Friday, February 17, 2006

Excel: The Data Island

Not that this needs to be said, but here it is anyway. Excel is one of the most popular tools to be used on a Microsoft desktop. If someone is using a desktop, and is working on it for more than three hours in a day, besides using the browser, Excel is perhaps what is being used.

Using this wonderful piece of software, people build their portfolios, their contact lists, their business model, their companys financial results, their production plan, their home accounts- the list is endless. The users puts the data that needs to be worked on into Excel and get cracking. This wonderful piece of software sits there, on the desktop, smug, completly oblivious to the fact that there is a teeming world of information out there. Excel with its pristine, neatly laid out rows and columns, gleaming white, waits for its users to populate it. The users love its scratch-pad like flexibility so much that they spend their time heavy lifting the data from multiple sources, or worse, typing it all in, never mind working the fingers to death. And all this in times when the information superhighway is zipping by, carrying loads and loads of information. Even in these times, if you are a Excel user, YOU are the one who is going to do the work for getting the data into it. No, siree, no other options!

Amazing, isnt it? I mean, if it had'nt been for the fact that we are "used" to Excel being this way, this is the first thing we would notice about Excel, right? That it is not connected to the "rest of the world". Its a data island.

And it has stayed that way. For years and years. At least till date. Barring users who can write complex SQL queries and know XML, getting data into Excel is as manual a process as it used to be, back in the information stone age. This, for a software that is HUGELY popular and perhaps contains about 25% of the worlds data!

Ok, ok. Maybe I exagerrate. Maybe there is 5% of the worlds data in Excel files. Maybe it is 30%. Who knows - there aren't any studies that tell you where people keep their data. But most of us know intuitively know that if a day dawned when the Excel application stops reading our XLS files, it would be a bad day indeed. Very bad. For some of us, disastrous.

So, how come we don't have Excel connected to the "rest of the world"? How come we can't download our data straight into Excel, whichever the source? How come it is still so painful to populate our Excel file? How come we love the fact that we have to only type a URL to get the data we need in a browser, and continue to be resigned to the painful Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V where Excel is concerned?

Makes one muse, does'nt it?

1 comment:

Sangeeta Patni said...

Some muse..