Thursday, May 31, 2007

Better than a spreadsheet

So you're a manager, and you have numbers to calculate. How do you do that? Most likely, you fire up your favorite office suite and create a spreadsheet.

With the problems people have highlighted about spreadsheet usage, I find that I've been using a spreadsheet less and less. Most of the time that I open a spreadsheet these days, it's for a legacy application. I tend to use J.

I've written about J elsewhere. I was tempted to give a short introduction here, but I realized I'd be duplicating what others have said, and their attempts are, no doubt, better.

What prompted me to write this morning was my experience of yesterday. I needed to track some data, and so I set out to create a simple database. I have PostgreSQL available, but that seemed excessively powerful. I really should update my PostgreSQL installation, and I didn't want to take the time for that. I thought about Base; then I could pick whether I wanted to use PostgreSQL, its internal database, or something else.

When I realized that I'd likely want to analyze the data with J, I remembered that J has an SQLite addon, thanks to Oleg Kobchenko. I installed it (it's tiny), and I was up and running with a relational database in minutes. Now I just need to brush up on my SQL.

So, check out J. It's free, and it runs on most systems.

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