Copying tables to Excel

About a month ago I saw a post on the JoS Business of Software about a piece of software called Kirix Strata.

… Strata lets you access and manipulate data from pretty much anywhere on the web.  It’ll let you work with HTML tables, RSS Feeds and CSV files natively in tables.  And then once you have the data, you can do all sorts of ad hoc analysis, such as creating calculations, sorting, filtering, creating queries and reports — similar to the kinds of things you might do with a desktop database or a spreadsheet. 

That sounded interesting enough, although I had no idea what it might be useful for, so I went to the site to see. It’s a nicely designed site, easy on the eyes and with very obvious access to two of the most important pieces : the screencast and the download. I watched the screencast, which was also very professionaly done and downloaded the software. The software itself has some usability quirks, but it’s a first public beta so we’ll forgive the folks.

But after going through all those steps I couldn’t figure out what am I supposed to do with it. I mean, the site is nice, the movie is well done, the program seems to be thought out, but why haven’t anybody tell me why whould I need a specialty data browser.

The list of benefits on the site didn’t help me either:

  • Access Data From Anywhere
  • Integrate Data From Across the Web
  • Manipulate Data Quickly
  • Create Reports Easily
  • Customize and Extend

Alright, so I can do all those cool things with data. What data? Why data? Why would I ever need to do something with data I find on the web? It’s not like the proposition doesn’t sound reasonable. We all like data, at least the geeks among us. We probably manipulate data everyday, and most of it comes from the web. But for the life of me, while reviewing the site and the application, I couldn’t come up with a single example.

Fast forward about three weeks and I wanted to do some research about the development outsource market. Specifically, I needed to know the number of active developers listed on www.rentacoder.com. They have a nice statistics page, but alas, it’s a table. Hmm.. how am I going to compute the sum of the “Coders with completed projects” column?

Finally I had a use for Kirix. I downloaded it again, installed it, browsed with it to the stats page and got the data I needed. And then a thought came to me. Wouldn’t it be much nicer if I could do that right from Firefox? All I needed was to copy the data from the table to Excel and I could do all the computing there in a familiar way.

A short search came up with Table2Clipboard, a nifty Firefox extension that lets you copy an entire table or just a bunch of cells in a format that can be pasted into Excel (should work for OpenOffice Calc as well, though I haven’t tried).

Just hold Ctrl and select the cells you want to copy dragging the left mouse button. You can also use Shift+Click to select a range of cells without dragging.

When pasting to Excel, use the Edit > Paste Special > Paste as text command, otherwise Excel might not parse the data correctly.

I finally found out what I might need Kirix Strata for, but I also came to understand that doing analisys from web data is a rare activity for me and that there is a much simpler solution to my needs. I used to think that market research is something you don’t need to really do when creating a small mISV. But it seems that it’s important after all. I imagine that if the folks at Kirix were to do their homework, they would determine whether there is a need for their product, and if so, what specific niche they will be filling.

Obviously, I’m not the kind of user they had in mind.

6 Comments on “Copying tables to Excel”


By Ido Schacham. August 19th, 2007 at 14:39

Might be a useful tool for people doing various forms of financial analysis on the web, like accountants or brokers. Nonetheless, it does seem like an attempt, though a nice one, to re-invent the wheel.

Seems you were much more happy with the smaller tool to just copy-paste into Excel. Maybe there could be some other tool that does simple and common operations on tables in the web, like quickly give you the sum of a column within a few clicks without having to write any formulas.

By gooli. August 19th, 2007 at 14:48

There is another Firefox extensions called TableTools that’s more advanced. It isn’t very stable though and crashed my Firefox a few times before I decided to uninstall it.

By Ken Kaczmarek. August 19th, 2007 at 20:24

Hi gooli,

Thanks for the kind words about our website and screencast. I completely understand where you are coming from in your post; Strata won’t be for everybody. In fact, I think many folks might find a table-to-csv Firefox extension more than adequate for their occasional “wow, I’d like to sort this table” needs.

However, Strata will have more of an impact in areas such as:

A) Corporate analytics. This will affect people who need to work with more data than a spreadsheet can handle, plug in directly to a centralized database or work with otherwise static HTML files (or csv files) provided via, say, a BI system on the corporate intranet.

B) Rapid analytics development/mashups. This will let people develop quick scripts/extensions to create custom data apps — which can get even more interesting when you also plug in data from the web (not just HTML tables, but also web APIs, etc.).

Our current marketing is definitely a little heavy on the “open up HTML files and mess with them” to the exclusion of many other areas, which was, for better or worse, a result of us wanting to get a beta out sooner rather than later. We’ll be building on this in the coming weeks, particularly in the realm of building apps and manipulating/querying the web. The really big thing we need to add are solid examples of how Strata can be used to do “real life” things. This is in process.

Given your experience working with data, I’d invite you to pop on by in a month or so and see if there is anything else that you may find valuable. Thanks!

All the best,
Ken Kaczmarek
Kirix

By Just another WordPress weblog. August 26th, 2007 at 21:46

[...] Copying tables to Excel [...]

By Adfab62. July 20th, 2009 at 09:46

I’m looking hard to find a software that parse the web (and organise datas), and i found “kirix Strata”. The demos seems that’s it is what i should need, but its appears a little difficult.
I have not install it yet, because it’s just 30 day trial, and i used to install software and come to use it the 31 ieme day (lol).
Also, it is very expensive, and for me the price is not allright because it’s based on : – Mozilla firfox (free)
- Ms Excel (owned)
- Ms Access (owned)
- Ms Explorer (owned)
Then it is a widget, and it is very expensive,
because we already own nearly all the software used to develop it.
Please, when do you realize “the widget” as an add-on for firefox FOR FREE, like others developpers do ?
That you in advance for your answer

By Firfox fastforward | Asianevangelis. October 6th, 2012 at 08:40

[...] gooli.org – Copying tables to ExcelAug 19, 2007 … Fast forward about three weeks and I wanted to do some research about the … Wouldn’t it be much nicer if I could do that right from Firefox? [...]