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#1 hippoling  Icon User is offline

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Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 21 October 2016 - 04:43 PM

Hello everyone, first time poster here. I've done some googling, searching, and reading other's posts. I'm aware of other questions that are similar to mine, which I'd like to quickly touch on one, that I hope my question is not confused with. That being: what is the best programming language to learn first? This is not my question.

That out of the way, I work for a large company that uses folders, text documents, and excel sheets as our main source of manipulating data. As my new position has me working in this capacity, I'm finding it very tedious and a waste of time the way the work is done. Everything is a 'work around' because the software has been in development for more than 7 years. Yeah.

My basic question is, what programming language would best suit completing a few ideas I have. A few of them being: 1) comparing excel documents, 2) throwing hundreds of excel sheets individually into corresponding client emails, 3) creating an interface/app/program (I don't know what to call whatever it would become) that would have fields such as client name, ID, etc., that would populate an excel sheet.

I'm not sure if that is clear enough, but I can explain each a bit more if it would help with an answer. So, what would you think is a better way of going about this? My reason for asking is because I don't exactly have the most time in the world. My free time for learning the language will be limited, so I want to see what you guys say before I go and learn XYZ and then realize six months in that I should have been doing ABC. I don't mind if it takes time to learn it, but I would need to start on the right path.

In essence, I hope to use the right tool for the project I want to work on. Hard or easy are irrelevant to me, I will learn whichever will complete those tasks smoothly and efficiently. Also, if each idea has a better language that suits the task, so be it.

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Replies To: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

#2 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 21 October 2016 - 04:53 PM

.NET works well with Excel, emailing, etc. Take a peek into that area.
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#3 hippoling  Icon User is offline

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 21 October 2016 - 07:39 PM

Seems there is some promise there. I took a quick look and read a few bits and pieces and just from a quick analysis, VB seems like it can perform most or all of what I would like to try.

Would you say that's the case? It seems C# is in a similar position, I couldn't tell the difference between what they're capable of doing.

I do have one other idea I forgot to add, which is important in choosing for me. Is there a way to make a program or script that uses my log in information for a site, query information, and then screen shot it or print? If there is, that would be a bigger percent of which language I choose. Can VB do that?
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#4 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 21 October 2016 - 11:17 PM

There are also libraries for dealing with excel spreadsheets in python and java. Since we have java, we also have clojure, scala, ruby (via jruby), etc.

Quote

Hard or easy are irrelevant to me, I will learn whichever will complete those tasks smoothly and efficiently.


If you are not now in the habit of writing programs to achieve your goals, then you have a bit of a slog ahead of you. Writing nontrivial programs is hard to do - this is why I get paid well for what I do. If you want to have this program in the next year, learning to write programs is not the most efficient way to go about this. Instead, I would suggest you look for a commercially available tool that does what you want, or find someone willing to provide the code you need.

Frankly, if you're talking about a finite amount of work it would probably be cheaper and easier to just hire Mechanical Turks to do whatever it is you need done.
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#5 andrewsw  Icon User is online

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 22 October 2016 - 02:38 AM

Aside from your main project goals, and as Excel is a significant tool in your work, you should understand Excel Macros. These are available for you to automate repetitive tasks within Excel. By recording macros and exploring the VBA code that these generate, this can provide a basic introduction to programming and help you to, firstly, become familiar with the Excel Object Model.

If you are intent on pursuing your project yourself then you will need to be familiar with the Excel Object Model anyway, whichever language you later decide to use for your project. But, as already mentioned, your project is a significant undertaking. You will need to understand and be comfortable with the Excel Object Model and to have undertaken additional studies to be a capable programmer (regardless of the chosen programming language) before you can begin to tackle your requirements.



As an aside, if you have Office 2013, there is Spreadsheet Compare to explore. (Or Excel Compare.)

It depends what you mean by "compare". If you are just looking to see if a value has changed between two (or more) worksheets/books then formulas can be used to indicate changes.
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#6 hippoling  Icon User is offline

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 22 October 2016 - 06:27 AM

jon.kiparsky, I took a little look at some of those languages now. I guess there are more that can do what I'm asking than I had thought. That may be better because perhaps I can't go wrong in my choice.

I completely understand what you are suggesting, I thought about going about it in that manner. However, I have a few reasons why I hope to accomplish this on my own. I could probably have one made from scratch, but, there are a few contract issues I have to consider. It would negatively affect me based on a few parameters that I have agreed to. Also, the hope is that after the learning period and I have a finished project, I have the base skills to continue learning and creating for myself.

I have been around programming before. In a time forgotten I used Assembly. I kinda-sorta-almost get what needs to happen. But that was left behind a long time ago, as you see I don't know much about programming these days. When I switched positions back then, I moved to human language and that has been my 'thing' since then. Up until last month, that is.

andrewsw, I understand. That may be the best start for me, considering what my immediate goals are and the bigger chunk of what I need to do. I will try to quickly better explain what I meant by 'compare' to see if it would work with the spreadsheet compare like you've mentioned.

In essence, I will need to crunch numbers on three separate computers, take those excel sheets, sit down on a fourth computer and manually compare them. What I hope to automate is the comparing of hundreds of numbers that are under the same ID. For example, each would have a category of (making some up for ease of understanding without explaining the job itself) Money. It will have about several thousand numbers of which a few I need to make sure are exactly the same between the three, in order for the next category to be correct, and some in that category that need to be exact so the next can be correct. To put it even simpler, is B500 the same on each three sheets, is C650 the same on each three sheets... etc..
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#7 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 22 October 2016 - 07:51 AM

Quote

Is there a way to make a program or script that uses my log in information for a site, query information, and then screen shot it or print?

