Excel-based Website?

  Stuart_Yates_03 13:36 27 Dec 2004

Hi everyone,

I own a small business, which at the moment is based in a small shop in Stoke-on-Trent. The details of all of my stock is in an excel spreadsheet. This consists of stockcode, stockname, price, and category. I now wish to expand to an online shop. I have some understanding of the rudiments of web design etc... but was wondering, is there any way of using my excel spreadsheet, which contains all of my stock details, to "supply" the website I am designing in, say, Dreamweaver with the relevant details?

Is this at all possible?

Thanks for any help,


  Taran 14:00 27 Dec 2004

Yes, you can run a site off an Excel document, but it's rather involved and has its own share of problems.

I'd almost always argue in favour of transposing the Excel data into an Access database. After that point you can create ASP pages which can read from and write to the databse.

You will need to host the site on Windows servers with full ASP support and the ability to upload at least one Access database.

Access is fine for relatively small sites but large web applications are always better off using MS SQL or MySQL as the underlying database.

Unless you start getting hundreds of concurrent hits though, Access is fine and you can migrate (upsize) to MS SQL later if and when the need arises.

1&1 click here offer one of the best value Windows hosting accounts I know of and you get full FrontPage Server Extension, ASP, .NET and Access database support, among other things. You can also get the latest copy of FrontPage if you take out a Windows hosted business plan and their control panel is easy to use.

Getting started in dynamic web design is the one area of web authoring that usually brings things crashing down like a house of cards. At the end of the day, anyone can use a WYSIWYG editor to drop elements onto a web page and produce something like a website. The same cannot be said for dynamic sites though, which depend entirely on a fundamental understanding of databases, how and why they work, and how to hook your pages into them without compromising performance and (more importantly) security.

It's a big topic and I'm more than happy to help if you come unstuck.

If you'd like some links to tutorials, just ask, but Dreamweaver (since you mentioned it) has a full dynamic site walk-through in its help files and shows you how to do the necessary work in PHP, ASP/.NET and ColdFusion, as well as offering help on setting up a testing server environment on your own PC.


  Forum Editor 14:15 27 Dec 2004

I have set up a site (for a fulfilment warehouse) with an Excel back end, but it was far from ideal, and I agree with Taran that for a smallish traffic level Access would provide a better solution - you could easily import the Excel data.

  Taran 14:24 27 Dec 2004

that unless your stock list changes regularly and unless it is truly vast, you could simply present it in static HTML pages.

Highligh a bunch of cells in Excel.

Press, Ctrl and C or click on the copy icon on the toolbar.

Open up Dreamweaver and create a new page.

Right click on the body of the new page in design mode and left click on Paste.

This copies the data in table form into your HTML page.

You can set a series of linked pages in this way and I have done this on a few sites where a fairly constant stock list could be displayed by category or by alphabetical order.

It's worth thinking of since it is so easy to do in the begiining and simple to maintain in the longer term.

If you want to provide a method for people to search for specific items, or sort them, you will have to go with a data driven site though.


  Stuart_Yates_03 15:11 27 Dec 2004

This sounds good. I'll explore what you've said and I'll have a go. I will probably end up creating the static HTML pages first to begin with and then explore the other options later.

I have done some work on DBMS before, and although some of it will be rusty it may just be OK for me to get by on.

I have two different webspace accounts, neither with 1&1 but I don't think either will do. The first doesn't have support for anything other than really basic web page hosting, and the second is a Linux Server. Am i correct in assuming that neither of these will be sufficient?

Thanks for your help.


  Taran 15:48 27 Dec 2004

The Linux server, if it supports PHP and MySQL will be a superb environment for a dynamic site.

PHP is a scripting language broadly similar, in concept at least, to ASP.

MySQL is far more capable than Access as an underlying web database, but it can be a bit scary to work with for may beginners because it doesn't have a pretty user interface like Access.

MySQL is veryt fast and can hold more data than you can shake the proverbial stick at. It can also support far more concurrent users than Access and is used for many seriouslyt large web applications.

Check out the Dreamweaver help files I mentioned above for full details. Dreamweaver has details on how to create a data driven site with sample code. Unlike ASP, just about any system can run a testing server for PHP and MySQL. ASP and .NET pages run best on Windows 2000 or XP professional, both of which have Internet Information Services (IIS) as an optional component of the operating system. Other versions of Windows do not feature this and so you would require a third party ASP testing server, most of which cost money, or you can sometimes manage to get Personal Web Server to run under WIndows XP Home, but it's a faff and the results are anything but predictable.

Anyone may download and use Apache (web server), PHP and MySQL for free to develop dynamic sites on their own computer.

IIS and Apache both serve pages on your own PC to your web browser as they would to the public from a 'proper' web server, so they make excellent development platforms.

You can get various pre-configured Apache web servers if you don't want to mess around installing the separate packages. The best one I know of is at this link: click here

It installs Apache 2, MySQL, PHP Perl and almost everything else a person might need for testing dynamic webstes. One additon you might want to cnsider as a separate download is the Zend optimiser click here but his is pretty specialised and not necessary for the bulk of PHP development.

Of course, if your host supports neither PHP or MySQL you're stuffed and I've wasted your time with this post...


Ask if you have questions or if you come unstuck.


  Taran 16:02 27 Dec 2004

Just so that you know, Dreamweaver has better native support for ASp and its server behaviours and other bells and whistles are far more comprehensive than for PHP.

In theory you could write a reasonably complex web application in ASP without doing any coding yourself, just by using the Dreamweaver functions. There are limitations but you could do something pretty impressive just with the point and click tools Dreamweaver has for ASP.

If you want to do PHP web programming then Dreamweaver has good support for it, but nowhere nearly as comprehensive a set of built in tools, so unless you want to get your hands dirty with code that could be a governing factor for your future plans.

It's only fair to make you aware of this, especially since I tend to go off on one in my enthusiasm for PHP...


  Stuart_Yates_03 17:09 27 Dec 2004

Is there a program with better PHP support for Dreamweaver then, or is Dreamweaver as good as any?

I say this since the Linux Server does support MySQL and PHP, so I don't need to find another host :)!



  Taran 18:33 27 Dec 2004

No, Dreamweaver is about as good as it gets for PHP, assuming you don't want to hand code everything. You will still have to get under the bonnet and dirty your hands at some stage though - its support for PHP is good, but not by comparison to its support for ASP and ColdFusion.

If you just want to hand code there are a bunch of very good editors available for PHP, but since you already have Dreamweaver, or I assume that you do from your first question, then it seems pointless to suggest another editor for working with PHP code when Dreamweaver can do this in code view as well as offering you its visual design features.

There are loads of tutorials on the web on how to get started with PHP and MySQL. If your host supports both and you have broadband you might just crack on and upload your files to your web space for testing. This becomes inconvenient in the long term, but it beats wrestling with installing Apache, PHP and MySQL on your PC if you've never done it before.

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  Taran 18:35 27 Dec 2004

what's the point on spending loads of money on another program if you already have Dreamweaver ?

  Stuart_Yates_03 21:34 28 Dec 2004

Thanks, I'll use Dreamweaver then!!

Cheers for all the Help!

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