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25 Sep 2006
Integrating an Excel-workflow into 4D
The Excel-workflow – a successful non-concept for businesses. What I mean? Every other day an Excel-worksheet reaches the office. "Please check the data, add missing info and remail it to me. Thanks!"
The worksheet often looks like the one displayed. First cell contains the name of the table. Next empty rows for formatting purposes. The main data is started with a header row. The data to be checked has a yellow background to make obvious, where to work. Emtpy rows in the data-section emphasize what's missing.
John Udell described the Excel-workflow as An XML Spreadsheet Parable and summarized with the words: "What I like about this tiny example is that it's representative of how spreadsheets are mostly used in the real world -- to do simple things, like add columns in expense reports."
Excel-workflows work Excel to Excel and Excel to Access. If you want to integrate Excel-worksheets into 4D, things get complicated. You start coding an import and exporting routine or it involves lots of manual work, copy & paste, again and again. The workflow is interrupted. Keeping the workflow flowing, means reading Excel-worksheets directly into 4D, check the data from inside 4D and seamlessly updating the worksheet.
The preliminaries are optimal. Excel uses two native document-formats: the wellknown .xls and the new XML Spreadsheet, extension is .xml. XML is no problem with 4D, at least from the technical point of view.
Now the workflow is working like this: 4D opens an Excel-worksheet and displays the content in Listbox- or 4D View-tables. The 4D View frontend resembles that of Excel, sort of. Shown als listbox reduces to the tabular basics. The data is updated inside 4D and directly written into the Excel-worksheet.
That workflow uses standard 4D, no externals, nothing exotic. Sure, experienced 4D-developers can build that workflow themselves. Here is the idea and the proof of concept.
Others might ask for some coaching.
I was asked to release a 4D-component. Components is a nice concept, but no business. The 4Dtoday survey of 9/25/06 counted 151 votes: for my own use 31, to share 12, none at all 108. I suppose, 4D developers don't want to rely on others closed code. So here is OpenDDDD. You get the code, but you order a workshop to learn how it works.
Participate wherever you are - watching + hearing + asking! We offer seats at GatherPlace.
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