23.2. The Excel XML Story
XML is a great way to exchange data between different computer programs. But what does that have to do with Excel, which already has its own perfectly good file format? Here's the deal: more and more companies today use XML to pass data back and forth. For example, when companies exchange business orders, news organizations post stories, or real-estate firms list properties for sale, chances are they're using an XML-based format. If you want to crack open these documents and analyze this data using all of Excel's features, including formulas and charts , you'll need to use Excel's XML tools.
There's another side to this story. Instead of trying to get XML information into Excel, you might need a way to get your worksheet data out of Excel. For example, you might want to take an expense worksheet, export it to XML, and then feed that XML into an automated expense-processing program. That program could then track your expenses, submit it to your supervisor for authorization, and notify the payroll department when a payment is required. In a small company, it might be just as easy to print out the expense report and deliver it by hand (or email it). But in a large company, an automated application can help the whole process flow seamlessly, without forcing anyone to sort through stacks of paper or dozens of email messages. In these situations, XML really shines.
Note: Experts estimate that there is more data in Excel spreadsheets than all the world's relational databases combined. Excel's XML features can help you extract information that's trapped in your spreadsheet files and use it in other automated applications.