Version 4.0: real-time Open Data manipulation in Excel

SpreadSheetSpace version 4.0 allows users to publish and import Open Data in real-time. According to the Open Data philosophy, Public Administrations (and not only) publish information under specific data licensing schemes to encourage the re-use of such information.
Since many Public Administrations already have a huge amount of data stored in Excel spreadsheets, the easiest way to support Open Data is to publish and use the datasets directly in Excel. Furthermore, a significant fraction of this Open Data is dynamic (i.e., it evolves over time).
It follows that instead of manually updating Excel files periodically on Web Sites which an associated “latest update time” label, Public Administrations can take advantage of SpreadSheetSpace to create Views of dynamic data evolving over time.
Register on SpreadSheetSpace now to have access to this great service as soon as it is available!
Other improvements:
–       SpreadSheetSpace Adaptor for Salesforce;
–       Add/Remove view recipients from Web Console;
–       Filter the received Views by type, sender, and description;
–       SDK 1.3 is now available for developers (it is fully compatible with previous versions);
–       Bug fixing.


New SpreadSheetSpace release: version 3.0 is now available!

We are glad to announce the new release of our Excel Add-in! The two main functionalities introduced in this version are the History/Notification button and the Append API.
A new icon on the Ribbon allows users to receive real-time notifications when new data are available and to keep track of the actions done on the spreadsheets.

addin_rib_history_updates_available
History

The “Append” API allows developers to add new rows to already existing Views.

Other improvements:

  • Add-in speed-up:
  • Better network utilization;
  • SDK 1.2 is now available (it is fully compatible with previous versions, “Append” API support added);
  • Data preview removed for big data ranges;
  • Bug fixing.

Start using SpreadSheetSpace now!


We are not talking about Google Sheets!

Many users keep asking us: “Why do I need SpreadSheetSpace when Google Sheets/Excel Online/etc. are out there?”. Here are some reasons:

  • SaaS systems like Google Sheets & co require you to give them your data! SpreadSheetSpace allows you to choose which data to store in the cloud and, more important, there are two solutions for the enterprise privacy needs, namely:
    • Install your own on-premise server (i.e., data are stored in your administrative domain);
    • End2end encryption: data are encrypted on the client machine and stored in the cloud (available from next releases). Examples of this technology are messaging apps like Threema or Telegram;
  • You are still using your desktop version of Excel and its powerful functionalities (e.g., pivot tables, VBA macros, charts, conditional formatting, etc.). With Google Sheets & co you are using a spreadsheet tool by means of your browser (i.e., limited functionalities, wrong data formatting, etc.);
  • SpreadSheetSpace allows you to share only a part of your spreadsheet and not necessary the entire workbook;
  • SpreadSheetSpace allows a better control over data because you keep the ownership of the shared data.

SpreadSheetSpace presentations at Berkeley

We are constantly working on the development of our product and at the same time we are also spreading around the SpreadSheetSpace idea.

On January 15th, Michele Stecca (@steccami) presented the SpreadSheetSpace platform at ICSI (International Computer Science Institute, Berkeley, link).
Here you can find the video recording of the presentation while the slides are available on slideshare.

Today Massimo Maresca gave another presentation at the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs.

These dissemination activities are very important to us because they gave us the opportunity to gather many feedbacks that help us to improve our platform.

Stay tuned to discover the upcoming new release and many other news about SpreadSheetSpace!


5 well known issues with Excel file links (Part II)

In our previous post (see here for Part I) we have discussed the limitations of the Excel native file linking functionality. Here we describe how SpreadSheetSpace overcomes these limitations.

1. Broken Links

Forget about Broken Links and this kind of error messages.

Untitled1

Thanks to SpreadSheetSpace you can move the Excel files (both the source files and the destination files) wherever you want (to another computer as well) and the link is still working! No shared folders, no Dropbox, no Google Docs, no email messages involved. Everything happens inside Excel! You are free to move your files without worrying about the incoming and outgoing links. No matter what you do the links remain and work!

2. Loss of control on your data (a.k.a., “my data has changed but I don’t know when, why or by whom”)

When you are working on a spreadsheet which depends on other spreadsheets you never know if data has changed, when it changed and who made the changes. You do not have control on your spreadsheet! Now, thanks to the SpreadSheetSpace History functionality you have full control on your links! You can check if and when external data has changed! You do not even need to open the history task pane to check your links because an icon on the Ribbon tells you if data has changed.

History

3. Limited privacy (a.k.a., you have to share the entire workbook)

This is one of the distinctive features of SpreadSheetSpace. How many times did you send one of your colleagues only the results of a calculation ? For instance a column, a table or a sheet of a complex workbook? SpreadSheetSpace allows you to decide what to expose. Check out our video tutorials to understand how simple it is to do so.

4. Security

SpreadSheetSpace certifies the data source origin by allowing only registered users to expose data. Just check the sender’s email address to understand who is exposing data to you.

