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Excel Web Application: Transform Your Spreadsheets into Dynamic Web Apps

  • Written By: Cheyenne Kolosky
Excel Web Application: Transform Your Spreadsheets into Dynamic Web Apps

Over the years, spreadsheets have become integral to most businesses. Excel was the major solution for many years, but recently, organizations have started to realize some of the limitations that come with using a static, offline program. Now, the growing trend is to use no-code platforms (such as Knack) to create web apps from Excel files to combat those limitations.

Understanding Excel Web Applications

Many businesses depend on organizing and analyzing large sets of data, something that Microsft Excel has done admirably for many years. However, better solutions are emerging that give users more flexibility and usability than Excel. 

By converting Excel to a web application, you’ll no longer have a static spreadsheet that only lives on your personal or work computer. You can access it from anywhere with a login. Multiple users can collaborate on a project without having to save and send files to each other. Web applications are also generally more secure.

The rise of no-code platforms has changed software development and the use of web applications. A no-code platform simply means that your app works through an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface rather than requiring a skilled developer to work with the software. Organizations can be more agile and efficient with employees of all technical skill sets able to work with the data. 

In the case of Excel, users can convert spreadsheets full of data into an easy-to-use app that doesn’t require any coding ability. Knack, for example, has been at the forefront of no-code platforms, allowing users from all departments—not just IT—to build and manage web apps for Excel data.  

What Kind of App Can You Build from an Excel Spreadsheet

Converting your Excel spreadsheet into an app has an incredible number of use cases, such as: 

  1. Data Management Apps: While Excel struggles with large datasets, users can trust that a web-based application will be able to maintain and analyze large custom databases. Users often use web-based apps to track inventory, customer information, project details, and more. You’ll be able to build relational databases and streamline data entry, storage, and retrieval processes.
  2. Workflow Automation Apps: If your organization relies heavily on Excel, you’re likely already familiar with its formulas and logic. Create workflow automation based on those formulas to automate repetitive tasks, approvals, notifications, and data processing.
  3. Reporting and Analytics Apps: Create an app that visualizes data imported from Excel spreadsheets in a more user-friendly way. Generate custom reports, charts, and dashboards that provide your organization with valuable insights that won’t be provided from a static spreadsheet. Many no-code applications (such as Knack) provide nearly endless capabilities for displaying data.
  4. Collaboration and Project Management Apps: Perhaps Excel’s biggest limitation in today’s business environment is its inability to facilitate easy collaboration. Rather than save an Excel file and email it to a coworker, create an app that allows you to work on projects together. Based on Excel’s functionalities for scheduling, creating tasks, managing budgets, and allocating resources, you can design a project management app to visualize each team member’s progress, show the next assignments, and automatically send reminders. Project management can now be done virtually on autopilot.

What Industries Can Benefit From an Excel-Based Web Application

Nearly every industry can benefit from a transition from Excel to a web app, allowing organizations increased visibility and reporting, better collaboration, and improved efficiency.


Health providers often manage immense amounts of data and have often used Excel spreadsheets to do so. Now, with no-code web apps, important data can be organized and accessed more efficiently.

For example, managing inventory at a hospital can be daunting as doctors care for thousands of patients. In the past, a complicated spreadsheet process managed by one user may have been used to track when an item needs to be ordered. With a web-based app, hospital employees in each department can enter the information themselves from their own stations. Better data visualization can help the hospital predict when they need to order more supplies.


More than perhaps any other entity, government sectors require the ability to analyze large datasets and access them nationwide.

Even something as simple as collecting data from the Weights & Measures department in a single state becomes nearly impossible with a static spreadsheet. California alone has 58 county departments that measure food scales, ambulance meters, gas station outputs, and more. Collecting immense amounts of data becomes simpler with powerful web apps that can both handle larger data sets and allow for data input from anywhere.

 Property Management

Property managers in charge of dozens of rental units require accurate and organized data to track rental payments, new applications, and lease start and end dates. In the past, this would often require several spreadsheets in conjunction with saved folders holding hundreds of files.

With a web app, property managers can build a single app in minutes that organizes everything in a single place. The web app can be used to collect rent payments, send reminders, screen tenants, and communicate with renters. Records of all transactions and communications are automatically stored for easy recall later.


Non-profit organizations are critically dependent on accurate accounting and budgeting. Often, they’ll turn to Excel to track donations, donor information, expenditures, and more.

However, think of the logistical nightmare for a non-profit such as the Red Cross with over 600 local chapters. Rather than 600 different spreadsheets on local computers, Red Cross workers can enter financial information into a single app that organizes and visualizes data. Donor information is more secure, and there are no redundancies in re-entering information into a master spreadsheet. Fewer human errors would occur because of this.


