Is there a question we don't answer here? Let us know your questions and we'll be happy to reply directly and also ensure this list reflects the most common questions we receive.
Q: Is xSkrape a data access driver? What kind of data can I access with it?
Some of its functionality can be viewed like a data access driver: it can be found in products such as Excel and SQL Server. However, it's also available to .NET developers now on NuGet as both a REST-based and as an in-process library.
We have a dozen data access examples published on Github, using the .NET components. We also have examples in NuGet which provide sample source code (REST-based and InProc)
These examples include:
- Accessing the contents of Google Docs spreadsheets
- Accessing Excel files (single file, merging multiple files - we have one example accessing an Excel file contained in a Zip file stored on DropBox!)
- Merging data over multiple http requests (e.g. intelligently locating tabular data in HTML)
- Pulling data from local directories (in-proc only)
- Pulling tabular data from flat files
Given the compatbility of implementations, these examples can be easily moved between technologies (e.g. SQL Server, Excel and .NET). Do you want to see something else? Let us know, we'd be glad to add more examples!
Q: What's the difference between the REST-based and in-process NuGet packages?
The REST-based package works with .NET 4.7.1 and .NET Standard 2.0 and actual functionality is hosted on our servers (the library is a simple wrapper for that hosted functionality). The in-process package requires at least .NET 4.7.1 and runs on your own compute resources.
Furthermore, the REST-based package uses per-request billing. The in-process package uses a per machine, per 30 days billing model instead (with effectively unlimited usage within those confines).
Q: For billing, how do you charge and what's the billing model?
All platforms are designed to offer a free tier and a paid tier. The free tier covers light to moderate usage, where heavier use is billed based on actual usage. This lets us bill at a granular level, helping avoid charging for what you don't really need.
xSkrape.APIWrapper.SQL will be released in Q4 2017, offering complimentary services for both REST-based and in-process libraries, and will use the same billing model to the in-process library. (In fact, you'd be charged only once per machine, per 30 days, for use of both libraries.)
Similarly, SQL-Hero is changing in Q4 2017 to use the same billing model: there are no license keys anymore, but some advanced features will use the in-process billing model (credits used every 30 days per machine, when the features are actually used).
The rule of thumb is this: if you're using our compute resources, you're charged per request. If you're using your own compute resources, you're charged per machine, per 30 days. All charges are done via xSkrape.com credits.
Q: How does the free tier work?
All billing is done using product credits. Everyone with an xSkrape.com account (free registration) receives 250 credits per month automatically. Credits not used expire and a new 250 credits are granted in subsequent months. If you need usage that goes above this level, additional credits can be purchased, as needed. (Purchased credits also have expiry dates, but they're further out than one month.) Rates for all services are posted here.
What this means in practice with the REST-based library is your activity is free up to a certain usage level per month. For the in-process library, the first 30 days of use per machine is charged 200 credits, which falls within the free tier - so you have an effective 30 day free trial! In subsequent 30 day periods, the charge is 500 credits per machine per peroid, so you will need to decide how many credits make sense to purchase based on how large your implementation is, if you use it beyond the first 30 days. Good news: if you're an "occasional user", you'd only be charged on the first day of use after each 30 days period expires, with the 30 day clock starting on that first day of use.
Q: How do I find my "client key"?
After you've created your xSkrape.com account, log in, go to My Account, Queries and Keys. You should see at least one entry in the Activity pane, and clicking on the "Click to view" link will reveal your client code. You should be able to paste this into our samples project found here.
Note that xSkrape for SQL Server will be changing to use your client key instead of a CAL key starting with SQL-Hero 2017 Volume 2, with a billing model similar to the in-process library (per machine, per month with usage).
Q: How do I keep track of my credit balance and usage? Or purchase additional credits?
Logging into your xSkrape.com account, you can find this by visiting My Account, Credits. We have a link on that page to visit our purchase page as well.
Q: What are the licensing restrictions related to xSkrape libraries?
The REST-based package itself is governed by an MIT license, so you're free to use it in any way. (The services it uses are governed by the license for xSkrape hosted services.) The in-process library uses a proprietary license that offers royalty-free distribution.
Q: How can this possibly be more cost effective than building my own solution?
