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Alpha or Spreadsheet?

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  • Alpha or Spreadsheet?

    I have been using a spreadsheet to track my actual expenditures sales as well as budgeted expenditures and forecasted sales. Basically, the sheet is comprised of columns for each of the following items: date, forecasted sales, Budgeted expenditures, actual sales, and a series of columns (40 in all!) for each supplier or organization that I make checks out to. Finally I have a bank balance column which essentially takes the sales and subtracts the expenditures.
    The sheet is quite dynamic since a change is immediately reflected in my running bank balance.
    The big problem is the necessity to have 40 columns plus to track my checks. It is really unwieldy.
    I am trying to design something in Alpha to replace this system. currently I have a set comprised of a table => Main that has a column of consecutive dates. To this I have linked a table=> Transactions that holds checks,deposits,electronic debits as outlined in "Xbasic for Everyones'" general ledger application.
    This is where everything came to a halt. I realized the the output can only be output in the form of a report.
    Is it possible to design this so it is as dynamic as the spreadsheet?

  • #2
    Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

    As you well know , spreadsheets and dbs are different animals, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunatly, your description doesn't tell us much. I suspect that what you want can be done w. xbasic. Just not sure what it is you want.
    Peter
    AlphaBase Solutions, LLC

    Peter@AlphaBaseSolutions.com
    https://www.alphabasesolutions.com


    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

      Greg,

      What you have described appears to be to be a simple accounting system for a small business, rather than a personal application.

      You have already encountered the limitations of using spreadsheets for this purpose. An accounting system, other than for the simplest personal use, must be built with a relational database.

      Having said that, do you have bookkeeping/accounting background. If you do, you may wish to build your own system and Alpha is well suited to the task. Are you aware that accounting majors today often build complete accounting systems from scratch today using Microsoft Access.

      You might find this a useful roadmap: Building Accounting Systems Using Access 2007 (Paperback). It's a college textbook and is somewhat pricey but may be available from Amazon.com, your local library or inter-library loan.

      Or alternatively you might want to consider QuickBooks. You will find a lot of posts on this forum for integration of Quickbooks with Alpha Five. You can download a free copy of Quick Books Simple Start 2010 at
      http://download.cnet.com/QuickBooks-...-10608523.html.



      Bob McGaffic
      Pittsburgh, PA

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

        You could create a "set" based on your tables, then set up browse based on the set, then a form to hold the browse. You could then use calculated fields on the form to show the dynamic totals in a similar fashion to the spreadsheet.

        At any rate, a good tutorial on relational databases could be useful. It takes a little bit of time to get used to the relational model after having used the flat file model of a spreadsheet. There are many good books on the subject. Some are Alpha Five specific and are linked here somewhere. I also found the book "Database Design for Mere Mortals" a good read. It was about $40 at Barnes & Noble. Check it out.

        The direct answer would be to use Alpha instead of the spreadsheet. But you'll need to learn a few simple relational techniques first. Once you are ready you can import your data from your spreadsheet.

        Sean

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

          Originally posted by Greg Fong View Post
          ... the necessity to have 40 columns plus to track my checks ... currently I have a set comprised of a table => Main that has a column of consecutive dates. ...
          This tells me right away that you are thinking in terms of a spreadsheet. That's no surprise and not at all unusual for someone in your situation. The following is meant to help - not to pick on you or to chase you away. We've all been there and people on this board are more than willing to help a new user.

          Oh, and you can always post questions here when something isn't making sense but specific questions are best. A question like "how do I build invoices" is likely to get ignored because (a) there are just too many possible factors involved and (b) many developers on this forum do this for a living and are very good about answering specific questions but don't have time to write a book.

          You MUST do some studying and understand relational database concepts before tackling something like this. Working with a relational database takes a different mindset than working with a spreadsheet but once you get used to it, you will realize that you now have FAR more power available to you. If you simply dive in and start building a relational database without understanding the concepts, you are liable to make many mistakes that will cause you nothing but trouble later. (Like adding all those consecutive date and check "columns". And they aren't columns; they are fields. Do not think in terms of "columns" when building your database. That will just cause you problems because you will structure the tables the wrong way.)

