How to Turn an Excel Spreadsheet Into an App

Microsoft Excel remains the go-to software solution for millions of businesses across the globe. It is favored for its versatility and flexibility, and for the depth of data manipulation and analysis that it allows. And thanks to a new type of platform that turns Excel spreadsheets into apps within minutes, some of the challenges in […]

Excel spreadsheet into an app

Manfred Streit

Guides

It only takes 3 steps to convert your Excel spreadsheet to an app! We´ll tell you how!

Microsoft Excel remains the go-to software solution for millions of businesses across the globe. It is favored for its versatility and flexibility and for the depth of data manipulation and analysis that it allows. And thanks to the Open as App platform that turns Excel spreadsheets into apps within minutes, some of the challenges in using Excel have been overcome.

Download your checklist to get started

Just enter your contact data, and we´ll send you our checklist. This list will help you take everything into account when choosing a platform to build your app. Check it out for free!

Excel to app: How to convert spreadsheets

Whether you need Excel to collect data, plan projects and analyze risks, report metrics, generate quotes, predict financial outcomes, or something as big as production planning or order management, you know it will be there for you.

But when it comes to using Excel collaboratively or protecting the data efficiently, that’s when things can get really messy. Suddenly, your Excel sheet is crashing, data is corrupt, and you have no idea whether you’re looking at the latest version or not. While this is quite characteristic of unmanaged Excel files, it can frequently occur with managed ones as well.

In this case, you may want to consider turning your Excel spreadsheet into a native or web application. This will allow you to reduce some of the common errors related to data management, distribution, and protection. Another benefit is that your Excel will look like an app – this offers greater usability and variety in terms of design.

Here are some reasons you should turn your Excel spreadsheet into an app and how to go about that.

Why should you turn your Excel into an app?

For all their usefulness, spreadsheets can quickly turn into what’s known as “Excel Hell” due to one or two simple mistakes. Such as when JP Morgan lost about $6.5 billion during the so-called “London Whale” incident because of several faulty equations and copy-pasted cells.

So, when do spreadsheets fail, and how can turning them into an app help you avoid their pitfalls?

Spreadsheet version control is hard

With spreadsheets constantly circulating around, chances are the latest version will get lost sooner or later. Moreover, updates by different people can end up damaging the core data and make the file unusable.

When you move your data to an app, you can limit user’s access to the “master version” of your spreadsheet and only allow admins to access it. Under this setup, users are only given access to specific data and fields, with everything else remaining hidden. This allows them to conduct the necessary operations without inadvertently corrupting the native spreadsheet.

Excel does not work like a database and is difficult to scale

While Excel is a good place to store and manipulate data, it does not offer the functionalities of a database or a data management system. Excel does not support complex data types, relations between files and records, or different data sets. This limits the types of operations you can perform.

Moreover, spreadsheets don’t allow for real-time multi-user input when used on a desktop and not online. Your spreadsheet then soon becomes a hindrance to scaling operations and improving efficiency. This is further compounded by the fact that as files grow in size, operations become slower and more cumbersome.

Reversely, by making an app out of your spreadsheet, you can offer your users the advantage of flexible and easy access to data and data collection from various sources, not just Excel. Plus, you can give multiple users access to your know-how without the risk of them overwriting your work or exposing your data.

Apps offer greater security

Even though a certain level of security, such as password protection, is available in Excel, this can fairly easily be bypassed. If you want to keep your data safe, then retaining it in a spreadsheet that is widely accessible is not a good idea.
By turning your Excel spreadsheet into an app, you are effectively removing user access to the source file, encrypting the data, and hosting it securely in your own environment. There, it will be accessible only to users at the admin level. This guarantees the safety and integrity of the data. It also allows you to specifically determine who can see your data and entirely limit third parties from gaining access. You can even set an expiry date for your app, after which it will simply stop being accessible to users.

For even greater security, you can initially create your app with dummy data and populate it with your original data later on.

