This question may sound like it's a bit vague, but I think that lots of people seem to face similar issues, and on this occasion a general answer seems better than a specific focused one:
I use QGIS. I need to be able to collaborate with colleagues who use typical office software - working with QGIS to visualise their data. I've struggled for months to find a robust and simple way to do so. Last time I tried I ended up reverting to using Mapinfo, despite the other problems/limitations this caused me with symbology.
I'm in a typical organisation - most colleagues are limited to using typical office tools. This includes MS Office (Excel, Access). They are familiar with these tools and unlikely to use anything new. Anything I do has to work within their boundaries or it'll fail before it starts. (I've converted several to using QGIS themselves - but for the majority this isn't an option).
I use QGIS. I'm competent with working with shapefiles, TAB files, CSV files, linking data layers, relationships, etc - but pretty much a newbie when it comes to coding, python and other database solutions.
I (and others I think) need a simple and robust method to allow colleagues to work with tables of data - data which includes a field which I can use to link it to GIS records. I don't even need to be able to cope with geometry fields in their data. It's my job to manage geometry... all I'm working toward is relationships/links in their data with an existing GIS layer.
I've completely failed to find a simple way to do this... repeatedly getting bogged down in trying (incompetently) to connect MS Access to text files, or QGIS (64bit, 2.8, Windows 7) to MS Access in one way or another (no I can't change to 32bit). I'm currently working with asking the Excel user to save as a csv file so that QGIS can recognise this, but this is messy for the Excel user who has to handle odd (for them) messages about csv saves. I had QGIS talking directly to MS Excel for a while: I'm not sure how I achieved it but I think it knew the column headings should be field names and I could even edit the Excel file using QGIS at one point. But things fail and fall apart regularly. After one save to the Excel table (using Excel I think) QGIS stopped recognising the column headings (taking them to be data). I can't find how to re-set this, so am faced with columns labelled "field 1" etc.
Is there any simple solution to this?
I can see from a range of more specific questions that many other people face the same issue (e.g. for example see questions about connecting Access to QGIS). On this occasion I'm free to create a new solution... so long as it's simple for me to set up and doesn't rely on colleagues learning anything new.
This simple task seems to me to be a key requirement of a good GIS system for use in the real world, which is why it seems worth such a wordy/general question
Previously I asked a vaguely similar question about enabling the editing of text data, and although not tested much I think I found a way to work with some office software using a dbf file (see my own answer) but I can't make dbf work with MS Office software at the moment.