          I'm not sure exactly what you were trying to accomplish in doing that but "multiple columns of the same thing" just screams of the need for a relational child table. It may sound like "geek stuff" but I suggest searching the web for "relational database design" and "database normalization". There's plenty out there. Unfortunately, some authors aren't very good at explaining it but they still put their stuff on the web. If you find yourself really struggling with one author, try another. It's not really all that difficult. (Also, when looking at 'normalization', ignore anything after level 3 for now. Levels 4 and 5 might be interesting from a conceptual standpoint but are seldom used because they often aren't practical.)

          Learning the basics will pay off hugely in time saved and reduced frustration later. For example, your 'consecutive date fields' and '40 columns to track checks' will probably make it nearly impossible to create a usable report and will also make it extremely difficult to use the application once the last date has been reached. (I have one user with over 20 years of data - almost 300 megabytes of just data. The data is all in one set of tables - i.e., all customers are in one table, all invoice headers are in one table, all invoice items are in one table, etc. - and they can still print an old invoice, or range of invoices, from 1990 just as fast as they can print one created today - in other words, instantly.) You can probably learn all you need to get started in just 2-3 hours, maybe less, then plan to go back to check/review things after doing some real-world work.

          Now, to answer your last question: "Is it possible to design this so it is as dynamic as the spreadsheet?" The answer is ABSOLUTELY! And it can ultimately have more features and be more powerful than you ever thought possible with the spreadsheet. However, it will be different. The bad news is that it will take a little time and effort for you to learn some new concepts and change your mindset - but I believe you will find it very worthwhile in the end.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

            Cal,

            You have provided sound advice. I'd just like to add that the problem with using spreadsheets is that they don't scale up and become progressively more awkward to work with. Even financial software today that uses Excel as a front end, such as OutlookSoft or SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, write the data to an underlying relational database.

            That's why I recommended the book that I did to Greg:
            1. It will give him the basic understanding of relational databases which
            is easily translated into Alpha

            2. It will give him a "roadmap" of tables and relationships to build an
            accounting system that will get him off to a good start.

            3. If will directly address how to effectively report and summarize his information.

            The problem with 40 columns is next week it's 50 columns and the next week it's 60 columns and then the whole thing is too big to scroll through. You have to have a CAD printer to print out that many columns!

            Bob McGaffic
            Pittsburgh, PA

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

              Thank-you very much for your very thorough answers. I have played with relational concepts in the past but this is a real project that will save me a tremendous amount of agony. The spreadsheet is too cumbersome to use. Your experience with Alpha, has given me the confidence to pursue it further. The browse in the form with calculated fields has lit a lightbulb so to speak. I am now investigating the appropriate use of total to run_total in a calculated field. Thanks for the confidence boost!

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

                Greg,

                Originally posted by Greg Fong View Post
                I have been using a spreadsheet to track my actual expenditures sales as well as budgeted expenditures and forecasted sales.
                There is so many people doing just like you. Analyzing and grouping data with Excel . And Excel is the number one product for this purpose. Every company uses Excel for this: Budgeting and planning. If you are using Excel for budget plans I can sure you Alpha won't beat Excel in this case.

                Originally posted by Greg Fong View Post
                date, forecasted sales, Budgeted expenditures, actual sales, and a series of columns (40 in all!)
                I don't see here any problem. 40 columns. Excel can handle millions of records. For example If I make an 3 years monthly budget plan 40 columns are not enough. I can use many more.
                I use tabs to group the data.

                Originally posted by Greg Fong View Post
                The big problem is the necessity to have 40 columns plus to track my checks
                Try to group your data logically. Use tabs. Maybe 15 columns per tab, then you have 3+1(to combine the bank balance)tabs.

                Originally posted by Greg Fong View Post
                The sheet is quite dynamic since a change is immediately reflected in my running bank balance
                This just tells me that you have a system that works!. Just tune it, there is no need to get rid of it.

                Originally posted by Greg Fong View Post
                I am trying to design something in Alpha to replace this system. running bank balance
                Don't try. You will loose your mind. My advice is don't immediately try to develop anything. Start from little. Make lot of mistakes and learn. One, two, three tables, try forms, use browses examine, enjoy. I can sure you that you don't need any books. If you can use Excel you can use Alpha also.

                When you save your Excel file that is Database in Alpha. Tab is table in Alpha. Column is field in Alpha. Row is data in Alpha. Data types : Number, date and so on: piece of cake. There is just few data types in Alphas tables available. In Excel you have used them already almost all. So they use just the same simple concept. If you are able to organize data in Excel you can do it with Alpha also.

