Edit in Datasheet, or, ‘When SharePoint Met Access’

It's time to demonstrate once again that, even at the end user level, there's seemingly always more to be learned in SharePoint…

I should note upfront that I've had very little exposure to datasheets in SharePoint, partly because my day-to-day writing and editing responsibilities haven't ever necessitated the editing of datasheets before, and partly because datasheets make me think of Excel, and even the thought of Excel has been known to cause me to break out in hives.

If you'll permit a brief digression, I'd like to share a theory.  Similar to the theory proposed by Quentin Tarantino (via a character in a deleted sceme from Pulp Fiction) that "there are only two kinds of people in the world, Beatles people and Elvis people," I think the Microsoft Office equivalent is that there are two kinds of people in the world, Word people and Excel people.  Which is not to say that there can be no crossover between the two, of course, but that, at heart, you're either one or the other.  As a writer and editor, it shouldn't come as any surprise to learn that I stand firmly on the side of Word.  (Oh, and if anyone's curious, I'm an Elvis man.)

Anyway, the point I'm taking my sweet time getting to is that I had occasion to edit a datasheet in a MOSS environment recently, and came away more than pleasantly surprised by the experience.  For anyone else who's similarly unfamiliar with the functionality, you'll find the Edit in Datasheet button under the Actions drop down menu of a SharePoint list:

Edit in Datasheet button in MOSS

What you'll see represented in the datasheet feature is the intersection of SharePoint and Access.  Happily, the integration is a seamless experience within SharePoint, and no additional configuration is necessary to set it up.  You may already be aware that Access is a component of Microsoft Office, but you may also be wondering what, exactly, an Access datasheet is.  Well, here's the text that's surfaced when you click the "For assistance with Access Web Datasheet" Help link that appears at the bottom of the screen once you've clicked the Edit in Datasheet button:

Access Web Datasheet provides an Excel-like environment for viewing and editing data. It displays the contents of a list or a document library in a grid of rows and columns. Items and columns in the list appear as rows and columns in Access Web Datasheet. You can add and edit rows and columns, apply filters and sort orders, display calculated values and totals, and more.

Sounds pretty handy, right?  And, no doubt, nearly as essential as oxygen if you're an Excel person.

In an effort to (hopefully) forestall mocking from roving gangs of Excel fans, I should mention that, yes, I realize the specific feature of the datasheet I'm about to describe, and the one that I was most thrilled to discover, is also basic Excel functionality, but it was as an aspect of the Access datasheet within SharePoint that made my life easier, so it's Access (and SharePoint) that gets the credit.  The feature?  Merely the ability to automatically provide an updated sum total as you modify the contents of fields contained in a column of numbers.

Basic functionality, yes, but exactly the basic functionality I needed, and leveraged seamlessly within SharePoint, which pleased me greatly on the day I discovered it.  So, yes, even a Word man such as myself has to admit that Excel (and, more specifically in this case, the Excel-aping Access as contained within SharePoint) is a valuable tool.

(He wrote, typing the words you're now reading … in Word.)

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