Empower your users with spreadsheets

23 June 2016

Programmers tend to look down their noses at Excel. Data belongs in databases—relational, "noSQL" or otherwise. Spreadsheets are a throwback to the past.

Except that in the world of non-programmers they're not. Here Excel is everywhere.

And as Oz du Soleil points out during an insightful conversation with Scott Hanselman, locking data away in a database can be disempowering to those non-programmers for whom accessing and manipulating data is still a vital part of their role.

Du Soleil gives the example of an employee at a non-profit foundation who needs to report on how grants have been spent. Rather than having to constantly rely on the IT/development team to query the figures for them, all they want is direct access to a spreadsheet which they can jig around and jazz up with graphs, images, fonts etc. before presenting to the benefactors.

As developers we should have more respect for spreadsheets and be prepared to include them as part of the range of features we offer our users/clients.

For CFML developers, working with spreadsheets is simple. Adobe ColdFusion has functionality built-in, while for Lucee there's the free Lucee Spreadsheet library which offers a full set of methods for reading, writing and manipulating spreadsheets using the latest Apache POI API.

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