this book, I'll get them posted ASAP.

Baler... (1)

wiresquire (457486) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365235)

Well, despite the fact I'm a little dubious about using excel as a programming language/platform, it reminded me of a program I had seen many years ago that was 'interesting'.

It's called Baler and basically took a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet (with macros) and compiled it into a self executing exe. (Yes it was that many years ago that 1-2-3 was the dominant s/sheet under DOS :-/ )

So I did a quick google and found there is a visual baler. Check out
http://the-ciba.com/vbaler/vbaler.html [the-ciba.com]

Knock yourself out, if that's your kind of thing :-)

Best Oxymoron of the Year! (0, Troll)

rastin (727137) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365319)

Professional Excel Development

I don't know... "Microsoft Works" still holds gas. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365380)

n/t

Kind of reminds me... (2, Funny)

Evil Butters (772669) | more than 9 years ago | (#12365369)

Kind of reminds me of that time Kif programmed that Holo-Shed program in just 4 million lines of BASIC.

Nothing funnier... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12365384)

than reading the comments of a bunch of open-source fanatics on Excel Development. Most of the people commenting have never even SEEN Excel...It's too funny!
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