I love the MVP summit. Despite the fact that many of my friends are missing, and we had two throw away (general Office) sessions this morning, the Excel content today was VERY cool. VERY VERY COOL!
We decided to make our first session a trip to the Microsoft Company Store, then followed it up with an impromptu Excel session of our own. Roger Govier, Jon Peltier, Mike Rosenblum, Charles Williams and I sat around discussing issues with the charting engine in Excel. A lot of fun, and we learned some cool things from each other too. Very cool stuff.
And after lunch, we had our standard meet the Excel team session, which is always entertaining. I can't disclose the content of it, but the Excel team banter back and forth as we discussed issues, wants, needs and such was good. I really enjoy the banter with the Excel product team, as I do believe that they really want to see the product be the best it can be.
After that, we had a session on Excel services. I figured that this would be better than the morning sessions, but honestly wasn't really expecting to get much out of it. Excel Services is a Sharepoint thing, which we can't afford, and has always left me feeling like yelling out "To the Cloud!" with disdain. It's always been something that is totally out of reach of us who don't have Sharepoint, and has always been useless to me.
Wowâ€¦ things changed for me in that regard today!
Again, I can't discuss some of what was in the session, but there is some stuff I can talk about, as it's already live.
Amy (who led the session) wanted to demonstrate to us how useful Excel Services and Excel WebApp are. So she spent some time trolling the MVP websites to find an example of a website with a good page to demonstrate what she wanted to showâ€¦ and she picked one of my articles. I have to say that was a little humbling, and it felt kind of awkward as she's showing my page off to the collection of my peers sitting around me. The page picked was my "Five Very Useful Functions For Working With Text", which has also just been the source of an article for CMA BC's Update Magazine.
Amy mocked up a copy of my website page to demonstrate injecting Excel Services WebApp into my site in order to give an interactive experience with the user. Rather than look at pictures of spreadsheets and have to download the example file, she used the webapp components, stored on Windows Live SkyDrive, to let the users actually type in the formulas and display them in the webpage, like this:
"Okay", I'm thinking, "this is neat, and I can see the use, but it's going to be a pain in the backside to get it to work." So then she kicked us into lab mode and gave us an hour to try out the webparts.
After a bit of futzing around, learning how the webparts interact with a worksheet versus a named range, and how hidden rows behave, I implemented the parts on my site. Including that play time, I had the article converted to be interactive in less than an hour. I'm floored. The article is now live on my site, and you can fool around with it!
This is very cool. The workbooks I used reside in a public folder on my SkyDrive so you can open them and play with them in Excel WebApp (click the icon on the bottom right of the control). You can't save them on my SkyDrive due to the sharing permissions, but you can save them from SkyDrive.
For an article that tries to teach, like this one does, this is perfect. I'm definitely going to be making much more use of this feature, and will have to put up a blog post/article on how to do it. J