This is a very general question. If I want to learn how to access or use a data feed straigt from a system which would normally provide a data dump in the form of an excel file, what should I learn.

I basically have no idea where to start learning about this kind of thing or what keywords / topics or even books I should be learning to understand how this kind of thing can be done.

In general, I'm working with systems which in some way provide data on a screen. You can extract data from these by downloading it. The other option is to extract data directly (bypassing the spreadsheet) possibly using some sort of programming. Don't want to use perl though C++ will be an option in the future. I'm no asking for the code at this stage. Is there a special name for this process?

Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much

Well if the data is web-based and presented with no download option then fetching the data from the page is called screen scraping. If it does provide a download option its just called downloading :)