Slashdot Discussion

A (great!) review of Professional Excel Development was posted on Slashdot yesterday and has triggered a very interesting discussion about the pros and cons of Excel development, and why people would create applications using Excel. Take a look.

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12 thoughts on “Slashdot Discussion

  1. Hi Stephen,

    I read the review & many of the comments – some obvioulsy written by people who don’t actually use Excel very much – all in all I thought it was quite positive…

    I actually received a copy of your book today courtesy of a “friend” and Amazon.co.uk – I am looking forward to reading it – (The first thing I did was to install the VBE tools from the CD – cool! )

    I’ll let you know after I have got to page 884!!

    Will

  2. Yeah it appears Slashdot is full of people that just want bash anything they don’t use such as things owned by Microsoft or another development platform besides the one they use.

    I love when programmers who only know one language automatically assume that is the best one out there.

    I used to swear by C++ until I realized how easy VB was. Now I am more willing to learn any language.

  3. “…Slashdot is full of people that just want bash anything …”

    Like the sensless comment that was made about not doing accounting with Python so why do programming with Excel? Lets see: Quicken, Peachtree, Springbrook aren’t those accounting packages? Would you do a full blown accounting system with Excel out of the box? NOT! You could do accounting with Python and Excel too for that matter…

    I could be described as a power user of Excel and certainly not a developer or pro developer. I have purchased the book and appreciate it because it does not condescend as do other so called ‘Bible’ books (J-Walk an exception of course); it stretches the imagination based on how ‘pros’ do things – it is a challenge and I like that! Great Job!

    (What I would like to know: is there a forum that some of the issues in the PED could be discussed [I have some questions concerning Chpt 10?])

  4. Hey Jim,

    Now don’t go telling everyone how old I am :)

    Doco, Stephen recommends the microsoft newsgroups – I guess microsoft.public.excel.misc might be a good place to fire off a discussion….

    Having said that, as has been shown with slashdot, I guess you could fire off a post on any number of (excel) forums and spark a lively discussion :)

    2p

  5. It’s interesting to see discussions about when (and why) to use different kind of tools.

    Unfortunately public discussions tend to get “one-eyed” very fast as there are people with strong opinions and limited wider knowledge.

    When lurking around Excel-related sites and public forums it’s obvious that a discussion about when and why to use Excel would be a highly welcome contribution.

    I believe we all should take a more critical point of view.

    After all, Excel is nowadays one of several tools in developer’s toolbox.

    And it becomes more clearly when we put Excel in the context of corporation’s business information systems.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  6. “After all, Excel is nowadays one of several tools in developerís toolbox.

    And it becomes more clearly when we put Excel in the context of corporationís business information systems.”

    I am a tax assessor; we (statewide) spend millions in program development annualy. Currently we (county)are replacing our legacy system with a new one beginning with real property appraisal program. I have been convinced that a COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) appraisal program with a COTS back end database is all that is needed. The entire rest of our assessment and tax could be pushed through Office Products: with assessment and tax calculation in Excel and Tax Billing in Word. Fully 100% of office machines statewide have Office 2000 or better – and yet go unused for the most part. We then hire programmers to re-invent the wheel in regard to UI with complete disregard for residency of Office Products – now that is ignorance in action in my opinion – not to mention a waste of taxpayer dollars.

    Additionally, I saw a woman in another department a awhile back using a 10 key adding machine to make calculations and putting the results in an Excel spreadsheet. When confronting her about what she was doing, her response was she didn’t know how to use Excel and didn’t have the desire for me to teach her – I believe I would have fired her on the spot had she been in my office… (I am certain to speak to her boss about it. What’s he thinking?)

  7. It takes a long time to learn and understand how to effectively use the myriad of logic layers that are embedded in Excel. This is why most programmers will never condone Excel as a development platform. It is an unique software tool that can “do stuff” without code and then interact through code to convey results.
    People like Stephen, Rob and John invested years of time to learn the innards of Excel, so how can a pure programmer be expected to appreciate Excel’s inherent creative potential that they now take for granted?

  8. Doco: If you have specific questions about PED, you can feel free to send them to me. I’ll post them. Two of the three authors are registered Daily Dosers – plus I’m sure you’ll get plenty of other opinions.

  9. “It takes a long time to learn and understand “

    This is true, but it has been around a long time and has not been hidden under a bushel either. I am told by my brother who is now a reputable developer in California, that he is just “one manual ahead of his competition…”

    For the simple reason that Office products are resident on the vast majority of machines world-wide, is reason enough to maximize their capabilities; therefore maximizing technology dollars. I could be wrong I suppose, but I doubt it. ;-)

  10. doco said:

    “We then hire programmers to re-invent the wheel in regard to UI with complete disregard for residency of Office Products – now that is ignorance in action in my opinion – not to mention a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

    Amazing, isn’t it?

    I don’t know how many times I’ve seen applications that have cost hundreds or even thousands of consulting hours to produce that barely manage to crank out a credible imitation of the spreadsheet matrix model.

    I’ve even asked a few times:

    “Did it ever occur to you to use Excel?”

    The response is usually a mixture of confusion, prejudice and embarrassment.

  11. Excel is cheap and widely available. What people don’t know it that it is extremely fast (except the 2007 version).
    You can solve systems of differential equation with ease just to mention one application. The graphics is not great but it’s satisfactory for most applications. Two years ago, while working for Freescale I took one of their Matlab/Simulink accelerometer model and translated it in excel. This is something fairly complex both as electronics and mecanics. Of course most of the people in the group were hostile since teir idle time between simulation runs would have been reduced if and Excel model was to be used. It was 50-100 times faster in Excel while keeping a good precision. The neat part about Excel is that it has most of the necessary tools within reach and they are all easy to use. If you keep VBA at an absolute minimum your model will remain very fast and easy to program. It is aso a 2D programming canvass therefore it’s very easy to plan and debug. People who complain about Excel are just misinformed or ignorant. Check out a planetary system in 3D or a roller coaster build in excelat at .

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