To add my $.02 to a whole suite of good suggestions...
I think it is important to separate the tasks of
1. data entry, and
2. processing/analysis/visualization, etc.
For task 1, Excel is as good as anything else, however I would
recommend saving data as ascii flat files. This maintains the data in
a universally accessible and usable format. Any other binary format
will have some sort of a limited lifespan. If file size becomes a
problem, I am sure that the data probably has some natural breaking
points (e.g., years) that could be used to keep the data in manageable
pieces. Once entered, the 'raw' data could be maintained in ascii
format, and there should really never be a need to edit it.
Task 2, for the sake of repeatability and documentation, should (in my
opinion) be done using some sort of scripted language. The scripts
would read in the raw data, manipulate as you wish, and spit out
anything you wish (even to the point of achieving "literate
programming/reporting" like goals). The previously mentioned Matlab
or R environments would both be fine choices. Either could be used to
create nice gui-like interfaces for use by your colleagues, and both
work well across platforms.
On Mon, May 19, 2008 at 3:28 PM, david craig <email@hidden> wrote:
> I am in need of some suggestions. My father is a toxicologist who has a
> project that has outgrown its current tools, and is also a victim of the
> axing of VBA from Mac Excel 08. They need to move beyond Excel anyway, but
> the passing of VBA support means loss of cross-platform capability, which is
> essential for this project. (I do know about the recent annoncement
> signaling the return of VBA in a future version, but given the
> uncertainties, that's not really material at the moment.)
> The project, as it currently exists, is (very) large Excel spreadsheet that
> contains a (very) large quantity of data which is processed by an
> increasingly complex sequence of VBA macros to produce yet more data.
> Development work is done by a number of individuals responsible for
> different portions, some using Mac OS and some using Windows.
> When data is to be distributed to end users, the macros are stripped out and
> a version with only the final data in the spreadhseet is made public.
> As I said, the size and complexity has increased to near Excel's breaking
> point even without the VBA issue. None of the people involved are
> programmers per se, but I imagine the individual doing the VBA coding would
> be willing to learn something new if it were going to be of long term value
> to the project.
> ANYWAY, the need is to find a program or environment which
> (i) will enable continued cross-platform development
> (ii) supports some form of fairly sophisticated macro programming for
> processing the data
> (iii) can handle processing of a large quantity of data.
> (iv) Can ultimately output the results of said processing as a spreadsheet
> containing just the results.
> It doesn't have to be free. I'm sure the project grant can support a new
> environment so long as it's something to which it can commit long-term.
> I have various vague notions of possibilities, but I've not done anything
> quite like this, so I'm really not qualified to make expert suggestions with
> any confidence.
> PLEASE keep in mind that none of the people involved are programmers or
> computer geeks. They're scientists with specialties in other areas -- I'm
> still the one who solves most of my father's computer problems, for example.
> The person who does the VBA programming probably could handle something
> equivalent at that level, but I think whatever I suggest can't reach much
> beyond that level of demand.
> I hope I've said enough to make clear what the needs are. Is there
> anything out there that fits the bill?
> David Craig
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