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Using Microsoft Excel to edit web content

May 2, 2011by Adrian ╚śchiopuin ActivitiesNo Comments

Back-end interfaces should provide the users with a fast way to change the content of their websites. Most of the time, however, they are underdeveloped parts of the application, lacking in usability and with a generally inefficient work flow. Why? – a very common misconception: it isn’t as important as the front-end because it’s not accessed by as many users.

A great way to pump speed into back-end interfaces is to allow the admins to use the work flow they’re best accustomed to. While many of them use data sheets to store content (like the case of an online shop, for instance) it would be great if the app allowed them to commit changes directly from the application they’re working in.

The add-in is a component that allows users to update information on their websites by using Excel worksheets. It is installed on the user’s computer and acts as a bridge between the two applications: it saves the worksheet into a database as the user is editing it and informs the web app when the user has finished editing.

The link between the two applications is the common database. Its structure is defined by the server-side core and has to be filled with information in a known format. The add-in will then alter the entries and announce commits, so that the chances can be translated back into the web application’s database.

This provides an efficient way of editing content entries at once as well as importing entries into the application repository through the simple worksheet user interface. The server-side code, however, has to be adapted to the data model of each application it is being connected to. Sometimes, this can be the difficult part.

Although the add-in was initially developed for another project, we managed to adapt it with the Magento eCommerce platform, allowing the user to import/edit products within Microsoft Excel. We are still working on making the code more flexible, as well as standardizing formats, but I’m confident that results will show up in this direction as well.

Adrian ╚śchiopu

What do you think?