I've used Google Sheets formulas to build HTML tables from lists of data for years—it's not the first tool you'd think of to build HTML, and yet it's one of the easiest ways to list stuff in a table, and pasting the same formula to every row is one of the fastest ways to make a bunch of similar HTML table rows.
Similarly, this week I turned Coda to a make-your-own-adventure story tool to test UX copy, with a table to words and sentences using spreadsheet formulas to fill in the blanks.
Sometimes the unintended use cases of software are the best. They let us use our primary work software for more than we thought we could at first, and help us get by without buying something new. And sometimes, that's the only way to get a unique job done.
What are some of the craziest things you've gotten software to do that wasn't exactly what it was built for?
It wasn't my idea but I worked with the scientists who did it - repurposing Computational Fluid Dynamics software designed originally to model flow through jet engines.
I worked for 4 years at CSIRO's Centre for Predictive Mineral Discovery who were trying to forecast where to find minerals (eg: gold) by modeling how minerals are transported and concentrated in the Earth. They used this software to model slow creep of minerals through cubic kilometres of rock.
It might be a bit of stretch to call it an app, but I suppose since one subscribes now to Office 365 it should count. ;-)
How do I use it in unintended ways? One of my contractors showed me how she uses it for laying out complex forms for various Signing platforms such as SignNow and PDFFiller.
By using Excel you gain a flexible grid where you can place your text with precision, draw boxes exactly where you need and want them, format text as well as Word or Powerpoint, etc.
And who knew? You can save out of Excel as a PDF. Pretty obvious but somehow in my 25 years of heavy Excel use I never needed to do such (that I can recall).
Chat App as Bookmarking Service.
LINE is popular in my country as the messaging service for teenages and early twenties, the older people use WhatsApp, while iMessage is not too popular because not all people use iOS, and the cost per SMS is high (IDR 150/sms). We don't use CDMA.
I often sent only links, as the app will show link preview like WhatsApp or iMessage. The problem is searching will be hard. Thus, sometimes I'd use #hashtags or put a short description as context.
Continuity is great, if not practical. If I saved the link on my phone, I can start the desktop LINE app to open the link there.
I think this is a practice people often do, as LINE created a new feature called «Keep Memo» that integrates the links/files kept in their built-in storage service.