Review: StrikeIron OnDemand Web Services for Microsoft Excel
StrikeIron OnDemand Web Services for Microsoft Excel
Starting at $99.95
Durham, North Carolina
Web services have been around for a few years now, but after the initial
splash and promise of being the greatest thing since sliced white broadband,
they seem to have largely dropped out of the news. That's despite the fact that
there is actually a wide range of useful information available via Web services,
from sales tax rates to address verification to Do Not Call lists to stock
market updates. Part of the problem is that it's tough for the ordinary end user
to connect to and grab information from a Web service.
StrikeIron has been tackling that part of the problem for a while, and with
this latest product they have done a simply amazing job of unlocking Web
services for the average business user. Basically, if you're a reasonably
experienced Excel user, you can use Web services. I'd say if you're comfortable
inserting a range of data from a database, this product would make you equally
comfortable building a spreadsheet to do a stock market lookup.
Part of the key is that StrikeIron hides almost all of the tangle of Web
service-specific language from the user. After a painless installation (you need
to have the .NET Framework on the computer, but that's getting to be a common
requirement), you'll find a StrikeIron menu added to Excel. Open it up and
select "OnDemand Web Services" to get a list of all Web services hooked up to
the current workbook. The "New" button lets you add new Web services. If you're
experienced, you can point to a WSDL file or a UDDI server. If you're not, no
problem: enter a search term and search StrikeIron's own extensive listing.
From there, it's a matter of selecting the Web service that you want to use,
and then integrating it with the workbook. You do this by dragging and dropping
input and output fields wherever you'd like to see them. Dismiss all the dialog
boxes, fill in the input fields, and select the Refresh item from the StrikeIron
menu. Behind the scenes, StrikeIron makes the Web services calls and fills in
the output cells. You never have to write a line of code or even a formula.
In a nice touch, if someone without the add-in tries to open a
StrikeIron-enabled workbook they'll be warned that they need the add-in and
told where to get it.
It's tough to imagine an easier way to hook things up short of the
mind-reading interface that we don't quite have yet. StrikeIron works with any
Web service you can find, but they also have their own selection of premium Web
services for things like reverse phone number lookup or real time stock
information that you can subscribe to on a per-hit basis. You can try those
services out on their Web site if you'd like to, where you can also download a
30-day free trial of the Excel add-in. If you're ready to take a bet on Web
sevices for the business end user this is one to check out for sure.
Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.