A Metadata Interface for Spreadsheets


Mike Farmer asks why spreadsheets (including Apple's new Numbers) don't include ways of getting at data.

Now that we have an easy way to assemble our data and make it look great we need a way to get at our favorite data. Imagine for a second, that on the left side of Numbers there is an option for getting your data from a Data Warehouse, Web Site, Web 2.0 interface (i.e. RSS, WebService, etc), or XML & CSV files. Now imagine that you click on one of those and you get a Metadata explorer that shows user friendly views of your data. Now you simply choose the fields that you want, how you want it assembled, then poof!, the data is dropped into a table in your spreadsheet. Implement some eye candy such as Apple's "skim" feature to browse sample data, etc and you have an extremely powerful BI tool.
From Meanwhile, back at the farm...: In case missed it, Apple enters the BI Industry
Referenced Mon Aug 13 2007 06:52:54 GMT-0600 (MDT)

Great question. KnowNow has had a plugin for Excel that allows this. (I did a review for InfoWorld last year). Even so, the average user isn't going to install KnowNow's product--this sort of thing could easily be built in.

Google's spreadsheet has some of this (although not complete data feeds). You can use =GoogleLookup to find out all kinds of things from Google--and as it changes online, it will update in the spreadsheet. For example, =GoogleLookup("Paraguay"; "internet users") will return the number of Internet users in Paraguay. There's also GoogleFinance for financial data (e.g. current stock price). Why can't I do that from Excel or Numbers?