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Spreadsheet access online

Posted on 2003-10-27
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Last Modified: 2010-05-18
I want to look at the possibility of doing a 12 month budget online with several departments (at different locations) contributing. Is it possible to display and allow changes/modifications to a spreadsheet online? How could this be done? What language would be the best to choose? Would a database with a java based frontend be a better way to do this or is there a much better way? The data would need to be able to be saved,printed,recalled,exported.
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Question by:jetstream
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Expert Comment

by:fozylet
ID: 9631235
I would suggest an ASP/MS Access combination as the load looks mild (intra-office).

If the data is being shared and updated at different locations, porting to a web application is a much better idea than maintaining an excel sheet in a common shared location (say)

If no more than 10 users (connections, to be precise) are going to be there, you can use PWS as the web server and ASP/MS Access as the script/database.

If user count is going to be more, use IIS instead. If you are using Win2K/WInXP Pro then IIS is a standard component. The database and web server can reside in one machine and be used by all in either case through their web browser (thus no installation required).
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Expert Comment

by:scully00000
ID: 9636170
Agree with fozylet. Have to say though, you might be better off looking at MySQL - it's free, powerful and very flexible. Also, Apache is THE standard web-server on the web. Having said that, it depends what experience you have. If you have any Visual Basic experience - go for ASP on PWS or IIS. If not, go for PHP on Apache. PHP is (IMHO) more flexible, and easier to get quick results with.

Cheers
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Author Comment

by:jetstream
ID: 9639395
Thanks for the input. I thought I'd add some more clarity. It is most likely that MS products will not be used. There will be upto 10-15 users, but not all at the same time. Apache will be the web-server. The database will probably be either MySQL or Postgres.     I really need to know whether this can be done before moving forward. The issues I'd be looking at are how to handle formulas, instant updating, whether it would look/feel/act like a spreadsheet, whether formulas could be changed online or if only basic modifications/changes could be done.
Cheers.
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Expert Comment

by:scully00000
ID: 9640441
Jetstream

As far as looking like a spreadsheet goes - PHP and MySQL CAN be made to look like a spreadsheet if you really want it to - you'd have to spend a fair amount of time coding it though. PHP/MySQL definitely updates instantly. What kind of formulas do you want to include? Also, give me a bit more detail of what the 'online budget' is. From what I understand, you'd be better off going down the 'web application route', which, of course, EE can help you with.

Cheers
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Author Comment

by:jetstream
ID: 9641470
The current budget form is in a spreadsheet which is emailed around to everyone. Eventually after a few months it comes back to be collated, and if necessary sent back. The process takes too long. What I want to do is make this an online thing where a central server holds all the data, and any department can add to it. The process needs to be made easier with less file handling, emails, etc. As for the formulas, some are based on a percentage of sales, others fixed, some have one value portioned over several fields or portioned equally over the year. Sometimes the percentages are adjusted to suit a particular department. Not every value needs to be entered in every cell, some are calculated. Will PHP be able to handle this type of thing? Do you know where I could find more information on PHP that would convince me that this is the answer? I really would like to see if PHP is the way before I commit to a particular path.
Thanks.
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Assisted Solution

by:fozylet
fozylet earned 100 total points
ID: 9643007
Making a web form act exactly like a spreadsheet will be a herculian task. If the formulae are going to be standard and users are not modifying it, developing such a system is very much feasible and does not involve much work. Even an occassional change to formulae is okay since you can handle it manually in the code.

If the scenario is such that the formulae related to the fields will vary very frequently and it is best that the user change the formulae rather than the web author doing it, then it does become a bit complicated. In my opinion, it is too much of effort to put in to make such a full-fledged product if you don't intend to sell it out as a product.
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Accepted Solution

by:
scully00000 earned 150 total points
ID: 9649076
Jetstream

Fozylet is (partially) right. If you want to put the effort in - and it will be a bit of effort - then at the end of it you will have a web application that will streamline your business considerably. PHP is definitely the answer for this. As fozylet says though, it will be nearly impossible (read very, very hard) to make a web page act like a spreadsheet. The alternative approach (web application) goes something like this:

Log on to (secure) webserver. Open 'Budget' page. Fill in first form, fill in second form, third etc. etc. until all the details you want to know have been inputted. PHP then passes all these details to a script which calculates everything (as in a spreadsheet) and stores the result in a database which can then by viewed on a webpage by whoever needs to view it.

Cheers
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Author Comment

by:jetstream
ID: 9650163
Thanks for all your help. My research has found information on JTable class in Java which may be what will do this task. It seems to be like a spreadsheet or tables. I'm still researching this. I have found a heap on PHP which gives me some ideas on other things. I'm not entirely sure I want to go down the path of PHP for this problem as it seems too difficult. I really need to simplify this process.
Cheers.
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Expert Comment

by:scully00000
ID: 9650318
Jetstream

Thanks for the points. Come back if you do decide to go PHP, and we'll help you through it

Cheers
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