An excellent alternative to Excel
«Our new machine analysis software has saved us 150 000
Swiss Francs in the first year.»
This white paper is not going to provide or recommend you a spreadsheet software,
altough many alternatives to the existing market leader are available - commercial
as well as open source - and both usable.
From experience, we prefer to tell you of the situations what comes after spreadsheets,
at the point where the numerous self-made solutions in a spreadsheet start to behave
inflexible and get tedious to develop any further.
It's worth to switch
The "spreadsheet" application is a nice and useful tool. But since it's that easy to use,
it is used by project leaders, team managers, and CEOs - expensively paid employees -
more often and intensively, up to excess! We help you get down from that trip to hell.
We figure a maelstroem turning your work down:
- From the first simple and fast sketch of a spreadsheet to
- numerous man hours in self development for a good and useful calculation,
- over to many hours of additional involved employees and script developers to
- hours of support, if an error occured until somebody successfully challenged it
- up to a completely unclear blown-up datasheet with numerous tabs, redundant informations,
with tooltips and many macros and scripts to serve.
- until your fight for relaunch after a system upgrade or a change of the spreadsheet app version
- until the manufacturers announcement, that your scripting version is not supported anymore
- and sometime nobody in your company wants or can help you anymore.
For your health sake you should leave that spiral after the first or second step already!
Your Excel solution becomes a trusted web application or a platform independent program
We program your own development with Java and Open Source technology, to let it
run in the future too.
You leave the spiral and get a guarantee on functionality for five additional years after
the project finish!
Since 2001 our customers profit.
You can profit from this service too, it relaxes you and your customers and partners can
take part in enhanced efficacy with a trustable database solution.
We like to share our actual possibilities with you. It's your choice where your excellent
solution leads you. Many customers have enjoyed our concept, whether they asked their product
users for compatible statistics, or whether a big data trunk had to be maintained by
many users simultaneously, was kept clean and could be analysed any time.
In such a case, xirrus has implemented xirrus Qensure just in time,
between step 4 and 5 above. Today this is an independent web service to customize for
Additonal help you may get at xirrus for:
We're happy about your requests to port your own solutions
from a spreadsheet to an independent system.
- solutions with complex statistics
- Monte Carlo simulations, scenario developments
- data merging and conversion
- automated document creation
- graphical analysis and export formats
Read even more about
Background of troubles
Microsoft Excel always has been one of the most stable and preferred applications
from the company at Redmond. No doubt there exists this type of repetitive typical
calculation tasks, which can rapidly be transferred to a script at ease (we
think of a simple programming language) or be put into a spreadsheet and used over
and over again by users less versed.
Both solutions, the simple scripts and an Excel spreadsheet are of supposed
elegance, since they bring a tempting development speed with them:
Some minutes, hours or days are enough, always. Addionally it is believed any time,
the more quick solution is efficiently built and in case of need rapidly customized
So far. So good. Often the calculation is valid and the chain argument holds.
But let's now talk about the problems, that are not thought about at first glance:
One after the other:
- How portable are the contents, such as the data, if you will need them in another
- How compatible is your solution in an international business environment?
- How compatible will your solution stay under the dominance of the market leader?
- How stable and secure is your solution in use?
- How well documented and accessible is your solution after half a year of absence
or for a new employee, your successor?
|Trouble field||Alternative clean solution|
Reusability of data
The advantage of a spreadsheet over any free text format is that the data is at least
somewhat cleared. In an ideal case your data fields are filled in consistently and
can be reused after export at preference. However, the ideal case stays rare!
Redundancy: Every table can be copied and modified many times, parts of
the content are taken over, others adapted to different usage. This leads to redundant
informations in great numbers.
Already take care of field formats and validation of inputs in your Excel-document.
This simplifies data export into a real database.
With a relational database redundancy may be completely avoided.
You're doing international business and your Excel solution has been used in
Unfortunately you detect your scripts aren't running properly anymore one day in
Finland and Spain with the local update of the spreadsheet app.
The time you were looking for error cause and took trials for fixing bugs
without success, nobody is going to compensate.
Except yourself, nobody believes you the mistake is not in your code. Therefore
you can't ask for internal support.
A standard spreadsheet is designed for single workplace usage.
A clean cut between language localisation and programming code is nearly impossible in
a spreadsheet program.
A database provides better controls for language versions, a central server simplifies
Market leaders in Redmond are fully free, when and if a new operating system appears on
the market, but also, how long an existing system, an existing product or an existing
programming-, script- or macro-language is going to be supported and maintained.
So with Windows Vista VisualBasic has been cut. Not every self-made solution
will profit from this. Even governmental departments have made that mistake to request
such scripts, since they where thought to be maintained by their own employees in the
offices. A switch to its successor will take the same efforts as for clean alternatives.
Proprietary solutions increase dependency.
Open Source is documented and commented
by third parties any time.
With established Open Source programming languages (e.g. Java, Perl, PHP) you are
less dependent and may find easier a developer who will work on the project later.
Stability and security
Crashes are rare and not comparable with Word. But what, if your tables have collected
statistical data over years? In principle, these data grow in value, since the significance
for your business case increases. Therefore its value for competitors.
An Excel file can easily be transfered by somebody, making a copy on USB stick isn't
a big deal. An a nice access protection is not at hands without special arrangements.
- Who cares about access protection and backups?
- Has everything been set up and arranged?
- How stable is your PC or server running?
Bind in concerned data in a backup- and access protection system.
An external central database which fulfills these criteria non-stop may even be better suited.
We're not thinking about encryption. It's about readability of written source code,
of abbreviations and hidden considerations, that an employee has made, but never has been documented.
- Can he interprete his own spreadsheet after half a year or a year?
- How well a new employee can handle it, without knowing the slang of your office,
- how well somebody, who works on a different topic or next door?
Documentation is advisable for self-made programs too. You will recognize the difference at
your next ISO audit.
A clean versioning control and the assessment through external developers allow a much
bigger usability compliance and also a better transfer to fresh user groups.
Replication allowed only with written agreement with xirrus
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