Spinning, exploding Excel-driven web app: How or should it be?
January 9, 2013 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes, I am a front-end web developer. Frequently, I meet new people at work who want to turn really complicated Excel documents into dazzlingly interactive web applications. Besides Excel's "Save to Web App" or "Save to SharePoint" features, such people ask if I can tap into an industry to support this -- perhaps scads of agencies and web-based or downloadable tools that make "websites" or at least customizable, interactive reports from Excel spreadsheets, data, and calculations. I'm yet to find this an abundance of examples of this. Are there? If so, what do you call them?

If you use Google Analytics, MailChimp or Hootsuite, you are familiar with bouncing, cheerful report graphs and charts.

I know that those specific tools required teams and years worth of custom programming. I assume that these apps also derive their presentations from databases that are not Excel files. People seem to passionately believe, however, that there has got to be an easy way to pour Excel spreadsheets into a machine that spits out more simplistic but nonetheless animated pie charts, line charts, map charts, bar charts, etc. You can customize the colors and fonts! Click here to add your logo!

I've been Googling all morning and I see a few discussions on StackOverflow about how to pipe data into and out of this or that via Ruby, Python, Django or PHP. I see a few homebrewed applications that sort of do something via Javascript.

For the sake of specification, say I have an excel file with multiple tabs. Each tab has thousands of rows and nearly 50 columns. The existing Excel charts are based on calculations of those tabs. Is there a web or intranet-friendly tool that will eat that spaghetti and excrete more colorful, JQuery-powered whirligigs?

I don't mean to come off as sarcastic to the believers or naive to those who know. It just seems a tall order to me. Hopefully, I'm wrong.
posted by metajc to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Google Chart Tools
posted by empath at 8:55 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

You can go pretty far with Excel itself. Here's a sample report on UFO sightings from a hosted Excel company called PivotStream. It takes a bit of talent with Excel and the use of the PowerPivot add-in, but it is achievable.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:09 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

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