Today's question comes from Quora: Based on the linked article (Confessions of an Excel addict), do you agree that MS Excel may fade? Why do you think so? What might be the best alternative?

According to the article, Excel hasn’t changed but business has. I would ask, “How has business changed?”

Who Bought What? The fundamental question for all businesses is “Who bought what?” This task has been the same since the zero was invented. There has to be a method for entering data in Rows and Columns.

I agree that the User interface has changed. My grandfather was an engineer at Ford’s in Dearborn a hundred years ago. He had an adding machine and a slide rule.

My generation paid $600 for a programmable calculator! Now, the data could be added, compiled and reviewed…and plotted on a graph.

Today, I can use Excel on my phone. But the tasks are the same as when I ran my business with a calculator. There is a Table for the Customers, a Table for Products, another Table for Receipts.

Can a Business Outgrow Microsoft Excel?

Absolutely. The article describes in detail how Excel no longer fits his business needs. Very well: Excel can handle One-to-One relationships. Most offices enter customer and product information separately. There may be a spreadsheet for the customers (who) and another spreadsheet for the products (what). In our sample business the customers rent movies, so there will be a list of movies. A receipt lists who bought what.

Question: How Do You Show that in Excel?

A spreadsheet can record one-to-one relationships. Picture the receipt spreadsheet. Each row would have one answer in each column: receipt number, date, customer, movie, price. So far, so good.

Say the Business Grows

This sample shows a video rental store. Excel can handle one-to-many relationships with Lookup Tables and little drop-down boxes: one receipt has many items.

Databases Do Many-to-Many Relationships.

But, yes, a business can grow. One customer may get many movies, say 3 or 5 titles. At some point you need to document that many customers bought many products on many days.

Eventually, most businesses develop a database to handle what Excel cannot handle many-to-many relationships: many customers buy many products and return many times.

Here is a YouTube video that shows more options:

Microsoft Access 2013 Beginning: Hello, Access!

Your comments are welcome!
Thanks, eBeth

Elizabeth Nofs, the Computer Mama

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