Modelling with Spreadsheets

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Spreadsheets are an excellent tool for many quick-and-easy engineering calculations and even quite a lot of more complex calculations.

There are arguments against the use of spreadsheets though:

  • they don't support units of measurement!
  • you can't check your model 'at a view' because formulae are hidden and often written in terms of cryptic cell references such as 'H18' and 'AB23'
  • they are saved in a binary format that makes reviewing changes difficult
  • it is hard to reuse one small bit of an old spreadsheet that you previously made (without copying it or modifying it)
  • it is hard to build modular structures
  • it is hard to examine the nature of convergence problems in the Solver component (particular to Excel)
  • it is hard to build automated testing into a spreadsheet[1]

See also the article Spreadsheets Considered Harmful

See also Spreadsheet interface for some thoughts about how the benefits of spreadsheet-style programming could be merged with something like ASCEND.

References

  1. L Pryor, 2008. "When, why and how to test spreadsheets", arxiv:0807.3187