xirrus Logo
Cloud Image
References Simulation Services & Products Extras Archive Firm Contact

Lesen Sie diese Seite auf Deutsch
chess board clouds

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:

  1. From the first simple and fast sketch of a spreadsheet to
  2. numerous man hours in self development for a good and useful calculation,
  3. over to many hours of additional involved employees and script developers to
  4. hours of support, if an error occured until somebody successfully challenged it
  5. up to a completely unclear blown-up datasheet with numerous tabs, redundant informations, with tooltips and many macros and scripts to serve.
  6. until your fight for relaunch after a system upgrade or a change of the spreadsheet app version
  7. until the manufacturers announcement, that your scripting version is not supported anymore
  8. 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!

an e-mail at cloud, photoshopped

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 different needs.

Additonal help you may get at xirrus for:

  • solutions with complex statistics
  • Monte Carlo simulations, scenario developments
  • data merging and conversion
  • automated document creation
  • graphical analysis and export formats
We're happy about your requests to port your own solutions from a spreadsheet to an independent system.

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 and enhanced.

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:

  • How portable are the contents, such as the data, if you will need them in another context?
  • 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?
One after the other:
Trouble fieldAlternative 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 different countries. 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 the distribution.


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.

Accessible codes

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
>> Archive: all articles about simulation, web and internet.

Microsoft and Microsoft Excel are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. All other trademarks belong to their respective owners.