5. No control on who is linked to your Excel file

Usually, if you are the owner of a source file you have no way to discover if someone else is linked to your file. And in addition you do not know which cells these people are referring to. SpreadSheetSpace gives you complete control on ALL the inbound and outbound links of your spreadsheet. With SpreadSheetSpace you can check the View status by clicking on the Edit and Select buttons on the Excel Ribbon. When using the SpreadSheetSpace Web Console you can check the status of all your Views.

web_inbox_overview

Any comments or suggestions? Contact us!


5 well known issues with Excel file links (Part I)

(Click here to read Part II)

In the digital era, where teams are geographically distributed all around the globe and where remote working is becoming more common, there is the need to rely on powerful collaborative tools. The possibility provided by Excel to create links among workbooks might be one of the most important features for the support of such collaborative scenarios. Unfortunately, it is not for the following reasons.

1. Broken Links

Excel allows you to create links among workbooks through a formula like this:

=’C:\Users\excel_user\Desktop\

[source language=”.xlsx”][/source]

Sheet1′!A1

That is good, but what if you or a colleague of yours move the source file? You obtain a Broken Link and this kind of message from Excel:

Untitled1

Who moved the source file? Where?

Although the concept of “relative link” exists in Excel, it is not flexible and comes with a set of complex exceptions (click here to read the official Microsoft documentation).

2. Loss of control on your data (a.k.a., “my data has changed but I don’t know when, why or by whom”)

When you are working on a destination file (i.e., the file containing the formulas referring to another workbook), you do not know if data was changed, when it was changed and who made the changes. You are losing control of your worksheet! What if a colleague of yours changes a file that you are linking without being aware that his changes are affecting your file? You can find some basic information in the “Edit Links” menu but it is not useful nor precise.

Untitled2

3. Limited privacy (a.k.a., you have to share the entire workbook)

secret

Suppose that the source file looks like the one shown above and suppose that a colleague of yours is linking in his file the “total” column while he is not allowed to see the “AVG Discount” column. Unfortunately, you cannot only give him access to the “Total” column, meaning that your colleague must be able to access your private data by simply changing the link from

=’C:\Users\excel_user\Desktop\

[source language=”.xlsx”][/source]

Sheet1′!D3

to

=’C:\Users\excel_user\Desktop\

[source language=”.xlsx”][/source]

Sheet1′!C3

You don’t even know that your colleague is accessing such sensitive data!

4. Security

Untitled2

This security message appears while opening an Excel file. What are you going to do? Do you trust the file author? Are you sure about who the author actually is? Unfortunately, there is no way to check who the sender is.

5. No control on who is linked to your Excel file

If you are the owner of a source file, you have no way to discover if someone else is linked to your file. In addition, you do not know what cells these people are referring to. This is an unacceptable limitation because you might create problems for other users (see point 2).
Acknowledgements
We want to thank the SpreadSheetSpace users as well as the online Excel communities (in particular the /r/Excel Reddit users and the LinkedIn groups) for the valuable feedback provided on this topic.
PS. There will be another post discussing how SpreadSheetSpace helps users to overcome all of these limitations. Stay tuned!

(Click here to read Part II)

In the meanwhile, you can look at our tutorial videos about the LINK system (click here).


SpreadSheetSpace SYNC: stop copy-pasting reports from ERPs, CRMs, Hadoop, etc. to Microsfot Excel

How many times do you run a report in SAP, Oracle, Hadoop, etc. and copy-paste such data to Excel? Do you do it daily, weekly, monthly? How many times do you have problems with missing data, wrong formats and styles, etc.? What if you discover a mistake and you have to repeat the copy-paste operation?

Connect Excel to your corporate systems using the SpreadSheetSpace Rest APIs.

SpreadSheetSpace SYNC solves all these issues because allows companies to create views of corporate data and allows Excel users to maintain their workbooks synchronized with the corporate data views in a secure and managed way from any location, thus enabling them to integrate the information stored in different IT platforms as well as to create customized analyses and presentations that automatically evolve with the corporate data.
More schematically:

  • Sync was created for companies that want to provide views of corporate data to End Users using Excel.
  • Sync gives Excel Users easy access to corporate data, via a set of worksheets. Through such worksheets Excel users can keep their workbooks synchronized with the corporate data as they evolve over time.
  • Sync supports secure user access to corporate data from any location, in particular over any Internet connection and through proxies and firewalls.
  • Sync enables Excel users to integrate data exposed by different IT Platforms (data mashup) and to maintain the integrated views synchronized with the exposed data, following any data update.
  • Sync enables Excel users to create customized analyses and presentations of the corporate data using the advanced processing and visualization functionalities offered by Excel. The analyses and the presentations are automatically refreshed at any data update.
S1

Sync consists of three components, namely the Excel Add-In, the Management Console, and the Adaptor.

The Excel Add-in

  • The Excel Add-In allows the Excel users to maintain a set of worksheets synchronized with the corporate data.
  • The Excel Add-in is compatible with Excel 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013.
  • The Excel Add-In receives corporate data update notifications and updates the Views according to the update policy configured by the user, i.e., immediately or upon user explicit acceptance.
  • The Add-In exhibits a user interface matching the Excel look and feel, adding the Sync tab in the Excel ribbon. Through such an interface the users may configure sheet synchronization, display the update notifications and edit the update policies.

