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>But building an application that is functionally equal to the spreadsheet

can you explain this to me? i've never used spreadsheets extensively so i'm clearly ignorant but my impression was that the only thing you could really (i know you can bend the rules etc.) is data transformation. when you say application is what you mean? i.e an ETL app or do you mean more than that?

Excel can pretty much do anything you'd want in an application, though not in a particularly maintainable way. GUIs? Yes. Data updates triggered by GUI actions or cell entry changes? Yes. Interacting with external resources? Yes, that too. It can do a lot more than data transformation (except in the sense that all computation can be modelled as data transformation between inputs and outputs, in which case, yes, that's all Excel can do but all any other app does, too.)

The more that's been done in Excel, the more pain it will be to maintain it in Excel or port it to a non-Excel platform, because Excel is seductive for write-once, but horrible for maintenance, and the people in an org who have it as their main tool are unlikely to be either cognizant of the problem or devoted to spending effort mitigating it.

Excel in business / finance is a great mish-mash of ETL, modelling (from simple statistics to pretty advanced optimization), graphics and dashboarding. With too little structure and documentation to be good for you. A big plus is that every step is (at least without VBA) user transparent. From Excel to application would mean specs by non-sexually writers and continuous exceptions on specs when thereto unknown use cases of pretty much the same spreadsheet are found. (Since you don't exist unless you run your own spreadsheet, users often branche from the sheets of others.)

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