Thursday Dec 13, 2012

All hail the Excel Queen

An excellent question this past week from dear ol Blighty; actually from Brian at Nextgen Clearing Ltd in the big smoke (London). Brian was developing an excel template and wanted to be able to reference the data fields multiple times inside the Excel template. Damn good question and I of course has some wacky solutions, from macros and cell referencing in Excel to pre-processing the data with an XSL stylesheet to copy the data multiple times so it could be referenced multiple times. All completely outlandish, enter our Queen of Excel, Shirley from the development team. Shirley is singlehandedly responsible for the Excel templates, I put her through six months of hell a few years back, with a host of Excel template requirements. She was more than up to the challenge and has developed some great features. One of those, is the ability to use the hidden XDO_METADATA sheet to map the data to custom named fields so they can be used multiple times in the template. So simple and very neat!

Excel template and regular Excel users will know that you can only use the naming function once ie the names have to be unique across the workbook so you can not reuse a cell/group name. To get around this you can just come up with as many cell names as you want and map them in the XDO_METADATA sheet to the data columns/fields in your XML data set:. For example:

XDO_?DEPTNO_SUMMARY? 
<?DEPTNO?>
XDO_?DNAME_SUMMARY? 
<?DNAME?>
XDO_GROUP_?G_D_DETAIL? <xsl:for-each-group select=".//G_D" group-by="./DEPTNO">
XDO_?DEPTNO_DETAIL?
<?DEPTNO?>

As you can see DEPTNO has been referenced twice and mapped to different named values in the left hand column. These values can then be used to name individual cells in the Excel template. You'll also notice a mix of Publisher <? ...?> and native XSL commands. So the world is your oyster on the mapping and the complexity you might need for calculations or string manipulation.

Shirley has kindly built out a sample Excel template, data and result here so you can see how it all hangs together. the XDO_METADATA sheet is hidden, just right click on the sheet names and use the Unhide command to show it.

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