Present your data more user-friendly

An Excel sheet is not the perfect asset to share with your customers or the management team or embed into your website. With an app, you provide an easy-to-use tool that shows you all relevant data in a user-friendly way, which can be used on mobile, desktop, and tablets.

How can no-code apps help to improve your business?

No-code app creation has benefits that go beyond spreadsheet trouble and will affect your business even more. That’s because with no-code apps, innovation and optimization are no longer only dedicated to the IT department or an external service provider – now, everyone who knows Excel can jump in and start creating, deploying, and managing an app.

No programming skills needed – everyone can contribute

Unlike with a custom software solution that is coded by hand, you don’t need any programming skills to turn your Excel sheet into an app. This is the case regardless of which of the myriad functions of Excel you’re using.

Innovation at low cost

Turning your spreadsheet into an app is not as costly as a custom solution either. Say you want to develop a web or native app that allows users to perform various types of calculations. This can be very time-consuming and expensive to code.

Instead, creating these calculations in Excel and then converting them into an app is highly cost and time-efficient and allows you to mobilize your data without switching your already existing system or files stored online.

People who know the business create apps

The people who will be working with the app know best what they want. A no-code app is created by business experts who previously created the Excel solution. They know the processes, the needs of their users, and how the app should be used. Briefing a developer and explaining what is vital for your business takes a long time and is an iterative process.

When the app is directly created based on the previously used Excel solution, creation, roll-out, and updating are amazingly fast. Once the business experts know what’s possible, they usually devise many innovative ideas that can be realized in almost no time.

Great service improvements – easily done

For your customers, partners, and your team, an app is always easier to use than an Excel spreadsheet. An app can typically be accessed anytime and anywhere, whereas an Excel spreadsheet can be quite cumbersome to work with on your mobile.

Keep operating costs down

An additional benefit of having an app is that you can automatically roll out updates to your entire network of users. That helps you to reduce the cost around the life cycle of an app. With in-built email and push notifications, you can easily notify users of changes and updates, improving your brand’s communication.

If you’re curious about the kinds of apps you can create by turning a spreadsheet into an app, see the next section for a list and overview of various use cases!

What kind of apps can you create from a spreadsheet?

The possibilities for creating an app from a spreadsheet are mostly limited by what you can imagine creating in Excel. The range within which you can create apps varies from data-heavy industries like finance, insurance, healthcare, and real estate to simple directory and personal budget apps.

Some of the possible applications of native app and web app development platforms include:

Excel-based app examples

  • Business apps that include checklists, calculators, manuals, an address book, or simple CRM
  • Embedded web calculators for finance, mortgages, insurance, interest, personal finances, and more
  • Medical practice apps for patient experience, operations and administration, and more
  • Reporting apps with forecasts, break-even, profit and loss, and high-level economics
  • Dashboards for sales and marketing, such as ROI for B2B sales or advertising campaigns
  • Production and logistics dashboards and stock inventory lists
  • …and many more
no-code apps based on Excel

These are only some of the possible applications of app development platforms. So, what platforms and tools are available to turn a spreadsheet into an app, and how do they work? Here is Open as App in more detail.

How to prepare your Excel sheet before you turn it into an app?

Before you submit your spreadsheet to the Open as App platform, you have to make sure that it’s formatted right. This will ease the process of converting it into an app and eliminate possible errors. There are several simple rules to follow when doing this.

The 5 Basic rules:

  1. Your lists must have headings at the top of the column. This guarantees that the list will be recognized as one by the app wizard and assigned the proper values.
  2. Your data must be clear. Any highlights, crossed-out data, comments or anything else will not be considered when your spreadsheet is processed.
  3. Any cells outside a list area will not be taken into account by the wizard. Neither can merged cells be analyzed properly. One cell should always have only one input and be within the space of the list it belongs to.
  4. Format your cells accordingly to have their values displayed. The Open as App platform will consider any values you ascribed to your cells and add them to your app. Examples of values include the date, currency, phone number, drop-down menu, etc.
  5. Avoid pivot tables (when using Google Sheets) and macros. Macros cannot be included, as that would make apps impossible to use on iOS.

