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Mobile Cheresources.com - How Will We Get There?




So, many of us have mobile computing devices these days. Whether it be a smart phone or tablet computer, it seems like these new devices are everywhere! But, there's one thing that is certain....very few of you are using to visit Cheresources.com.

In May 2011, there were over 170,000 visitors to Cheresources.com (some months the site exceeds 250,000 visitors). During that same month, 1,525 visitors were using mobile devices to access the site. So, some quick math....that's about 0.89% of our visitors coming from mobile devices!

Why?

For all the talk about cloud computing, Google Docs, Android, iOS, and on and on and on, technical sites seems to be way behind the curve. You can access our community from your smartphone and you'll be greeted with a clean, mobile-optimized skin for viewing and posting to the community forums. Alternatively, you can also see the "full" version that you get in your browser by using the link at the bottom of the mobile skin.

But, what you can't do on a smart phone or tablet, is download one of the many great MS Excel spreadsheets that may contain VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) and use it on your mobile device. They won't work in Google Docs (without conversion) nor will they work in the online version of MS Excel that Microsoft offers either. Nope, you can only use these in the good-ol'-fashioned version of Excel found on our local computers.

So, maybe the reason that our community members stick with their laptops and desktops is that it's really the only way that you can get all of the benefits of the site. In the future, we're hoping to offer a better performing mobile version of the site, but even that won't solve our problem:

How do we drag all of our precious MS Excel files with all of their fancy tricks into the mobile computing age?

If you're waiting for me to answer this question....I guess you'll have to keep waiting. You see, I'm writing this blog to listen to you! As a technical community, engineers have written thousands upon thousands of "apps" in MS Excel. The problem is that they're being left behind. I did some research on the topic. Here's an interesting post from http://www.droidforums.net/forum/htc-thunderbolt/134609-opening-excel-attachments.html:

Depending on how complicated your Excel files are, they may not work at all. Our company uses spreadsheets with custom macros (Visual Basic) and they cannot be used on any non-full-Excel program I've found so far. I'd pay quite a bit for an Android program that allowed me to run custom macros and VBA programs.


To this post, the following reply was made:

Being able to run macros would present some major security issues. Your company would be better off getting a dev to make a business specific app... or something like that. VBA is not really a true programming language because it's above the application level. Not saying its not useful, I use it all the time, but for a mobile platform a business specific app would be the way to go.


So, as a community, if we want to take our spreadsheet with us on our mobile devices, we have to have an app developed for every single spreadsheet containing even one line of needed VBA code???

Really??

I'm a big fan of all the progress that we're seeing, and mobile apps have a place, but are we supposed to now offer MS Excel versions of all of our spreadsheets and have apps developed for each of them too? And when a revision is made to a spreadsheet, we have to change both the app and the spreadsheet?

There is something called "Google App Script" which is Google's answer to VBA. In fact, it's far more powerful as it can leverage many more types of functions and interactions that Excel cannot perform.

The solver is there, you can write your own macros, in fact, in looking at the documentation....Google Docs, just might be ready for the technical community.

Would Google Docs make a good home for all of our valuable spreadsheets to ensure that they live a long prosperous life? You could easily access them from any mobile device. It's time to start thinking about our favorite spreadsheets and the best way to host them moving forward.

Imagine if you could download a similar version of the spreadsheets that we have here today into your own Google Docs account where you could perform and save your calculations...then, access them anywhere, from any device.

Tell me what you think?

I'd love to hear your feedback. Do you use Google Docs today? If you haven't checked it out for a while, it's really becoming impressive. Perhaps I'll chose one of our titles that looks challenging to convert and see how it goes.




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clarenceyue
Jun 23 2011 10:58 PM
This is a great idea Chris! After reading this commentary, I decided I should just try a small programming exercise with google docs (spreadsheet) - turned out pretty much like MS Excel and it's mobile (especially since I'm using my iPhone most days rather than my computers).

So it looks like a good idea to convert some of the files. I'd love to hear more ideas from other members!
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Chris Haslego
Jun 27 2011 01:45 PM
Well, I tried to import an existing spreadsheet into Google Docs and it didn't go well. Any merged cells or formatting goes terribly wrong. A movement from Excel to Docs would be better described as a "redevelopment" rather than a conversion. From what I can see, most technical spreadsheets would likely have to be re-written.

I'm going to keep an eye out for a better solution to the problem in the future, but I'm still interested in hearing what others have to say as well.
Outside using accessing Cheresources forums and others from your smartphone, how many engineers and students out there are readily using developed and available Smartphone apps for quick/simple engineering calculations when on the move these days?

One example:
Flowmaster offers a simple iPhone App for pressure drop/flow calculations in a single pipe using Colebrook-White Methods. Anyone can check this one out at the App Store with the following link: http://bit.ly/sc8ypI. It’s a simple app based off of the Flowmaster 1D fluid simulation software but handy in certain instances for just a quick calculation sometimes.

There are so many free or commercial smartphone apps out there for different applications and calculation with varying levels of capability. A different level of resource goes into creating a capable, polished app specifically for a platform. Is there somewhere within Cheresources forums and community perhaps where these types of apps can be referenced to and rated for purpose so people can see others views on them? I am not sure of the constraints/forum rules on posting apps unless you have developed them yourself or are directly tailored from Excel downloads posted.

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