Question

What software has the best export tools?

Traditional desktop software typically saved your work in files that you could save forever and often open in other applications. SaaS and web apps tend to make it harder to take your data with you.

What SaaS actually makes it easy to export your data and use it elsewhere? And what software do you wish had better export tools?

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jcfuller's avatar
a year ago

Hahahaha. Sigh. Slack. Slack has, quite possibly, the worst export of any product I have ever used. If you're fortunate enough to be approved for Corporate Export, it's just a massive bucket of JSON files, which you either need to pay for an eDiscovery Tool to use or an alternative. God help you if your export has anything weird or something is corrupt, Slack offers zero help (and say as such) and basically have the attitude of "We don't want to make this, and we were forced to begrudgingly. It's up to you to figure it out." For an application that's pushing into the Enterprise aggressively, they seem stunned to hear you need to export chats (because, it turns out, people say stupid things in a work chat app that can get you fired.) If you have a need to view this, Cincher is an incredible tool and worth every penny to view and export chats in situations like this.

6 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @jcfuller )
a year ago

Ouch that's sad to hear on Slack, and interesting Cincher has built a business around a Slack weak spot (guess that's one part of Slack being a platform, though in this case seems quality exports should be a minimum level of what you'd expect make enterprise plans worth paying for).

Have you ever used Twitter's export, where it saves basically an offline version of Twitter with all of your Tweets that you can browse through? Almost makes me think SaaS should offer exports in industry standard data formats (where I guess JSON could be if formatted well), along with a first-party viewer that lets you at least look through the content in its original context. Almost like what the old standalone Word viewer apps would be, but for SaaS data.

2 points
AndyDentPerth's avatar
a year ago

Evernote has a fairly simple XML format, which matches their internal format & quite horrifyingly reveals the lack of a style dictionary, with styles applied to each element. So it's usable but wordy. It does lack any indication of the original Notebook.

BitBucket's issue exporter is an unusable JSON dump of the internal data structure, in sad contrast to the clean CSV importable export I used to get from FogBugz.

4 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @AndyDentPerth )
a year ago

That's great to hear with Evernote—at the very least, if you can get your text out in a format that's usable elsewhere, you know your notes won't fully disappear even if they won't look perfect.

2 points
maguay's avatar
a year ago

Google's core apps have quite good export tools thanks to Google Takeout. If anything, that tool is hard to use because it offers so much data from Google tools you may have never heard of or realized you used. Most importantly, it can bulk export your Docs, Sheets, and Slides files in standard Office formats or PDF to use elsewhere. The biggest downside is the Office formats may not retain your formatting; I do wish it had an option to export both Office formats and PDF at the same time (almost like a camera saving a JPG and RAW file together) so you could get the data in a usable format and have an archived copy of how the original worked. And it would also be nice if Google Drive sync just automatically synced those files every time you create a new Google Doc—that on its own would prevent you from needing much of their export functionality.

3 points
iCanAutomate's avatar
a year ago

This is an increasing focus for companies today, however, not every company provides a great data export feature natively as the process of exporting data and re-importing it into another tool manually is painful and prone to errors that can lead to data loss or inconsistency.

Tools like Integromat make it incredibly easy (ok maybe relatively easier) to move data between tools and systems without compromising on data quality.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @iCanAutomate )
a year ago

Any you’ve used recently that had exceptionally good or bad export tools?

1 point
iCanAutomate's avatar
@iCanAutomate (replying to @maguay )
a year ago

Honestly, I never manually export data if there's an API available! :)

1 point
forouzani's avatar
@forouzani (replying to @iCanAutomate )
a year ago

That's a good point - I think a lot of techies prefer to use APIs to build a complete export function, something that they can easily customize to accommodate the import process.

One export I used recently was actually for Amazon - surprisingly easy to export all your orders.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @forouzani )
a year ago

That’s really cool; I wouldn’t have thought of orders as something they’d let you export, as most export tools seem to only focus on data/files you personally create.

1 point
osbennn's avatar
a year ago

Basecamp has a cool approach to this. They allow you to download an html archive of your projects, so you can view the discussions offline, using your browser, as if you were still in Basecamp. Not the friendliest in terms of getting your data into another platform, but also not completely silo-ed.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @osbennn )
a year ago

That's super cool—sounds similar to how Twitter exports work. At the very least it'd give you a snapshot of your work at the time you exported it!

1 point
NBNite's avatar
a year ago

While it's possible that other survey/form tools function similarly, I think SurveyMonkey does a great job of letting you export information in a variety of methods and file types (ie. PDF, .XLS, .CSV, .PPTX, or SPSS). You need the paid version to access the export features but it's great to have the option of exporting both the raw data and/or graphs displaying the survey results.

As others have mentioned, API access is ideal for gathering the data - and with the Zapier's/Integromats of the world, you don't need to be a developer to make us of it.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @NBNite )
a year ago

Form/Survey apps that include PDF export are great. CSV gives you the raw data which is needed to import into other apps to analyze or use, but PDF often saves a step in turning your form results into a finished document before using it which might mean you don't even need another app. That's a case of where exports could make you less likely to use another app, comically enough.

1 point
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