The blank slate that is Excel

Excel is being used to do quite a lot of things. Things it generally wasn’t designed to do — Interface design, project management, databases, invoices and more. I’ve seen it all.

It often ends up being a mess, awful to look at and impossible to maintain. But sometimes it’s quite impressive. Even surprising.

You see, Excel has this bad reputation in the tech industry because it’s getting used to solve all sort of problems it should not. Why use Excel when a piece of software exists to solve the specific problem you’re working on?

Well, Excel provides a blank slate. Almost like building blocks, allowing you to build anything you want without the friction of having to learn something new. Plus, you don’t have to take the time to find a solution that already exists, but doesn’t solve your problem exactly the way you’d want.

Especially in a corporate environment where installing new software involves a painful process with the IT department or costs approval.

I used to hate Excel and all the wrong ways of using it, but the truth is that it’s one of the most flexible and widely adopted piece of software. Not only can you use it in a lot of different ways, but you’re also sure anybody will be able to read and edit it. Without being collaborative in its features, collaboration is about people first and it’s easy to collaborate around a tool everybody knows. It’s friction less.

I don’t use it a lot, but I understand why non-techies use it that much. The grid is reassuring, gives structure and is easy to work.

I still think it’s broken in many ways, but I understand why it’s so widely adopted.