Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Word vs. Excel

I stumbled upon the iWork suite (aka Office for Mac) already some time ago, but today thought back of it as I was thinking about Excel and Word...

The main problem I have with Excel and Word is that there is nothing in-between. Let me explain what I mean by means of some examples:

Text-based tables: Excel (as most spreadsheets) is a numerical calculation sheet application. Although it has some functions to work with strings, it is not the primary goal of the application. This is fine, but in practice, we see that a lot of people (and even big companies) use it to store text-based data (e.g.: IP ranges, Application overview, user accounts, passwords, etc.)

Side-by-side comparison: this is in fact an example of the previous point: how many times do we not want to compare pros and cons of something? Excel is not really optimized for this, but a table in Word is even worse.

Documents with a lot of tables: This really is on the boundary of both products. In order to keep the exact formatting as set in Excel, I usually copy/past the table into Word as a picture. This is not very efficient in terms of having to change some numbers in the tables. Using the OLE features with a conventional copy/paste is usually not an option as the table in Word does not look half as nice as it should.

Reports: This is again a special case of the previous point: sometimes the data in the tables is expected to change because it contains for instance KPI information, or extracts from a database. Using Excel to nicely print a paper/PDF report is hard, copying all the tables and graphs to a Word document every day or week is even harder. In practice, I solve this by using a macro that automatically creates a Word document and pastes the tables and graphs (as pictures) where they belong. This approach has been the most successful for me up till now.

It seems iNumber makes a step in the right direction. Take a look at some of the demos on the page and see for yourself: graphics, text and tables are mixed easily.

Is this another 'sign' I have to switch to the Mac?

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