Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Basic Spreadsheet Types
Spreadsheets in this category are often candidates for applications, especially if end users need
to perform things like data validation and pivot table summaries.
For more sophisticated database applications, such as those that use multiple tables with
relationships between them, you’ll be better off using a real database program such as Access.
Database front ends
Increasingly, spreadsheet products are used to access external databases. Spreadsheet users can
access data stored in external files, even if they come in a variety of formats, by using tools that
Excel provides. When you create an application that does this, it’s sometimes referred to as an
executive information system, or EIS. This sort of system combines data from several sources and
summarizes it for users.
Accessing external databases from a spreadsheet often strikes fear in the hearts of beginning
users. Creating an executive information system is therefore an ideal sort of Excel application
because its chief goal is usually ease of use.
The final category of spreadsheet types is the most complex. By turnkey, I mean ready to go, with
little or no preparation by the end user. For example, the user loads the file and is presented
with a user interface that makes user choices perfectly clear. Turnkey applications may not even
look as if they are being powered by a spreadsheet, and, often, the user interacts completely with
dialog boxes rather than cells. I’ve heard these types of applications referred to as “dictator
applications” because the user can perform only the operations that the developer has allowed.
Actually, you can convert many of the categories just described into turnkey applications. The
critical common elements, as I discuss throughout the remainder of the topic, include good
planning, error handling, and user interface design.