An recent article by ZDNet--Taking on Excel, and Winning, Sort Of--discusses the value of using Excel spreadsheets for a variety of applications. It's ubiquity, ease of use and functionality are reasons given; here's a quote: "...like the floppy disk icon that never dies, the Excel spreadsheet lives on and on...This ubiquity and staying power says volumes about what users want...and their continued votes in favor of a 20-plus year old user experience should give everyone who believes that the best technology deserves to win a deserved pause. Excel works well-enough for millions of users all day long..."
Following is the comment I posted:
As a self-taught programmer, I’ve been building spreadsheet applications for nearly 30 years--from Visicalc through Lotus 123 and Excel. Many of the criticisms of Excel are due to people’s ignorance of what its engine can do; mathematical computations are just a small part of its capabilities. By combining spreadsheet formulas with VBA macros and Active-X forms, it is also quite competent at database queries; XML consumption; logic-based analysis; pivot tables enabling multidimensional reports; parsing and concatenating text; dynamic presentations that include not only charts and graphs, but also a wide variety of pictures/images; and on and on.
In fact, I've developed numerous macro-driven Excel-based applications in which users wouldn't even realize it's a spreadsheet. And with the advent of Excel 2007, it’s become very a secure technology, which is also able to serve as a large flat file database (although it’s not meant to replace all databases).
I’ve also developed a patented process and use Excel to implement it. This discontinuous/disruptive technology enables loosely coupled peer-to-peer networks of publisher-subscriber nodes to share massive amounts of information with extraordinary efficiency. One such Excel-based application, which I’m about to release for public review, is a unique personal health record. Another is a unique continuity of care record software system, which I’ll be offering to the open source community. A common comment from people is “I can’t believe Excel can do all this!”