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Spreadsheet Programming: MS Excel as Component Development Environment : Page 4

Spreadsheet programming is an emerging technique for building complex business logic in MS Excel at a fraction of the effort, cost, and cycle time of hand coding such logic in a programming language. Programmers can deploy the business logic built in the spreadsheet into interactive client applications and highly scalable server applications.

Spreadsheet Programming Products
Several commercial spreadsheet engines support spreadsheet programming (see Figure 4).

Formula1, Actuate Corp.
Formula1 is a full-featured Java spreadsheet component. It reads and writes Excel files, supports Excel formulas, and has grid views, graphs, and reporting. Because Formula1 is all Java, caller applications use it just like any other third-party Java class.

JIntegra, Intrinsyc Corp.
JIntegra is a bridge that communicates to Excel through DCOM, a proprietary Microsoft remote communication protocol. JIntegra presents a Java API to the calling application, sparing developers from having to write Excel integration code themselves.

KDCalc, Knowledge Dynamics, Inc.
KDCalc compiles Excel spreadsheets into a compressed executable file. It supports Excel formulas but has no visual interface, so it's primarily used as a calculation engine or in cases where the developer builds a custom UI in lieu of a spreadsheet metaphor. KDCalc is available for Java and .NET; KDCalc for Java is pure Java and KDCalc .NET is 100 percent managed code. Calling it is like calling any other class.

Figure 4: Comparison of Products That Support Spreadsheet Programming

All of these products provide an API that allows Java or .NET callers to access the spreadsheet features. All these products use the basic development process shown in Figure 5 to facilitate spreadsheet programming.

Figure 5: The Spreadsheet Programming Development Process

A Powerful Technique with Almost No Learning Curve
Spreadsheet programming is a powerful technique that has virtually no learning curve, instantly and dramatically improves software development productivity, and makes complex logic transparent and accessible to the business users who drive requirements. It should be a part of every developer's toolkit.

Mike Smialek is co-founder and CEO of Knowledge Dynamics, Inc., a provider of simulation technologies and custom services. Mr. Smialek has more than 10 years of experience in artificial intelligence and simulation technologies. Reached him at MikeS@KnowledgeDynamics.com.
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