Many educators track hundreds of students per semester, especially at the high school and college levels. Many students appreciate seeing their progress plotted in a spreadsheet, such as their test scores on a chart.

Web-based apps can help educators present test scores, assessments, homework completion, and more in various visual representations. In addition, teachers can give access to a student’s parents so they can be informed of their child’s progress. 


For the owner of a construction company, keeping projects on task and on budget is paramount. A spreadsheet can help compare target dates and costs against actual finish dates and costs. However, this requires a lot of manual input and data gathering from the foreman of each project.

Another solution is to create a web-based app for managing construction projects. Rather than calling each foreman daily for updates, the foremen can input information into the app for the manager to see daily. In addition, the owner can automate reminders to let foremen know if they’re over budget and when deadlines are approaching.


Excel can make life easier for people who lack programming skills, but its functions are fairly simple. Users can use functions and logic to input and analyze data sets, but many higher functions are out of reach using Excel.

In the past, complicated software development was best left to professional developers. While that’s still true for many companies’ custom solutions, no-code apps make complicated functions more accessible to people without software development training.

For example, Excel doesn’t have the ability to build an interactive dashboard or send notifications for the next assignments. Many companies have developers build custom solutions, but now, a web application with the same functionality can be built in minutes.

Getting Started with Knack

Knack works seamlessly with converting an Excel spreadsheet into interactive datasets with better graphical displays and team collaboration.

Knack’s import feature allows users to upload any spreadsheet they’ve built using Excel. You can also import directly from Google Sheets, giving you more flexibility when integrating your datasheets into the app you’re building with Knack.

With a clearly organized spreadsheet, Knack can identify column headers as fields and then match up the fields with the users. Based on the data, you’ll be given recommendations on the best Views for displaying the data. Learn how to convert your Excel spreadsheet into a web app with Knack.

Technical Specifications and Limitations

Web-based applications provide numerous benefits over using a static spreadsheet. Some of these include:

  • Scalability: Excel can’t handle large datasets, especially when bogged down with numerous formulas. Web-based applications don’t have such limitations.
  • Data Security: Web-based apps allow users to share information but keep everything password-protected. With Knack, you can define user roles and determine exactly what each user is allowed to see. In contrast, Excel spreadsheets are often shared over email or through a messaging app, neither of which is as secure.
  • Collaboration: Users from across the world can log in to a web-based app and make updates that others can see in real-time. 
  • Automation: Setting up workflows in Excel is time-consuming and difficult, whereas a no-code web-based app can be set up with a few clicks. In Knack, users can install triggers that send reminders, update records, send emails, update deadlines, and much more.
  • Cost Efficiency: While Excel itself isn’t expensive, mimicking a web-based app’s functions would require hiring developers or purchasing several programs to work together. Knack prides itself on being a low-cost option with a free trial available.
  • Ease of Use: Anyone with internet experience can build a professional-looking app with extensive functionality. 

While there aren’t many limitations to using a web-based app, there are a few that users should be aware of:

  • Internet Dependent: Spreadsheets can be used offline, but a web app requires an internet connection.
  • Browser Variabilities: It’s possible that an app designed and tested using one browser can look different in another.
  • Security: Security breaches are nearly impossible if an Excel spreadsheet lives on only a single computer and is never shared. Although rare, a web app could be hacked.

Comparing Excel Web Applications: Knack vs. Competing Tools

With the rise of no-code platforms, Knack isn’t the only tool for building Excel-based web applications. 

  • Airtable: Another popular option on the market, Airtable offers a basic no-code solution. However, its reporting and analytics aren’t quite as robust and flexible, which is a key factor in Knack’s offering.
  • Another no-code development option with a steeper learning curve than others in the space. It’s also not designed to handle very large datasets and isn’t as cost effective as Knack for teams.
  • Caspio: Its Starter pricing makes this an appealing option, but organizations with complex needs may not find what they want. With limited customization and API integrations, users with advanced needs may want to look to an option like Knack.
  • Zoho Creator: With an excellent drag-and-drop interface, Zoho Creator has become a popular option. However, like many other platforms, their reporting and analytics pale compared to what Knack can offer.

Knack makes transitioning from Excel to a powerful web application simple. One user had this to say:

“Knack is instrumental in the daily running of the business. It literally runs every facet of our company, from front to back – top to bottom. In the beginning, it probably took me three or four days to build out a new section. Now I can build something new in under an hour.”

  • JD Worley, Curetech CEO

How to Use Knack to Build an Excel-based Web App

With Knack, you can have your Excel-based web app ready in just a few minutes. With the no-code platform, your technical abilities won’t affect your ability to build a web app.