Ultimately, you only pay if you're a heavy enough user to admit you're getting good benefit from our products. In a large implementation scenario, let's say you have 20 machines in use and are using the in-process library billing model. Your required credit usage per month would be 20 X 500 = 10,000 credits. You could purchase two enhanced credit packs for $399 per year to cover this need. Assuming a product life of 5 years, lifetime cost would be $1,999. If your build cost is $100/hr, can you build and maintain similar functionality in less than 4 hours per year? Depending on your usage pattern, the REST-based option could prove to be significantly cheaper, too!
Further, one of the key benefits of xSkrape is its XS.QL language lets you save time building your own solutions, so the cost doesn't necessarily match with building equivalent functionality, but what you can save by not having to write HTTP plumbing, parsing, etc. Also, the SQL and orchestration tools allow you to construct complete ETL solutions with very little coding required: our goal is to increase your productivity at a cost level that you probably won't even notice! (For example, $199 per year is about one hour per year of our billing time as consultants!)
If you choose to use one of our newer components (e.g. to support building easy-to-maintain ETL), the story remains the same: the time saved in both building and maintenance can be (much) larger than the purchase cost. At $199 per year, that can be one hour of consultation time from many freelancers or consulting firms. In fact: for a limited time we're offering one hour of free consulting time for every enhanced credit pack purchase! Use this however you like: get advice on a solution, get guidance on how to use xSkrape, leverage our SQL Server and data architecture expertise to get general help on a SQL problem - it's your option to use within 6 months of purchase. Offer details.
We're also happy to discuss your unique requirements to iteratively improve the product for everyone.
Q: What's the difference in functionality between the xSkrape for Excel add-ins? (Web and Desktop versions)
Functionality is remarkably similar. For example, the WebGetSingle function in the desktop version corresponds to the "Get Single Value" data connector that can be added in the web-based task pane. Syntax for various types of expression is identical, as illustrated in our on-line documentation.
Some differences that do exist include:
- The Excel version has two "flavors" of "get table": WebGetTable and WebGetDynamicTable. The web-based add-in only supports the concept of dynamic tables, although you can constrain the dimensions of these tables, much as can be done with WebGetTable.
- The web-based add-in imports tabular data using Excel tables, whereas the desktop add-in imports tabular data directly, cell by cell.
- The ability to send email/SMS from within your worksheet is currently only available in the web version.
- The web version requires Excel 2016 whereas the desktop version can be used with Excel 2010 and up.
- The Page Explorer tool is currently only available in the desktop version.
Q: I'm using the Excel add-in and have multiple client machines that I'd like to share credits from the same pool. Is this possible?
Since credit usage is charged by account, enterprise-scenarios like this when you are using the Excel add-in are a good application of the client account password that you can set on the account profile page.
By setting a client password, you can share that password with your users and they can select the "Link Account" option when setting up the web-based add-in.
This allows them to link to the shared account without being able to log into the account on xSkrape.com (reserved for the single administrator who created the account).
Q: Can I move my installation of the web-based add-in to a different machine? If so how?
The easiest way is to take advantage of the fact that your xSkrape.com account is what holds your credits. You can install as many client instances as you like, linked to your xSkrape.com account.
You could for example install a new Trial linked to your account, have it expire, and continue to top up your account with a monthly subscription linked to a different client instance, or purchase more credits on demand.
Q: How is xSkrape different from say the "Web Data Source" that's already available in Excel?
Although seemingly similar, xSkrape offers several ways to target non-tabular data and tabularize data that's not tabular at the source. It also offers capabilities such as merging data over multiple requests, shaping data such as JSON to suit your needs, and identifying source data using declarative means.
Q: Does xSkrape encourage or enable the illegal access of copyrighted material?
No moreso than any existing search engine, Excel's very own Web Data Source, YQL, curl, or other similar tools.
In fact, xSkrape proactively discourages improper usage more than some of these other products by warning on robots.txt exclusions, advertisting itself in the user agent string of requests, and we maintain a list of "denied" sites of our own as well.
Per our license agreements, we reserve the right to turn off access for specific sources or users who abuse our services.
Data providers may change their access rights, rules or formats at any time, and we have no control over this. (This is true of virtually any tool that accesses external data sources.)
See our advanced discussion related to data connectors in general.