Excel -- wrong tool for the job?
"Errors are introduced because some genetic identifiers look very like dates to Excel. If the spreadsheet is not properly set up, it will convert an identifier, such as SEPT2 to a date: 2-Sep. The conversion, the researchers say, is irreversible: once the error has been introduced, the original data is gone."
Store data in Access
Yes, I've come across a few problems like that. For example importing a catalog of items with titles item numbers "00062", Excel will drop the leading zeroes unless you tell it not to.
I have memories of exporting a contact database to Excel before importing it into the replacement database (Excel was the only program we had capable of importing CSV and outputting DBF). Years afterwards the database still contained phone numbers of the form 1.23456E+12.
The real question is, why is this news?
I'm with muppet on this one.
Steve Jones (UK)
Excel is the wrong tool in that it has numerous "features" designed to make it universal. There are numerous packages available that will import data without converting into other weird formats, etc. If it was THAT bad, they'd just hire some people to get that going, right?
Excel is one of the few good tools for moving tabular extracts around
I fail to see how the change would be irreversible. Switching SEPT03 to 9-2003 or whatever can be easily reversed.
But was it SEP03 or SEPT03 that got switched? It seems to me that the "right" solution to this one would be to just store the original data with the formatted data. If you then find out that your formatting is wrong ("Whoops, forgot to set that column to not format input as dates"), you can use some sort of reformat command to parse the original input again.
"If someone screws their data up in Excel, because they don't know how to use it, what can you say."
More recent versions of excel put a little 'post it' next to conversions so that you can reverse them if you want. A very neat feature. The Excel team seem to get things right most of the time.
I had to write the mother of all data gathering report/apps using excel. It was a nightmare. 5 Mb in size, emailed between sites/jobs and myself, where I uploaded the data into SQL Server. Felt like cutting my own throat each time a user modifed the file causing my uploader to crash, but those above wouldn't let me write a real program to do the same thing.
Jack of all
muppet, this is news because those smarter-than-though scientists weren't aware that it was the wrong tool for the job. And in fact, most people aren't aware that even though Excel is an excellent tool for small jobs, it's the wrong tool for most serious jobs due to being smarter than you about what you want to do.
ok, so Ori what you're saying is that its news, reported by scientists, that the scientists (those same reporting scientists) are incompetent.
Excel is the wrong tool to store data in.
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