Rules for more complex Excel sheets:

  1. Use explicit cell references rather than structured references; i.e., do not use table or column names but simply direct cell number references.
  2. References to external files cannot be accessed: Any references you make in your Excel file must be part of that file, even if not on the same sheet.
  3. Ensure you’re using supported formulas: Over 90% of common formulas are supported by Open as App. However, if you find an error in your app, see if the formulas you have used are supported. Array formulas and certain formulas specific to Google Sheets are not currently supported by the platform.
  4. Always specify all the arguments in a formula: Optional arguments with a default value given to them by Excel cannot be evaluated.

Keeping these rules in mind, you can create your own app within minutes without any difficulties.

How to design your app?

Once you have prepared your spreadsheet and uploaded it to the Open as App platform, you will get a recommendation for your app. Then, you can pick a design theme you like and manually design your app as you imagine it.

App Design
Customize your app design in Open as App

With the Open as App platform, you can customize the design of your app to your brand identity and, more specifically, configure how cells function. You can also add additional functionalities.

Once you are in the App Designer, you are given several options.

  • Preview – this option allows you to preview how your app will look, but you can also edit or delete individual items, such as the app header and name.
  • Add elements – these options permit you to add new types of content such as cells – if you have additional data to incorporate into your app, charts – if you’d like to make your app more interactive and engaging, or lists – if you want to add sub-lists to your calculations. You can also add headers, spacers, images, info buttons, image upload or signature fields, a map, or action buttons
  • Rearrange elements – with this, you can rearrange the elements in your app, group them together as you wish, and even add new pages to fill with extra elements.
  • Design – change theme – with this function, you can change the whole theme of your app using a predefined layout provided by Open as App.
  • Add print functionality – allows you to generate a PDF file through your app and send it via email.

Using the App Designer, you can stylize your app visually and functionally to match your desired result. You can fine-tune to what extent users can interact with the different contents and enrich the presentation of data thanks to different visual elements such as charts and graphs. All of this takes a minimal amount of time, and the simplicity or complexity of your final app depends entirely on what you want.

So what happens once you design and publish your app? Thanks to the way Open as App functions, there is a two-way connection between the sheet and the app. This means that both the sheet and the app are always updated in both ways. At the same time, access to your app and its functionalities is easy for all users while all the data remains protected to the extent you want it to.

Don’t forget to download your checklist

Just enter your contact data, and we´ll send you our checklist. This list will help you take everything into account when choosing a platform to build your app. Check it out for free!

Ready to turn your Excel sheet into an app?

Are you ready to give it a try? Simply open our App Creation Wizard, watch a short tutorial video (2 minutes), and follow the instructions to create your first app!

Category

App App Apps Best Practice Case Studies Events Features Guide Guides Press Uncategorized Webinars

Popular posts

Alexandra Müller

How can I create my own iPhone app without coding?

creating an iPhone app

Borislav Kiprin

20 innovative Tools for Excel & Google Sheets in 2023

Innovative Tools Excel

Alexandra Müller

Survey tools: The 6 best alternatives to Google Surveys

survey app

Alexandra Müller

Factory acceptance test via app – what you need to know

Factory Acceptance Test per App

Alexandra Müller

Mandatory recording of working hours – how apps can help with the implementation

recording of working hours with apps

Alexandra Müller

How to optimize your manufacturing process plan with apps

Manufacturing process planning with apps

Alexandra Müller

Project management: Why you can’t go without a checklist

Projektmanagement-Checklist

Alexandra Müller

11 good reasons for your business to have an app

Young urban professional man using smart phone in office building indoors. Businessman holding mobile smartphone using app texting sms message wearing suit jacket and bag.