The Adaptor

The SpreadSheetSpace Sync Adaptors are the software components that extract the corporate data views from the company IT Platforms and keep such views constantly aligned with the corporate data. Each Adaptor is associated to a specific IT Platform and it interacts with the SpreadSheetSpace server by means of Rest APIs.

The Management Console

The Console provides the functionalities to manage and control the Sync service. In particular it supports user management, service monitoring and activity control.
• User management consists of adding/removing users and configuring the user properties.
• Service Monitoring consists of keeping track of the current platform status (e.g., the latest updates and the user synchronization status), and of the user activity (e.g., which users are aligned with the latest updates and which are not), as well as of generating cumulative reports (e.g., on the corporate data update frequency and size and on the user activity).
• Activity Control consist of creating/deleting the corporate data views, of starting/stopping/suspending platform operations and of changing the user access rights and privileges.

For more details read our White Paper about SYNC.


Microsoft Excel + Internet = SpreadSheetSpace

We are happy to announce the birth of the SpreadSheetSpace which is a Virtual Space in which spreadsheets live, interact and communicate. In this initial post, we present SpreadSheetSpace, how we came up with this idea and how we are pursuing it. Of course, those interested in learning more about SpreadSheetSpace may refer to our White Papers about LINK and SYNC.

cropped-cropped-capturetitle1.png

So why SpreadSheetSpace? The starting point is that many people in the world use Excel for very simple calculations, complex analyses, presentations, and data exchange. The Excel format is currently a “de facto” standard not only for tabular data exchange (for that CSV would be enough) but also for formulas, functions and graphical presentations. Sending an Excel file corresponds to sending tabular data (the cell contents), programs (the formulas and the functions) and graphical presentations (the diagrams).

The problem is that to send an Excel file you have to save it somewhere, to create a mail message using your favorite mail client and to attach the saved file to such a message. This is unbelievably complicated in a world in which you should do everything with just one click.

That is why we started to analyze the idea of a web of spreadsheets. In a few words, we started to envision a scenario in which Excel evolves from a stand-alone program to create/edit spreadsheets to an Internet client, like a browser. So the first idea was: “let us connect Excel to the Internet”.

link1

Great! you will say, but why should we do that? What functionalities would such a connection enable? Let us take a look at them.

The first functionality is to create cross spreadsheet links. This is nothing new, you will say, this functionality is well known and supported. However, it is supported only inside the same file system, while it is not supported between spreadsheets managed by different file systems. In other words, you may link a cell of a file to a cell of another file only if you have the appropriate access rights on the source file. What happens if you don’t have such rights? You just can’t do it. One can create link only among his/her own files. What happens if you move the source file? The link is simply broken.

SpreadSheetSpace gives different Excel users anywhere, provided that they are connected to the Internet, the possibility of creating links among spreadsheets.

You will say, yes, understood, but this sounds like sharing and Google Docs already supports sharing. False. It is certainly true that Google Docs supports sharing but linking and sharing are two different concepts. Sharing refers to a situation in which a copy of a spreadsheet is stored in common storage, typically somewhere in the Cloud, and multiple users are given access rights to such a storage. Linking, by contrast, does not require common storage, while the spreadsheets can be stored in the user’s private storage. You can’t help noticing that sharing means that your data is stored somewhere unencrypted, which is exactly what Google likes, because their business model is to provide free services in exchange for information on users. But is this what professional users want?

SpreadSheetSpace follows the linking paradigm, meaning that there are users who own data and expose views of such data and users that link to such views, or in other words, data owners and data viewers. End to end encryption guarantees that no “man in the middle” is allowed to look at the data.

So in SpreadSheetSpace, if an Excel user wants to expose a range/table/sheet to other Excel users the former user, whom we call the Exposer, selects the area/table/sheet to be exposed, associates it to a View, and issues a command to grant the latter users, we may call them the Viewers, the read access rights on such a View (see our video tutorial for more details). The Viewers, appropriately informed of the new View, are allowed to create links to the exposed View so that an image of the View appears in their spreadsheets (write protected of course, since it is a View). From then on, any update of the exposed View reflects on the image of the View.

The second functionality is what we call the Spreadsheet Ecosystem. The fact that SpreadSheetSpace enables Excel users to expose Views supports the creation of sets of linked Excel spreadsheets. Therefore, users A and B expose Views to user C, who combines these Views and exposes the result through another View to user D, who combines this View with other data and exposes the result to user E through another View and so forth.

SpreadSheetSpace envisions a situation in which a number of spreadsheets are linked to each other in such a way that when one of them is updated, the spreadsheets linked to it receive the update, recalculate and possibly inject new updates into the SpreadSheetSpace.

Thanks for reading. Leave your comments here or to visit our web site to subscribe to out beta for free.

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