Should you replace Excel with SharePoint lists? (Part I)

People who work with file shares usually rely on Excel to maintain lists (contacts, action items, issues for example). When they switch to SharePoint, they often keep their old habits and simply upload the Excel files to document libraries.

But SharePoint is more than a document management system. In particular it comes with a set of list templates: contacts, tasks, issues, discussions, etc. So, should you get rid of your Excel spreadsheets? Well, let’s start today by reviewing some benefits of SharePoint lists.

1/ Web interface
A simple browser gives you access to the list items, you don’t have to rely on proprietary software. This is for example very useful when working with users in non-Windows environments.

2/ SharePoint features
Lists benefit from the same features as document libraries: item level alerts, workflows, RSS, etc.

3/ Traceability
With SharePoint lists, you keep track of your content at the item level. For each item, you can tell:
– when it was last modified
– who modified it
– the change history

4/ Multiple views, personalization
SharePoint’s powerful UI gives you the ability to sort, group and filter lists. One key aspect is personalization: for example, only show the tasks assigned to [Me].
SharePoint also offers the datasheet view, an Excel-like interface for easy updates.

5/ Connections between lists
SharePoint offers several features that allow you to create interdependencies between lists: lookup columns, Web Part connections, joined lists (DVWP, CQWP), workflows.
For example: you can track defects in an issues list, and manage the related action items in a tasks list (see reference below).

6/ Concurrent access
In a SharePoint list, while I update a task assigned to me, my colleague can update his/her task. With a spreadsheet in a document library, the editing option is locked to others.

Some references
To understand the benefits of SharePoint lists, the tasks list is a good start. You can check out the video called “My task assignments” in this series from EndUserSharePoint.com:
http://www.endusersharepoint.com/?page_id=795

For more advanced customization, on the same site see the case study from Paul Grenier that combines an issues list and a tasks list:
http://www.endusersharepoint.com/?p=797
http://www.endusersharepoint.com/?p=804

In part II I’ll review the advantages of Excel, and we’ll draw some conclusions.

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One thought on “Should you replace Excel with SharePoint lists? (Part I)

  1. Pingback: Should you replace Excel with SharePoint lists? (Part II) « Path to SharePoint

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