                Then later when you have enough knowledge you can maybe build an application which uses your original Excels spredsheet data directly from Alpha (A5V9 Plat) using Alphas Active link tables. Sounds difficult but is not.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

                  Originally posted by kkfin View Post
                  This just tells me that you have a system that works!
                  IF that is true then I completely agree with your next statement also:
                  Originally posted by kkfin View Post
                  Just tune it, there is no need to get rid of it.
                  Don't fix what ain't broke!

                  Since he is trying to convert it, I assumed that something was no longer working as desired in Excel. If that's the case, then my experience has shown that people converting from a spreadsheet to a relational database need to read up on relational databases before trying to create one or, as I said previously, they will make serious mistakes that will make things much harder for them down the road. Those "mistakes" - like the multiple columns idea - might be the best way to do it in Excel but not in a relational database.

                  Like so many things, the "best thing" is what works best for you. If what you have meets your needs, don't bother changing it. If you do need to change, be truly selfish by considering the long term and do it right - or be selfish about the short term and pay for it big time later. (My philosophy lesson of the day - compliments of my father.)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

                    Well,

                    I can just tell my opinion. I did understand that the big problem was the number of columns. And I don't see there any problem.

                    The first database I used was Paradox 4.5 for dos. I still like it, but unfortunately I don't use it anymore.

                    I must say I just bought the software not book.

                    Best way to do? Best way to do a software? Best way to make a car? There are many cars. Which is the best?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

                      Don't get me wrong. If the spreadsheet works, I agree that he should keep using it.

                      And, yes, there are many ways to do something. Switching from one car to another is like switching from one spreadsheet to another or one database to another. But just because you've driven your car for years doesn't mean that you know how to safely drive a heavy truck with a loaded double bottom trailer. Nor does having driven one mode of transportation (the car or truck) mean you could successfully handle another mode of transportation such as flying a 747 or landing the space shuttle. A relational database is definitely different than a spreadsheet and when you are doing something that is significantly different than what you've done before - even if there are some similiarities - it's best to at least learn the basics first.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

                        Relational database?

                        There is a relation with databases, a link.

                        Clear to me!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

                          I have a relative that works for a consulting company that can best be described as a money making machine (MMM). They have some amazingly complex and powerful spreadsheets - linked to Oracle. Reproducing those spreadsheets, per se, in a database would require a skilled programmer a year or more, I'm sure. As it is, they got an Oracle consulting company billing them 12K per week to maintain the damn database. Nice work if you can get it. ;)
                          Peter
                          AlphaBase Solutions, LLC

                          Peter@AlphaBaseSolutions.com
                          https://www.alphabasesolutions.com


                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

                            Originally posted by Peter.Greulich View Post
                            I have a relative that works for a consulting company that can best be described as a money making machine (MMM). They have some amazingly complex and powerful spreadsheets - linked to Oracle. Reproducing those spreadsheets, per se, in a database would require a skilled programmer a year or more, I'm sure. As it is, they got an Oracle consulting company billing them 12K per week to maintain the damn database. Nice work if you can get it. ;)
                            Wow! That's 12,000*52 = $624,000 per year. So I would be willing to accept a mere $312,000 to reproduce those spreadsheets using A5 as a front end and they would have an ROI on that job of only 6 months - a real bargain - and I'd have enough to retire now. Or does that cost have nothing to do with the spreadsheet and it's just for maintaining the data in Oracle? But, either way, I note that they are still using a database to store the data and, presumably, the spreadsheet is just pulling the data from Oracle for 'display' purposes. That's a pretty impressive job but hardly the same as using the spreadsheet as the primary database.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Alpha or Spreadsheet?

                              Originally posted by CALocklin View Post
                              Or does that cost have nothing to do with the spreadsheet and it's just for maintaining the data in Oracle? But, either way, I note that they are still using a database to store the data and, presumably, the spreadsheet is just pulling the data from Oracle for 'display' purposes.
                              I would say the consulting work is for general custom programming of Oracle. I think it would be an oversimplification to say that the spreadsheet merely pulls data from Oracle for 'display' purposes. It's more like the spreadsheet & Oracle talk to each other and share data. Also, this company is a small international enterprise with offices in places like Ireland and China and wherever.
                              Peter
                              AlphaBase Solutions, LLC

                              Peter@AlphaBaseSolutions.com
                              https://www.alphabasesolutions.com


                              Comment

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