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Some of the built in features have come a long way since the last time I used them. Embedded html views with selectable entries and buttons that trigger agents worked like nobody's business. I was able to toss a little CSS around them and do some really good work.
Here's a twist on an old trick. I've done it before in agents, but never as an embedded view.
Create a view for export, but in the view properties, mark it so that it treats the contents as html. In the first column, just put "<tr><td>" then between each column of data use "</td><td>", and at the end, add "</td></tr>".
Embed that on a page, as an html view (not a java applet) and surround it with <table> before and </table> behind. On the page properties, select path type "Other" and type in "application/excel". Name the page "export.xls" and when a user gets directed to the link, the whole thing opens as a spreadsheet.
The nice twist on using an embedded view, is that you can you can duplicate it, change it up, and quickly change the columns around.
Since views normally get rendered as tables anyway, I've thought about just leaving it the way it is and letting it render in the page to see what excel does it in its native rendering.
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frameworks having to construct Excel output manually via Java and the like --
glad to know we've got it easier!