StrikeIron's OnDemand Web Services

Using a plug-in for MS Excel, ODWS' drag-and-drop technique makes it simple for any user to create service-oriented business applications.

March 25, 2005

2 Min Read
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Good

• No need for coding, thanks to drag-and-drop Web services for Excel• VisualBasic API for complex application creation• Lengthy list of Web services

Bad

• Worksheets are only useful to others who have the plug-in• Parameter configuration confusing for nontechnical users

StrikeIron OnDemand Web Services for Excel, $99.95 for an annual subscription; $299.95 for a perpetual license. StrikeIron, (919) 405-7010. www.strikeiron.com

I added a set of Web services from our NWC Inc. business applications lab by importing the WSDL, then added an e-mail validation service from StrikeIron. Once the Web services were in the worksheet, indicated by their appearance in the ODWS dialog box, I could configure each one separately by navigating through the tabbed configuration window.

To integrate a Web service into Excel, I navigated to the Set Input tab, found the appropriate Web service from the selections and dragged it into a cell on my spreadsheet. I then jumped to the Set Output tab and dragged the appropriate output to another cell in my spreadsheet. ODWS created headers for all data returned from the Web service, in this case an invoice from NWC Inc.'s database of widget orders. I then used the Web service by entering data into the input cell I had placed, specifically an order ID, and refreshed the data using the ODWS menu.

Although you can configure each Web service to refresh on its own, it would be better if the Web service refreshed automatically when an input value changes. There's likely a mechanism to do this using custom VisualBasic script, though most users don't have the technical knowledge to code such a trigger.

After refreshing the data from the Web service, I was given several rows of data, including a customer e-mail address. I inserted the "validate e-mail service" from the ODWS dialog into the spreadsheet, but decided I didn't want to re-enter the e-mail address returned from the NWC Inc. Web service to validate it. I set the input for the validate e-mail service to appear in the appropriate cell in the worksheet--the one containing the e-mail address of a customer.

A refresh of all Web services in the worksheet pulled the invoice data from NWC Inc., and the e-mail service used the correct data and automatically validated it.

Although I didn't take the time to make my spreadsheet pretty, the basic functionality of ODWS showed that building a SOBA within Excel can be simple. ODWS is a great value, even without subscriptions for specific StrikeIron Web services.Lori MacVittie is a Network Computing senior technology editor working in our Green Bay, Wis., labs. Write to her at [email protected].

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