The past few posts have shown some of the basic REST functionality you can expect to get from the new Excel Services that will ship as part of SharePoint 2010. Before going into some of the more advanced features (well.. feature) of Excel Services REST, I thought I would show you a Windows Gadget we implemented for internal use. I will make the source code available either through the MSDN Code Library or through this blog in the very near future.

Now, gadgets are not hard to write, but they do require some knowledge of HTML and JavaScript. This Gadget is an absolutely great tool for people who have any sort of spreadsheet that contains any type of data that periodically changes and which is usually used as a sort of tracking application – instead of having to write the gadget yourself, you can just use the Excel workbook. You can think of any type of workbook – from the workbook that tracks your portfolio, to the one that displays information about your warehouse stock, to the one that tracks your project progress. This data is usually “locked” inside spreadsheets and one needs to manually open the workbook and actively look in. This gadget opens up an opportunity to use virtually any piece of information that resides within such workbooks and make it easily accessible right on your desktop – the gadget will make sure to periodically update the data so that with a simple glance, you can see exactly what’s going on!

Once installed, you add the gadget just like you would any other – run the “Desktop Gadget Gallery” in Windows 7 and double-click the Excel icon:

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Once added to the desktop, you need to properly configure your gadget to show whatever information you want. In this example, we will show information about bug counts. For starters, you click the little wrench icon – that will get you to the settings screen:

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Next, you type the name of the URL for the workbook in the “Workbook” field and hit Refresh. The Gadget will go and use REST discovery to figure out what elements exist in the workbook:

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As you can see, the gadget lets you choose from any of the entities available in the workbook. For now, lets choose the “PersonalBugs” – it is what I like seeing on my desktop, so I can closely monitor my status.

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As you can see, the chart is not really designed to be used in such a small space – clicking on the little arrow will “undock” the gadget (a term inherited from Vista) and will show the chart at full size:

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Now, this looks much better. It can be even better though – if you noticed, in the first screenshot of the “Settings” screen, there are two combo boxes – one for the actual object you want to see and the other for the thumbnail. The nice thing is that you can set up the gadget to show you one element when it’s “minimized” and one when it’s “maximized”. In this example, we conveniently have a chart called “MiniPersonalChart” which contains the chart in a smaller format. Here is how you set the two objects up in the gadget:

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Now, when the gadget is “minimized”, it will show the chart that’s better suited for smaller space (it has no header, legend or axis):

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That’s it for this post! Next post will show how the gadget can show not only charts, but also show ranges!