Advances in Excel document generation for MV

I recently blogged and Introduction to NebulaXPlus. Today I present a slightly different approach to that introduction. Consider this an AD, but I believe it will help to explain what we’re now able to do.

NebulaXLite allows you to use BASIC to add styles, borders, colors, merged cells, sized columns and rows, multiple worksheets per workbook, and many other refinements to workbooks which can be opened by Excel, OpenOffice, and Google Apps. Give one of these documents to your clients, and they’ll never want to see another plain CSV file.

Being a “lite” offering, NebulaXLite does not allow for images, macros, charts, or other “objects”. NebulaXPlus is a new utility which takes a XLite document as input, and post-processes it into a XLS file, adding all of that functionality.

Many of you are using NebulaXLite, but many of you are not. If you aren’t using it because it didn’t do everything you wanted, well, now that’s changed significantly. If you tried NebulaXLite and found anything missing or not to your liking, I encourage you to take another look, and to send me feedback about what you’d like to do with Excel or other spreadsheet processors.

With the combination of XLite and XPlus, we can now do anything permitted by Excel, driven entirely from BASIC. There really is no limit. Consider the power there:

  • Distribute catalogs of products with images and links. Or use Excel to create the documents and then export to PDF.
  • Create dynamic Excel workbooks that use static HTTP or dynamic web services to retrieve data at runtime which augments data that you’ve embedded. For example, your workbook can always display the current price and availability of stock.
  • Deliver workbooks that look like applications with dropdown lists, checkboxes, conditional formatting, and validated input.
  • Get your workbooks to post user-modified data back to your system.
  • Now you can do all of the post-processing that your users do, saving them many hours per week.
  • Offer alternatives for all of your reporting, with the original version in plain paper, and now rich Excel documents.

Remember, while this software is for “you” the MV developer, please don’t evaluate this in terms of whether it is something “you” would like to use. The documents delivered are for non-technical data consumers who likes things pretty and easy to use. The output is for end-user management, and their trading partners who want data in a familiar format. It’s for the accountants and CFOs who don’t care what database you use, until that database becomes an obstruction to their ability to get data quickly in a medium that they themselves can integrate with other data.

NebulaXPlus is being prepared as a free beta. I’m now assembling a list of people who would like to see it.

NebulaXPlus will be sold for only $50 as an extension to NebulaXLite. NebulaXLite is free for non-production developer use and only $200 per licensed system for production use.

Limited support for both products is always free. Scheduled enhancements and fixes are free.

Let me be explicit and clear : As a developer you can use all of this at no cost whatsoever. Only end-users are asked for a purchase, and the combination of XLite and XPlus combined have a one-time, lifetime cost of only $250. Any NebulaXLite user will attest that this is a completely gimmick-free model, more developer-friendly than any offering in our market, and with an amazingly low end-user price.

What do “limited” and “scheduled” mean? At this price I can’t offer full support for every environment with all features that everyone asks for. So I need to be judicious about which changes make sense within the model. I cannot spend weeks of time to get the software to work in a unique environment where some unknown element causes the software to behave differently – not for $50 anyway. Though many XLite users will confirm that I have done exactly that.

So what’s my motivation? I’d like to see this software in a lot of end-user sites, and you can make that happen. So I’m not asking developers to purchase anything. When end-users see their data in spreadsheets like this, they are encouraged to keep their MV DBMS systems, keep their MV developers, and spend more money on existing resources and in new MV extensions. That’s good for all of us. I’m hoping you remember who helped with that and that you call me when your users/clients ask for more. Consider this a “loss leader” if you will, but I see it more as an investment toward our common success.

NebulaXPlus offers BASIC developers the power of Excel, but it’s up to individuals to learn about the power they want to use. So for example, you can use a VBA macro to generate a chart, and XPlus allows you to insert any macro code that you wish. But as part of XPlus support I cannot provide VBA lessons or assistance with the code. However, I offer the Nebula R&D forum as a public discussion place for such things. I also offer for-fee consultation services. I mentioned above that you can create dynamically updating workbooks. If you need help with that, please ask. If you’re getting the software for free, I’m hoping you will be encouraged to spend a little something on services to create an offering that you can sell to your clients. That’s part of the underlying model for this offering.

Now that we have macro support in NebulaXPlus, there’s not a lot of new features that I need to add. Since you can do anything with macros, I don’t really need to add support for other things that you can already do with macros. That said, I would like to understand common functionality that people need and I may create macro templates, or build other functionality into NebulaXLite which will facilitate advanced functionality. So please e-mail or post your ideas to the Nebula R&D forum.

Finally, if you don’t want to get involved in all of this stuff, but you just want some nice Excel reports, please let me know. My offering is basically the cost of the software plus my time to create your solution. You won’t need to write any code, and your end-users will still be very happy with the services that you provide. Everyone wins.

Thanks for your time!

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