Excel vs. Access (reprise), context, and SharePoint

October 3, 2006 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

I came across a reference to Excel in Thinking for a Living, by Davenport:

p.89 [discussing the history of information technology in support of the knowledge worker] ….The only decision support tool that did take off was a relatively primitive one – the Excel spreadsheet.

Ah, but the freedom and the infinite possibilities of crisp new worksheet….

When I wrote about this last, I mentioned how the Excel spreadsheet allows uncramped information ‘dumping’ while Access is less flexible when new information categories need to be created and accommodated. 

Consider storing lab data from a research project.  Access can quite handily accept lists of pH values, and reagents used, for example, but when experiment conditions change or when new data types need to be created, things get cramped.   With Excel the data and the context of the experiment is held together in one flexible spot with context surrounding the information.  Need a new column, add it.  The experiment is different?  Just write out what you did….  These comments should be tempered, though, since Access is quite flexible in its own right, if you know what you’re doing, and are allowed to do it.  But there’s no doubt Excel is easier to fiddle with.

….And then ‘context surrounding information’ reminds me of what I think is one of the most important features of SharePoint: while teams can simply share documents in a network location, SharePoint allows all the team documents to be surrounded by context – metainformation that helps explain what’s what, where to find it, and why.

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Entry filed under: feed my pet brain.

The only good classification is a living classification Blogs and information overload

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