Alexandra Müller

Construction site safety checklist – how an app can improve safety

Checkliste für Baustellensicherheit – mit einer smarten App zu mehr Sicherheit

Alexandra Müller

How much does it cost to develop an app?

Wie hoch sind die Kosten für die Entwicklung einer App?

Alexandra Müller

How to create your digital construction daily log

Digitales Bautagebuch mit Open as App erstellen

Alexandra Müller

Creating CRM systems with Excel

CRM-Systeme mit Excel erstellen

Alexandra Müller

How to make money with no-code apps

make money with no-code apps

Alexandra Müller

The 8 best app makers

Mit einem App-Baukasten einfach eine App selbst erstellen

Alexandra Müller

How can I create an app?

App erstellen - so funktioniert es

Alexandra Müller

Embedding an iframe – what you need to know

Embedding an iframe - step by step

Borislav Kiprin

Create an App With Google Sheets for Your Business

Create an app with Google Sheets

Manfred Streit

How to Turn an Excel Spreadsheet Into an App

Excel spreadsheet into an app

Manfred Streit

The Basic Guide to No-Code Apps and Platforms

basic guide no-code apps

Angelika Methner

Self-Service Apps based on Spreadsheets – Three Strategies for Beginners

self service app

Angelika Methner

4YFN Barcelona – Hotspot for Innovation & Impact

MWC und 4YFN Barcelona

Angelika Methner

Open as App appoints Michael Stoelwinder as new CEO

Michael_Stoelwinder_OpenasApp

Angelika Methner

New Pricing Plans in 2021

pricing

Angelika Methner

No-Code Tools Comparison: Open as App and Glide Apps

successful no-code tools

Angelika Methner

How to boost your workflow automation with no-code apps

workflow-automation-no-code-apps

Borislav Kiprin

Custom mobile app development in Microsoft 365

Custom mobile app development

Angelika Methner

How to Select between BI and Excel Data Analysis [Tableau Alternative]

Tableau Alternative

Borislav Kiprin

Enhancing App Security and Data Protection: No-Code Apps

app security

Angelika Methner

Bread baking per app – enjoy great home-made bread every day

home made bread

Borislav Kiprin

How to Drive Digital Innovation without the IT Department

digital innovation

Borislav Kiprin

How a Multi-Devices KPI Report App Can Improve Performance

KPI report App

Angelika Methner

Best 8 No-Code Apps to Boost Real Estate Agent Performance

Boost real estate agent performance

Borislav Kiprin

Open as App adds the power of non-technical citizen developers to Microsoft 365

microsoft

Angelika Methner

How to Build Manufacturing Solutions With 4 No-Code Apps

man holding gray steel frame

Angelika Methner

The Top Custom Mobile App Design Tips

person writing on white paper

Borislav Kiprin

Excel Tricks to Create Professional Apps for Businesses

two person standing on gray tile paving

Let’s keep in touch!

Newsletter-Girl
creating an iPhone app

Alexandra Müller

How can I create my own iPhone app without coding?

Innovative Tools Excel

Borislav Kiprin

20 innovative Tools for Excel & Google Sheets in 2023

survey app

Alexandra Müller

Survey tools: The 6 best alternatives to Google Surveys

Factory Acceptance Test per App

Alexandra Müller

Factory acceptance test via app – what you need to know

recording of working hours with apps

Alexandra Müller

Mandatory recording of working hours – how apps can help with the implementation

Manufacturing process planning with apps

Alexandra Müller

How to optimize your manufacturing process plan with apps

Projektmanagement-Checklist

Alexandra Müller

Project management: Why you can’t go without a checklist

Young urban professional man using smart phone in office building indoors. Businessman holding mobile smartphone using app texting sms message wearing suit jacket and bag.

Alexandra Müller

11 good reasons for your business to have an app

Checkliste für Baustellensicherheit – mit einer smarten App zu mehr Sicherheit

Alexandra Müller

Construction site safety checklist – how an app can improve safety