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How PrizmDoc Cells Keeps Spreadsheet Formulas Safe and Secure

excel spreadsheet formulas

Document management solutions are well-equipped to handle common file types like DOCX and PDF format. When developers are building software to manage workflows and make files accessible through web-based applications, they can typically turn to HTML5 viewers and document processing integrations to provide the document features their customers require. 

When it comes to Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, however, there are some additional considerations that often create difficulties. One aspect of XLSX workbooks that deserves special attention is how applications manage, secure, and control spreadsheet formulas.

Securing Proprietary Formulas

Many financial services and insurance organizations depend upon proprietary information like specialized, unique formulas to provide their customers with beneficial insights. Insurance underwriters, for example, may have a special calculation they use when setting their rates, while an investment firm likely has a risk formula that helps them to identify best opportunities for clients.

Such formulas are often the product of many years of work and experience in the industry and are inexorably linked to a firm’s service offerings. If customers or competitors were able to access those formulas directly, they may be able to adapt them for use elsewhere without the original firm’s permission.

Spreadsheets pose a unique challenge in this regard because the typical workbook contains many formulas, some of which may contain proprietary information. This may not be much of a problem for internal use within an organization, but it could become a problem the moment those spreadsheets are shared with someone outside the organization or with someone who lacks the proper authorization. While cells in an Excel spreadsheet can be hidden or password protected, these protections can potentially be breached by someone familiar with Microsoft security features once they’ve downloaded the file.

Maintaining Spreadsheet Control

Anyone who has accidentally deleted or changed some portion of a spreadsheet formula in a single cell and wrecked calculations throughout a workbook knows how important it is to keep those formulas locked from unnecessary editing. If the workbook is being shared with multiple users, the odds are good that someone will make a mistake somewhere, potentially altering important calculations and providing a misleading portrayal of the available data.

The challenges are even greater when spreadsheets are shared online. A public facing Excel spreadsheet used to make financial calculations, for instance, could be rendered useless if someone were to alter (knowingly or unknowingly) the formula information in a cell. And if the workbook is downloadable, undetected formula changes could be passed on with the file, making it difficult to know which copies of the workbook are accurate and which ones contain errors. 

Protecting Spreadsheet Formulas with PrizmDoc Cells

Developers have long faced two choices when it comes to managing spreadsheets within their applications. One option is to manage the XLSX files themselves while depending upon Microsoft Excel to actually open and view the spreadsheet. While this approach maintains the full functionality of Excel, it creates serious control issues as the user is required to download the file from the secure application environment. If they make changes, they can then upload the file again, creating a potential for version confusion.

The other option is to keep the spreadsheet in application storage, but render it as a print preview in an HTML5 viewer. While this approach certainly protects spreadsheet formulas, it’s also little more than a static view of a spreadsheet, which is only useful if an existing spreadsheet needs to be reviewed and not interacted with in any way.

Accusoft’s PrizmDoc Cells is an API-based integration that allows developers to securely embed XLSX files within their web-based applications while retaining the ability to edit and interact with them. A financial planning workbook, for instance, could be embedded within the browser to provide much of the basic functionality users are familiar with from Excel. This makes it ideal for applications that require a balance of usability and security, such as a digital vault that keeps vital financial data within a secure environment.

When uploading an XLSX file for display using PrizmDoc Cells, there are a few options that make it easy to protect valuable spreadsheet formulas.

Formula View/Edit Settings

There are two formula options that developers can easily adjust based on the needs of the application or the use case of the customer. The “canView” setting determines whether or not formulas are even sent to the browser for viewing. If set to “false,” any formulas within the spreadsheet will be automatically hidden. The “canEdit” setting either gives or denies users permission to edit or enter formulas. Hiding formulas is ideal for situations involving proprietary information, while editing restrictions are more suitable for internal workflows designed to reduce human error.

Value-Only Upload

When an XLSX file is uploaded, all cell values and formulas are normally preserved. This allows the workbook to retain the same basic functionality it has in Excel. For situations where the spreadsheet’s values need to be shared, but no changes are being made to the formulas, PrizmDoc Cells can upload workbooks as “values-only,” which removes all formulas from the embedded version. After being uploaded in this way, the spreadsheet can then have individual cells redacted as needed to further enhance security. Text can be placed in redacted cells to indicate why values were removed.

Enhance Your Application’s Spreadsheet Functionality

As an API integration, PrizmDoc Cells integrates smoothly into any web-based application. It also interfaces seamlessly with PrizmDoc Viewer to provide a broader range of viewing features when it comes to spreadsheets. Whitelabeling features allow developers to customize and rebrand the UI as part of their own software solution.

Find out how easy PrizmDoc Cells makes it to manage spreadsheets within your application by downloading a free trial. It’s the best way to get a close up view of how this powerful integration performs within your dev environment.