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Thanks to Christian Stich for putting together this series on the REST API.
Beginning our journey on all things Excel Services 2010, I thought I’d start off with a feature that’s been getting a lot of buzz lately since its introduction at the SharePoint Conference.
The Excel Services 2010 REST API is a new programmability framework that allows for easy discovery of and access to data and objects within a spreadsheet. “Programmability” is almost a bit of a misnomer because in its simplest incarnation it doesn’t require any knowledge of programming to use. If you can craft a URL, you can use the REST API. This makes the REST API accessible to non-developers, yet it offers capabilities that make it a very powerful tool for professional developers as well.
For example, say you have a spreadsheet saved to a SharePoint document library that looks like the one below:
Now, let’s say you are writing an internal blog post about the effect of taxes on revenue, and you’d like to embed this Excel chart into your blog post. Simple, just craft a REST URL (technically, it’s a URI, but let’s ignore that for now) that looks like the following:
and paste this into the Insert Image function in your blog software, and out comes a chart that looks like this:
Congratulations! You’ve just used the REST API in Excel Services 2010. Pretty easy, right? But wait, there’s more!
By crafting the proper URI, the REST API allows you to:
The data, including charts, that is returned by the REST API is not static – it’s live and up-to-date.
With the REST API, any changes in the workbook are reflected in the data that is returned. This includes the latest edits made to the workbook, functions that have recalculated (including User Defined Functions), and external data that is refreshed.
The REST API can also push values into the workbook, recalculate based on those changes, and return the range or chart you requested after the effects of the change have been calculated. For example, in the sample spreadsheet above, the chart is displaying the effects of a 10% tax rate. With REST, you can request a chart displaying the effects of a 5% tax rate by adding a parameter to the URI that changes the value of cell B1 to 5%.
The opportunities for using REST are virtually endless. To spur your imagination, here’s a sampling of some ways to use the REST API:
I hope this has given you a sense of the capabilities and power of the REST API. In the next post I’ll dive into the details of the URI syntax. Stay tuned.
Looks like this turns any Excel doc into a datasource for a dynamcally generated chunk of webpage. How much setup is required on the IIS server to do this?
It is not sufficient to configure IIS on Windows Server - you do need to install SharePoint Server 2008 Enterprise edition. Once you have installed SharePoint Server 2008 Enterprise edition and once Excel Services is configured you can immediately start using the Excel Services REST API (Note for a single click/single box installation, Excel Services is already configured).
Correction to my above comment
Of course, I meant to refer to SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise. (running on Windows Server 2008)
This is really good - we were just demoing this to prospective customers today and got really positive feedback. However, one point that could be improved from Beta to RTM is how end-users discover the REST urls for published workbooks. Since the whole MS BI suite is 'BI for the masses', there needs to be some way end users can view the REST urls for published workbooks in SharePoint 2010 - perhaps a context menu option or a site column that appears by default? It's easy once you know how, but business users are going to need some prompting and an easy reminder from time to time on how to access the data they have just published for the organization to consume.