Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pie (Charts) in the Sky

Did you know that if you place an Excel document in a SkyDrive account (Microsoft's cloud-based storage), that you can then embed it into a web page...or blog post?

I had read something about this recently, and finally had an opportunity to do some poking around. It's a very cool idea, although aspects of it are a bit crude at the moment.

What you can do:
  • Upload an Office document (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote Notebook) for storage and access from anywhere.
  • Share your documents with others to view, edit, or download.
  • Generate embed codes for all or part of your workbooks.

What you can't do (with the Excel app):
  • Nothing fancy. The app does not support VBA, data validation, embedded objects, or other items. No soup data dashboard embed for you.
  • Although you can set the embedded app such that anyone can test out the spreadsheet, once you click on the "full screen" option, you lose the ability to type in the document. This sucks, since most people aren't going to have a Lilliputian spreadsheet to embed...and webpages have limited real estate.
  • The app will not show up in RSS versions of your web page or post. Viewers/Users must click through to your site.
However, I think the apps are a good start toward communicating data. Yes, there are a ton of other tools which will also do that job. But, from a practical standpoint about what most educators and students will be doing, the ability to use your Excel documents in news ways could provide new opportunities. Create an open notebook for a science lab. Share a graph of student progress using an email only a parent can access. Collaborate on project planning with peers. Collect data from any number of stakeholders. Lots of possibilities, and all within Excel's native format.

In light of the recent posts about apps for the tablet, I couldn't help but try out using a document on the SkyDrive. Conclusion: Not recommended. You can't "pinch" to enlarge (or decrease) the view...and there's some weird arrows you have to use to navigate things. No thanks.

Use the app shown above to test out the Zero Effect workbook. Any data you input will not be saved and no one else will see what you add. I know it's too scroll-y to be considered user-friendly, but perhaps it will give you some ideas about what is possible.

Bonus Round
If you want to see what a PowerPoint deck looks like, click over to my companion post on What It's Like on the Inside.

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