I have a client (large corporation) with a broken Excel document where their staff enter some numbers, which are then displayed in some charts (like a sales dashboard). There is some validation on the data, like lookups into a list of companies, list of countries etc. Their Excel sheet (which they bought from a large consulting company some years ago - probably for a lot of $$$) is completely broken (most likely due to user errors). Charts display the wrong numbers and they've got no idea where they're coming from, etc.

They have asked me to fix the Excel document and "give the design a brush-up", but I don't think investing into this old, broken document is such a good choice: Only one user can edit the file at a time (they risk data loss whenever somebody copies their local version back to the server) and Excel is just not made for this. There are dozens of VBA macros in this file that try to work around the limitations of Excel, with hidden sheets etc. Just trying to understand what they do would take a considerable amount of time etc.

However, they're only interested in a "quick fix" now because they want to properly upgrade to a new system in one or two years. They say "The old thing will do for anothe one or two years, and then we'll have a proper new system built."

But instead, I would like to sell them a more future-proof system, thus getting a foot in the door for further development when that time comes. But it can't be significantly more expensive than the Excel "quick fix" as they don't really have "building a new application from scratch" on their agenda right now,

We could probably build this in SharePoint in no time, but I don't like SharePoint and it's not what I would consider future proof either. My team (I'm a developer myself, but I am busy with other projects) says building a .NET Core application for this would take 12-13 days, which is way too long. Anyone know a quicker solution to this problem? Maybe 5-6 days maximum? Something more like good old Microsoft Access?

For instance, Developer Express have their ExpressApp Framework: https://www.devexpress.com/products/net/application_framework/

Microsoft used to have Lightswitch: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff851953.aspx

All we want is a GUI to enter some data (with some lookup fields, ideally they would be able to manage the lookup data themselves) - and some beautiful charts built on top of that. The data is really simple, it only one row of data which they enter, and only four or five fields are relevant for the charts, the other fields are mainly free text (there are a couple of lookup fields, like "status", "company" or "country", but nothing too fancy).

There has to be something in between MS Excel and a complex web application written from scratch, only for this purpose.

4 Answers 4


Try Filemaker Pro. It's quite a bit more than a spreadsheet, but it's pretty future proof.


If by data input you mean selecting from fields/filter values in the Excel Spreadsheet, Syncfusion Dashboard is an option to consider. You can create a Dashboard with charts by importing the Excel file and the dashboard can be deployed with the dashboard server to make it usable for multiple users. You would have to recreate any calculations in the Excel file using the expression column support.

Syncfusion Dashboard

Syncfusion Dashboard platform is available for free through the community license for hobby and small business(less than 1 million USD in revenue) and there are flat licenses available for larger companies.

Note: I work for Syncfusion.


Another option that would involve programming would be to use the Syncfusion Spreadsheet control ejSpreadsheet that can be used to host your own spreadsheet within a web application similar to Google Sheets. A .NET backend is required (ASP.NET Core is also an option)

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The Spreadsheet can display charts as well or you can pull the data and display them separately using the chart control.

Syncfusion Spreadsheet chart

The Spreadsheet can be used for collaborative editing of the Spreadsheet and the resultant dashboard can be displayed in the Dashboard.

The entire product is available for free through the community license program if you qualify (less than 1 million USD in revenue).

Note: I work for Syncfusion.


Take a look at SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services).


Basically is SQL Server (so multi-user access) with a layer on top specific for reporting and charting.

No programming required (but you can interface with .NET)

Another tool you can look is Power BI , also from Microsoft.

  • I am not worried about the charting part. I can even built that from scratch in .NET in no time. What I am interested in is mostly the data-entering part. Microsoft Lightswitch looked very promising, but has since been discontinued. All I want is a nice tool to enter the data, with lookup fields and data validation. Really simple. SharePoint can do that with custom content types, but I don't like SharePoint... Oct 27, 2017 at 16:28
  • For data entering you can use whatever database management tool you want on top of SQL Server, for example SQL Server Management Studio
    – fruggiero
    Oct 28, 2017 at 11:02
  • We are talking about an end-user solution. They don't know how to use SQL Server Management Studio, nor should they... Oct 29, 2017 at 18:38

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