1. Create a Database

To build an effective web-based application, your Excel spreadsheet must be clear and well-organized. If you want to start with a simple customer database, create separate columns for each field, such as name, phone number, email address, and more. Addresses should have a separate column for street address, city, state, and zip code. The data needs should all be in the same format as well—for example, don’t have “Large” for one person’s shirt size and “L” for another.

Inside Knack’s dashboard, navigate to “Data” and then click the “+” next to the “Tables” header. Select “By Import” and then you can either drag and drop your file or click to find it on your computer. You can import .CSV, .XLSX, or .XLS files. If you’re unsure which one to use, simply upload the spreadsheet you saved as the file type should already be compatible.

2. Create a UI for Your Web Application

With Knack’s intuitive builder, you can quickly create a user interface that displays the data you need. You’ll likely first want to create a new Page, which you can do by selecting “Pages” in the left-hand menu. You will then see options to make the Page public, protect it by login, or create a dropdown menu of several pages for easy organization.

Once you’ve added a Page, click “Add View.” This gives you options to select how you want your data visualized. Knack automatically provides the best display options based on the dataset that you uploaded. The options are virtually endless inside the drag-and-drop builder, as you can edit and customize your views and data to give you the best insight. 

3. Create Users for the Application

Anyone can access your newly created web application as long as they have the URL. It functions similarly to a website. However, it’s best practice to protect your app by requiring users to log in. To active users, navigate to “Settings” and then “User Logins.” Then, click “Activate Users.” You can then select to have your app protected by a single login or to have individual pages require logins. This allows you to determine the level of access granted to each user, which is generally preferred. You can also choose not to secure your app with a login, but this isn’t recommended. 

Once you’ve enabled users, you’ll find a new Table in the “Records” section called “User Roles.” Click on “Add Record,” and a new row in the table will be added for each user you create. To set permissions for your users, create new User Roles. This is found under “Data” and then clicking on the “+” next to “User Roles.” You can name your roles by the different types of users, such as “Admin” or “Employee.” Set which pages each role can view and edit, then assign each new user a user role.

4. Go Live!

Once you’ve built out your app, it’s automatically live for viewing on the web. To find each page’s URL, click on any page and then click “Go to Live App.” Anyone that you send this link can view the live version of the application on the web, but they won’t have access to edit the information unless they have a login to your organization’s Knack account.

In addition, you can embed any page on another website. Click on “Settings” and then “Embed.” Click “Add New Embed Code” and then select the options you need. You can copy and paste the code into any page you wish, and the app will match the page’s colors.

Start building for free with Knack today!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Excel Web Applications

What is an Excel-Based Web Application?

An Excel-based web application is a software tool or solution that converts an Excel sheet’s data structure into a web-based platform. It allows users to interact with Excel-like interfaces and features over the web with increased functionality.

How Does an Excel-Based Web Application Work?

An Excel-based web application takes the static spreadsheet and turns it into a dynamic, interactive platform accessible via the internet. Web applications have almost limitless functionality through automation, visual displays, and data analysis.

What are the Benefits of Building an Excel-Based Web Application?

Excel-based web applications can be accessed from anywhere, making teamwide collaboration easy. Web applications can typically handle much larger datasets with complicated formulas, and are generally much easier to use. No-code platforms specifically allow for drag-and-drop setup and don’t require any coding experience. 

What are the Key Considerations When Building an Excel-Based Web Application?

Organizations will need to consider scalability, ensuring that the application can handle increasing numbers of users and data volumes. Data security and privacy measures must be implemented to protect sensitive information, such as defining user permissions and requiring logins. Compatibility with different web browsers and devices is also important to ensure a seamless user experience across various platforms. Finally, ongoing maintenance and updates are necessary to address bugs, add new features, and keep the application running smoothly.

Can I Import Existing Excel Data into the Web Application?

Yes, most Excel-based web applications allow users to import existing Excel data into the application. This feature facilitates the transition from traditional Excel usage to the web-based platform, ensuring the continuity of data and processes.

Is Training Required for Users to Navigate and Utilize the Application?

Generally, Excel-based web applications are designed with user-friendly interfaces. While some training may be beneficial to understand specific features or workflows, users familiar with Excel should find it intuitive to navigate and utilize the application.

Are There Limitations to the Size or Complexity of Excel Files Supported by the Web Application?

The limitations regarding the size or complexity of Excel files supported by the web application may vary depending on factors like server capacity, network bandwidth, and the architecture of the application. It’s essential to assess the application’s documentation or consult with the developers to understand any constraints. In general, most web applications should be able to handle any Excel files, no matter how large or complex.