Sometimes I wonder if spreadsheets had not been invented until today, could you convince the gatekeeping UX experts employed by major tech companies to let you bring such a product to market?
I like to describe this is the difference between “tools” and “solutions”, in the sense of a company saying they “build solutions”. Most of these solutions are frontends to a database with views hard coded based on requirements during acquisition. In my place of work, it’s common to copy the data from the “solution” into excel so you can manipulate it in newly required ways. Excel is a tool.
I don’t think companies build short sighted solutions for lock-in reasons primarily. I think they and the acquisitions team think little of the office workers’ problem solving abilities. So they make “solutions” that try to let the office workers pile in data and pull out answers without thinking.
I think the answer is more Excel-like tools. Just about any office worker could learn to query a database if that became mainstream (and there was an intuitive interface.) I bet you could design an everyman API interface, too, that a non-programmer could get proficient at. (I haven’t used Apple Shortcuts but it sounds like that’s what they’re trying the design.)
If I ever get into a position in a company where I could test these ideas, I’ll probably try to pilot new tools for normies and see if they take off.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahoo!_Pipes came pretty close, IMO.
How is Access doing these days?
Someone described Airtable as a "modern" Access and I can't unsee that now.
I have been personally experimenting with user-extensible software backed by sqlite designed for organizing files by tags. I've found that given the right primitives, the right DSL, extending the program to create novel queries is a lot of fun and possibly even approachable for 'non-programmers'.
Mine is not a version control system and it doesn't actually store files. Rather, it maintains an association between filenames (absolute paths) and sets of tags. There are some tradeoffs with such a scheme, but my priorities were that it should be non-invasive and keep filesystem access to a bare minimum. Something that you can use to organize a cluttered nfs-mounted NAS without actually moving the files (in case you later decide the system is not for you, everything is in the same place as before you started.)
It's basically a relational 'card catalogue' (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_catalog)
I remember loads of people talking about it at PyCon, ƛdon, and -- I think -- AngloHaskell(Haskell confs often feel like ~50% quants to me). Don't really recall anyone actually using it for real work though.
The worst thing about excel is the standard Excel library, and the perlishness nature of the UI's "render text into data types by heuristics, not simple consistent rules"
It was probably the most loved part of the Oracle ERP implementation because it worked for everyone.
Excel files on a network drive will always be the lingua franca of business.
The person has even written a ray tracer in excel!
Okay, that's just wickedly impressive. Obviously not their first bit of Excel programming overall but still really, really impressive.
The excel sheet weights in at 8mb, while the original dos version only takes up 2mb.