Excel, CrowFlite… Continued

This is a sort of follow-on to one of my postings last month. My intent here is to kick off some forum discussions based on today’s posting. The question in short is: We have some great tools for tight integration with Excel that are going to be available very soon, so what else do end-users want or need?

Many years ago there was a product called CrowFlite (from Eversoft Solutions Group, Inc.). Functions called Get() and List() were used in formulas for retrieving data from MV databases, and other features were included for uploading data back to the server. That software is no longer maintained but people really like what it did.

For those of you familiar with NebulaXLite, that software allows Pick developers to create complex and attractive workbooks entirely from BASIC. CrowFlite was on the opposite side – it installed into Excel, and reached into the DBMS to pull out attributes and to execute programs.

Because I have done so much work with Excel and other Office apps over the years, people occasionally ask me about options for replacing CrowFlite. A few years ago I announced NebulaXChange was in development, but for various reasons I had to defer that effort. XChange wasn’t intended to support CrowFlite syntax, just to support similar functionality plus a number of completely unique features.

But I’ve had a number of requests recently for a one-for-one replacement for CrowFlite. So in response I have created a new package which does exactly that. A user should now be able to disable or uninstall CrowFlite, install this new software, and continue using all of the same spreadsheets without interruption. The new software also includes security and other features that were not available in CrowFlite.

Unlike most of the software that I write, this is not a developer tool. It’s an end-user product which can be extended by developers. No programming knowledge is required. It’s meant for end-users who use Excel, not Pick programmers. That said, VARs will be able to enhance this with application-specific hooks, and of course, enterprising individuals are welcome to sell their services to end-users to create stunning new reports that might not have been possible before.

This new software will be entering alpha/beta soon with end-users and I’d like to ensure that it is suitable for others who come along later. In fact, now that this is nearing completion, I’m even more eager to understand what challenges end-users face in using MV data with Excel.

What do end-users ask from their VARs?
What would you expect to see in “killer”, “gotta have it” integration between Excel and MV?

So please share your thoughts about what software like this should do in order for it to be considered worthwhile. A discussion of pricing is welcome as well, but the closer we get to “must do everything for free”, the less inclined I will be to continue a discussion. 😉

Discussions referencing this posting were started today in a couple forums. If you don’t see a public discussion elsewhere, you can post questions here, or in the Nebula R&D forum.

Of course sales inquiries are welcome.

Thanks for your time.

4 thoughts on “Excel, CrowFlite… Continued

    • I feel the need to say something here as an experienced MV developer. We have been wanting this connection with Excel for a long time at our office. Recently we have found a hidden Rocket functionality which makes this possible but have had no time to explore the possibilities. Is there a solution out there now, or do we need to write our own?
      What I would also like to know is what protocol was the Crowflite solution using (SOAP etc).

      I can see that the nebula website is using WordPress which is a great portal. Did anyone ever think of writing a plugin for WordPress that would extract data from an MV database like UV ? Now this would be the greatest thing ever. WordPress has millions of sites all over the world and its the easiest and most flexible one to use in creating websites.

    • Thanks for your comment!

      “Is there a solution out there now, or do we need to write our own?”

      I have all of it working on my development system, the docs are almost done, and it’s going out to beta users next week. I have your email address and will send you an invitation.

      “what protocol was the Crowflite solution using (SOAP etc).”

      I think CrowFlite pre-dated Web Services. 🙂 To my understanding there was a connection from Excel into a localhost terminal emulator which then used a live telnet connection to the DBMS – one for every user in Excel. That was a good approach in its day but not anymore. BTW you can do something similar on your own with AccuTerm right now, see the docs. But the new solution I’ve created is much better for many reasons which I guess I should blog sometime soon.

      On a WordPress plugin, that wouldn’t be a tough thing to do. Server-side it would just be a standard plugin but with a Web Service call to a MV server (or use UOJ, QMClient, MVSP, etc). That’s, what, 10 lines of unique PHP and another few in BASIC? I did this for Drupal a couple years ago just as an exercise, WP would be no different. The thing is that MV people usually don’t care about such things, and non-MV people wouldn’t care either. Rather than positioning this as a developer widget, I think the thing to do is to create a WP plugin that does something valuable for a blog, coincidentally hooked into a BASIC back-end. This is something I talk about a lot but few people get that either. *sigh*

    • Oh thank you Tony. Great answers there. I am really glad that there are other people thinking along the same lines as myself.

      Thank you for considering sending your hard work to my email. Software that connects MV systems to widespread products like Excel and provides a never before functionality to MV is the way of the future.

      On the wordpress plugin.
      Wordpress is a great system and its only logical that a php plugin to connect to an MV DB is written. I have spoken with WordPress team before and they indicated they’re not interested in connecting to any other DB apart from MySql *sigh*

    • Jack – you’ve touched on another topic there – QM and a couple other MV platforms allow for a virtual file system, outside of the local file system or hashed files. I wrote a VFS driver for QM and it’s in testing whenever I can find time. Rather than trying to create another data store for WordPress, consider the benefits of just opening the MySQL tables that FOSS like that uses, and reading/writing from there with BASIC. 🙂 I’ll blog on this topic too as development moves forward.

      BTW, I’d like to do that with the D3 OSFI but TigerLogic refuses to publish the API to the “Open” interface, even though their documentation says we just need to contact them for information. If anyone wants to do this kind of stuff with D3, please ask them to look up my calls related to OSFI.

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