Opening Microsoft File Formats to Java
Subject:   A Client's Dilemma
Date:   2008-10-08 17:26:11
From:   Martin_from_Brisbane
My position is something of a hybrid; I'm both a client and a developer.

I'm an engineer working in a large consultancy practice. We work in a MS dominated world and the way we traditionally solve problems is to write spreadsheets. The point is that my colleagues are familiar and comfortable with spreadsheets, so their inclinations, when confronted with a new problem, is to look around for the spreadsheet that was used last time. Its an approach that has been acquired, rather than designed, and I consider it to be profoundly flawed.

For the last couple of years, I have self-educated myself in coding (I started with Perl and switched to Java). I like Java and its main attraction to what I do is in unit testing (QA) and test driven design. I recently presented my ideas to my colleagues and the general reaction was "this looks way too hard", and "is it possible to wire Java macros to spreadsheets?"

I'm not going to wean my colleagues of MS any time soon, but one way to start is a hybrid approach - find some interface between Excel and Java. I would much rather keep to 'pure' Java, but I can't see it getting any traction with my colleagues at present.

My dilemma is this; if I get into developing interfaces between MS Excel, I'll have two languages to speak, not just one. Furthermore, I'm confident that MS will introduce some new 'feature' that will stop the interface from working (its in MS' own interests to do so), which will mean that whatever we use now will become obsolete in a couple of years' time.

Any suggestions? PS, I'm looking for strategies, not detailed solutions, and can we skip the MS-is-evil stuff for now.