Rob Kraft's Software Development Blog

Software Development Insights

Archive for April, 2012

Online spreadsheets, the best of Excel and Google combined in

Posted by robkraft on April 15, 2012

I like Excel.  Excel is a great tool when I am the only person working on the information, but when I want to collaborate on a spreadsheet, I often reach out to Google Docs.  The advantage of Google Docs online is that several people can update the same spreadsheets at the same time.  My team uses several Google spreadsheets to manage tasks, but it lacks the feel of Excel.  But recently I discovered what may be the best of both worlds.

EditGrid looks a lot like Excel (so much like Excel that I’m a little concerned they will get shut down at some point).  It is online and free.  There is a version you can pay for with more features, but I have just started using the trial version and haven’t looked into what the paid version adds that I may desire.

EditGrid provides me the following features I wanted in an online spreadsheet:

  • Multiple users can edit the document at the same time
  • I could upload a document from Excel as my starting point
  • I can restrict allowing edits by requiring a password to do so
  • It does not require my fellow collaborators to have a @live account, @gmail account, or any other specific type of account
  • It is free
  • It looks great and works pretty well

If you have a account (a Microsoft account), then you can create and share Excel documents online via your skydrive account.  The sharing options are a little more limited than the free options EditGrid provides, but they are sufficient.  The only thing not to like about the free sharing of Excel documents via skydrive, is the requirement for the account.

No matter what online spreadsheet you use, you should back it up regularly if the content is important to you.  Our google sheets are important to us and we back them up weekly.  We once had a problem (years ago) that required us to scrap the current sheet, and replace it from a backup.  We also have had a few occasions where the document was inaccessible, which is a risk for any online information.

Finally, I don’t recommend any of these products if your data needs a lot of security/protection.

But I do recommend you give EditGrid a try if you are in the market for a free online spreadsheet.


Posted in Free tools, I.T., Web Sites | 1 Comment »

The Way of the Software Architect – the first allegory

Posted by robkraft on April 9, 2012

The CEO came to me and said he would like a new web site.  I replied that I am a client/server software architect, but that I could learn to become a web architect and build his site for him.  I went to the masters of Ruby on Rails and in just two weeks I learned to create a site and I learned the power of convention over configuration.  Then I went to the masters of ASP.Net and in another two weeks I learned the many benefits custom controls and the Microsoft Way.  Then I went to the masters of PHP and I learned the simplicity and elegance of the PHP way.  Then I went to the masters of MVC and learned the testability and power of the MVC way.  I went to the masters of Silverlight and learned the power of .Net in the browser using the C# way.  Finally I went to the masters of HTML5 and javascript and learned the breadth and reach of the HTML way.  I learned each of these technologies in two weeks each.  I returned to the CEO and said, “I have learned many of the best web development frameworks.  I have developed web sites in each and I know the strengths and weaknesses of each.  I am now ready to build your web site for you using the very best approach.”  The CEO looked at me and said, “You are too late.  I told my 17 year old niece about the web site I desired and she created it using Google sites in two days.  The site she created is perfectly satisfactory to my needs.”


— The architect’s way


This story illustrates the necessity of the architect to understand more than technology.  Indeed, for every person involved in a software development project, the goal of your tasks is not to provide an esoteric best answer.  In the role of a software architect, your goal is to recommend the best architecture.  But every person in an organization has many roles, and one role shared by every person is to help solve business problems quickly and efficiently.  Often, the business goals trump the goals of the software architecture.  Business goals include:  getting to market early, pleasing a specific client, pleasing a specific CEO, developing a secure solution, developing a prototype solution; development a solution inexpensively that is good enough; allowing a junior developer to learn through trial and error by developing a solution; developing a solution merely to learn a new technology; developing a solution to test out a new technology before using it in more important projects.  All this and more.  A software architect needs to help a business solve business problems first, and worry about purity of architecture second.

Posted in CodeProject, Coding, Software Architecture | 2 Comments »