Excel is much more than a spreadsheet. Excel's exceptional power and almost unlimited potential for customization, combined with technologies for instant updating from the internet, make for a truly dynamic application tailored to fit your needs.

Imagine a spreadsheet built just for you, with an advanced user interface and customized reports tailored for your application requirements. Need to get the most recent corporate pricing model or newest sales projections? Don't cut and paste data from web pages or other spreadsheets one click will grab the data from your server, update your spreadsheet and prepare all the needed reports. In fact, let your customized Excel worksheet check for an update every time you open it you'll never need to look at obsolete data again.

Particularly with a large user base, updating key data this way is much more efficient than routinely patching and upgrading software. Our custom spreadsheets use the spreadsheet as a presentation and business logic layer. All user and application data is stored in local Access database files rather than storing this information in the spreadsheet. With this approach updating the spreadsheet will not destroy any precious user data or customization.

The key to this is XML (extensible Markup Language) files that reside on your network and securely hold the data until you need it. XML is a simple yet flexible industry standard for data exchange between applications. Your latest business data is converted to an XML file that can be easily accessed via the Internet or local intranet. Then using ADO (ActiveX Data Objects) technology the Excel application can call up the new XML update and even store this data locally using an Access database. This local storage insures that even if your network is down the latest updates are still available.

As an example, let's see how a customized Excel application would work for a franchise owner or local sales representative receiving routine updates for a line of products. In this case, the product line is changing and product specification data and prices need to be updated as shown in the following diagram:


All of the new data shown above would be placed in an XML file residing on the parent companies' intranet.

When the user starts the HFS customized Excel application, it automatically downloads this data and stores it in a local Access database. One of the Excel worksheets would contain a drop-down list of all available products for sale. The old list (Product A, B, and C) would be updated to the new list (Products A, B, C, and D). When the user selects a product from this list, the worksheet would load its new specification data, which could be printed or emailed to prospective customers. If available from the XML file, other worksheets within the application would simultaneously load any new additional information for the product, such as marketing materials, product labels, regulatory information, etc. Product specific links to a website can also be included in your application and be updated via XML.

Excel's charting ability can easily be used for customer and regional-specific information like sales volume and revenue. A revenue chart worksheet for selected product B could combine monthly input from the user (actual sales) and download goals (target sales).

The user simply provides actual sales volumes using an input box for each month and product, and the charts are generated and formatted by Excel. When targets change, these are automatically downloaded and reflected in the chart.

The starting point for an application like this is an HFS-designed Excel platform which already contains basic universal functions like report generation, data retrieval, and contact management. Once you identify your application requirements, the platform is then customized to meet your particular needs. In the example above, the charts worksheet would require a user interface (such as a dialog box) for inputting sales volume; it may also be desirable to provide a toggle function to view monthly, quarterly, or annual sales volume, as well as the ability to toggle between products. The built-in functionality of Excel combined with proven HFS technology make for quick development times even for the most sophisticated spreadsheet requirements.