Does the site allow it?

Quote

I will need to crunch numbers on three separate computers, take those excel sheets, sit down on a fourth computer and manually compare them.

Is this just four theoretical computers, or four actual boxes you want this program to crunch on?
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#8 hippoling  Icon User is offline

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 22 October 2016 - 09:32 AM

modi123_1 you bring up a good point. This is the reason I am here, because I don't know to even consider that. To be honest, I don't know if they would allow it. Would I have to ask in order to do that (or is there a law or general rule against it?) My intention is not to harm anything, so if that is verging on potentially harmful then I will skip that.

For that idea though, I would want to automate logging into to several websites with the ID/PW I was given by them, and in their search forms, take an ID and search it, and print the results. I have to do this for a dozen sites per ID I need to review. So, a simple idea I suppose, but, I don't know if it is illegal or harmful in some way.

For your other question, I actually have to go to three separate employee's computers, crunch the numbers on their computer, obtain three different excel sheets per computer, email them to myself, and then do the work on my computer. I have to compare my three, to their nine (one by one of course, compare my A sheet to their A/A/A etc.) I do the comparing of the excel on my computer. The program would only need to work on mine.
--Sorry, I did not explain it well in my other post.
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#9 astonecipher  Icon User is offline

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 22 October 2016 - 09:46 AM

.NET, either VB or C# sounds like the best path. I started similarly when I really focused on development, Excel and Mainframe systems output data that I needed to verify and cross reference. Creating an application that turned an 8 hour weekly Saturday into a 5 minute before I leave was really beneficial to me, my company, and most importantly my family.

Scraping sites is a touchy subject. There are times when you need to do it. If your company requires that it be done, you don't have much to worry about. Personal projects are a whole other matter and generally leans into the bad idea. But, it is still a skill to have.
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#10 Skydiver  Icon User is offline

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 22 October 2016 - 08:35 PM

What makes those three other employee's machine so special that you need to have them do the number crunching instead of just doing the number crunching on your machine? Unless your spreadsheet formulas have some kind of external dependencies, what gets computed on their machine should obtain the same results on your machine. Also, since you live and die by Excel at your place of work, you do know that Excel automatically recomputes the spreadsheet when touch even the smallest thing (unless you disable the auto-recalculate). So again, any computation they do on their machines should work on your machine as well.

Next: Why are you guys emailing documents around? Use a file share, or use SharePoint. Heck! Use Lotus Notes if your company leans on that persuasion. Emailing documents, specially documents where people are expected to collaborate on is the wrong paradigm when going from a paper workstream to an electronic one.

Next: If there is that much number crunching and data sharing, wouldn't a database be more practical?

Next: Why are you manually inspecting cells? Use Spreadsheet Compare built into Excel.
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#11 hippoling  Icon User is offline

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 23 October 2016 - 08:56 AM

Thanks for replying Skydiver, I would like to respond to your post, but I hope you take my response and answer for what it is. I already know they are going to sound rude/crude. I am not great with computers these days, so my answers are out of ignorance mostly, keep that in mind.

Of course, I did not make the process in which this work is done. I was the translator, just recently promoted to this spot. I dealt with people and the translation of several languages. It sounds as crazy to me as it does to you, most likely. This is how they have been doing it for a long time.

I am guessing the reason for using the other employees computers in this capacity is quality control. They do not do the same work, and I am the final process. They deal with a variety of clients and parameters that they themselves put on their documents. They do not work with the same numbers so they use different formulas. The constant should be percents, which I will check. If they are above the standard that our company is okay with, something must be changed. This is oversimplified, I need to make judgement calls, but I still need to see that they all match up in a certain way and want to automate that part.

I hope it makes it sort of clear as far as why I'm doing it that way. Because they do different things, I think it may be the only way overall. Whether automated or not, it would need to be checked. Even if they handed me the printed sheets, I would still need to sit down and compare them all (which I did one week because of a virus).

To be honest I do not know why we email the way we do. There are obvious reasons not to, which we get hit with because we're dealing with such a high volume, things slip through. It would be great to use a file share, but, I am not the computer guy. I don't and can't make those decisions. That department is in another office and are apparently busy making our program.

A database would be VERY practical. It has been in development for about 10ish years. This is why I'm posting here. I want to make some things on my own. I can't imagine it taking that long*. Even if it takes me a year to learn a programming language good enough to do anything with, I will still be ahead of the game. I'm hoping that from some of the explanation of what I deal with, you guys can say this or that is a good place to start. Which, I've seen Excel Macro and VB as the two best places to start from what people have said so far.
*I know programs take a long time, but I think these things that we deal with in the office can be automated easily. An overarching-fully functional-does all program that they are making I'm sure takes a while. But in the meantime I imagine I can automate some Excel stuff and maybe even create a little application that the employees can use to populate Excel instead of having to type in there.

I am not familiar with Excel in that way, so I never heard of Spreadsheet Compare. I will take a look at it and read what it does. Just by the name, however, it seems like it may do some of what I am looking to have done.
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#12 no2pencil  Icon User is online

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 23 October 2016 - 09:18 AM

As you stated that this is work related, & looking to start your carrier & not a project, this really belongs in the corner cubicle.
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#13 hippoling  Icon User is offline

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 23 October 2016 - 10:29 AM

no2pencil, if it is about forum placement, I will defer to you because it seems it was already moved, which is not a problem with me. It probably better fits what I am asking. I put it in software because in my head I'm planning to make it, but, alas I don't have anything to show.
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#14 no2pencil  Icon User is online

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Re: Need some advice for what I'm looking to do for my job.

Posted 23 October 2016 - 11:07 AM

It's all good, I'm the one that moved it. Just explaining why.
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