Spreadsheet reporting solutions were created because business users expressed a strong desire to integrate MS Excel into their work-flow. To generate genuine spreadsheet reports, a reporting application needs a spreadsheet report design component.
The difference between a genuine spreadsheet report and a report that is merely converted to be viewed in MS Excel is like the difference between a car and a picture of a car. They both look good but only one can be driven. Business users should be able to open spreadsheet reports in MS Excel and get to work on them immediately without any manual reformatting.
Exelica has a spreadsheet report design component and it produces genuine spreadsheet reports that open seamlessly in MS Excel. Exelica includes the following five features important for MS Excel compatibility:
Exelica's report design environment is a spreadsheet, meaning it does not require a conversion process to generate a spreadsheet report.
Reports built in other environments, such as 'page layout', do not use spreadsheet logic for field positioning. The inter-relationship of spreadsheet cells poses a special challenge to the report conversion process. Since formulas are reliant on the relative positioning of cells, any alteration to the rows and columns will affect the formulas.
If an application without Exelica wants to convert a report to MS Excel, it must decide how to position the data fields into spreadsheet cells. To get the desired spacing between fields, extra rows and columns are added (cell padding). Cell padding is a successful technique to used replicate the look of a report, but it generates spreadsheets that resist modification. This is precisely what frustrates business users.
Exelica's report design wizards guide programmers to properly position data fields without the use of cell padding. When Exelica's reports are output to MS Excel, the user receives a fully functioning spreadsheet.
Page layout report design does not consider spreadsheet logic. This is a simple example of a report that has been converted to be viewed in MS Excel. Notice the added cell padding. Imagine how the cell padding complicates further interaction with this spreadsheet.
The same report created using Exelica has no cell padding. The user can interact with the spreadsheet without wasting time dealing with formatting complications.
Cell value formatting is an issue that goes far beyond choosing fonts. It actually determines the meaning of the report data. For example, numerical data has a vastly different meanings if it is designated as date, time, or currency. Data might be formatted as a percentage, a fraction, or in scientific notation. Most importantly numeric data is treated differently than numbers in text format.
The most relevant issue with cell value formatting is continuity. Most people open their spreadsheet reports in MS Excel, therefore they need the cell value formatting to be in sync with MS Excel. A simple reformatting task, like changing the appearance of telephone numbers, becomes an annoying issue when it has to be reset again and again every time a report is exported.
Some reporting solutions convert numeric values to text when their reports are viewed in MS Excel, leaving hidden problems for the report users to discover.
“Text entries that look like numbers are one of the more confusing aspects of Excel. Formulas that directly refer to the cell will calculate correctly, yet common functions like SUM and AVERAGE will ignore the text cells.” (Learn Excel from Mr Excel)
Exelica's cell value formatting dialog box is familiar to programmers because it is modeled after MS Excel's formatting dialogue box.
Exelica's spreadsheet report designer provides programmers with MS Excel compatible tools to create visually rich report layouts with effective spreadsheet functionality.
Setting up spreadsheet reports requires special consideration for the inter-relationship of the data cells. For example, merging and deleting cells, establishing the height and width of rows and columns, and placing headers are not only important for visual appeal, but they also affect the model's functionality.
Exelica's tight compatibility with MS Excel worksheet formatting has the following advantages:
Programmers can use their existing MS Excel skills to operate Exelica's worksheet formatting tools.
Report authors can prototype reports in MS Excel so the programmers can clearly understand exactly how they want their report to look and function.
There is formatting continuity for business users who open their reports in MS Excel.
Formulas are the central nervous system of a spreadsheet, providing direction for its functionality. Exelica has created a formula workshop to help programmers set up compelling business models with dynamic calculations. The business logic is entirely transferred to the report output, enabling end users to interact with it in MS Excel and benefit from the intelligent potential of a spreadsheet. Other types of report solutions, such as page layout, can only output the processed static data and not the formulas themselves.
Spreadsheets are a very flexible medium for creating business reports. Just like clay can be worked into any shape a sculptor desires, spreadsheets can be modeled into any type of business report imaginable.
The huge number of columns, rows and worksheets gives a report author vast breadth and depth to design with. By comparison, reports created in page layout solutions have a working area limited to the size of printed pages, significantly limiting the type of reports their solution can support. Even though their reports can be viewed in MS Excel, the page size limitation means they only utilize a fraction of MS Excel's modeling potential.
Exelica's report design component offers a working area size identical to a MS Excel spreadsheet. Exelica also has handy tools to keep large spreadsheet models manageable. For example there is a smart print function that sets large spreadsheets to page size with duplicating column headers so they are easy to print.
The working area of this 'page layout' report is limited to the page size.
Exelica's working area is as large as the many rows and columns of an MS Excel spreadsheet.