IBM i Excel Spreadsheet Generator Now Unicode Compliant
Corrected: September 4, 2012
by Alex Woodie
iDATA Development recently delivered a new release of iEXL, its Excel spreadsheet generation software that runs on IBM i. With V3R2, the software is now Unicode compliant, which will enable Asian IBM i shops to take advantage of iEXL.
iEXL is an IBM i program that generates Excel spreadsheets directly from DB2/400 files. The software is used by employees and managers who prefer to see and work with company data within the comfort of Microsoft Excel, as opposed to any of the other myriad ways of getting at the data, such as canned reporting tools, ad hoc query tools, or powerful direct-access database utilities.
Using iEXL can be as simple as entering the names of up to 50 files, and watching as the software automatically converts the files into different workbooks in a spreadsheet. The software can be used with default settings, or it can be configured for more complicated workflows, such as by modifying an existing report program to output to a spreadsheet instead of a text-based report.
Spreadsheets generated by iEXL can be consumed in several ways. The software can be configure to store the spreadsheets in the IFS, distribute them automatically via email, or immediately open them on the desktop. ZIP compression is also supported to keep spreadsheets from taking up too much storage.
iDATA provides a green-screen menu system to configure the various iEXL settings. This gives the user fine-grained control over style settings, such as font and type size, cell and background colors, cell positioning, page breaks, worksheets, and so forth. Users can also insert images into their generated spreadsheets, and manipulate Excel functions via iEXL. Auto filters, sort sequences, and initialize and hide column functions are also supported.
iEXL gives users options in how their DB2/400 files will be converted into Excel spreadsheets.
iEXL is based on Apache APIs to access Microsoft Office formats. Specifically, it uses the Apache POI ("Poor Obfuscation Implementation") project's humorously named HSSF ("Horrible SpreadSheet Formula") API. The project also makes other "horrible" APIs for generating Word and PowerPoint, and Publisher files, too.
iDATA principle Mark Golden says he developed iEXL so that IT departments and users can use their existing knowledge to create spreadsheets. Users can get up and running very quickly with iEXL, since many of the options can be set as defaults, he says.
With the latest release, V3R2, iEXL has been adapted to be Unicode compliant, enabling it to display double-byte character sets used by Asian languages. Golden says a handful of organizations from around the world have adopted iEXL over the years.
Pricing is tier-based and starts at £3,000, or about $4,750 at current exchange rates. iDATA is based in the U.K., and its software is distributed in the U.S. through The Moore Consulting Group. For more information, see www.iexlsoftware.com.
This article was corrected. iEXL is used by a "handful" of customers, not by hundreds of organizations. IT Jungle regrets the error.
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