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SciSheets: Providing the Power of Programming With The Simplicity of Spreadsheets

Alicia Clark
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington

Joseph L. Hellerstein
eScience Institute and School of Computer Science, University of Washington. This work was made possible by the Moore/Sloan Data Science Environments Project at the University of Washington supported by grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (Award \#3835) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Award \#2013-10-29).

Abstract

Digital spreadsheets are arguably the most pervasive environment for end user programming on the planet. Although spreadsheets simplify many calculations, they fail to address requirements for expressivity, reuse, complex data, and performance. SciSheets (from \textquotedbl{}scientific spreadsheets\textquotedbl{}) is an open source project that provides novel features to address these requirements: (1) formulas can be arbitrary Python scripts as well as expressions (formula scripts), which addresses expressivity by allowing calculations to be written as algorithms; (2) spreadsheets can be exported as functions in a Python module (function export), which addresses reuse since exported codes can be reused in formulas and/or by external programs and improves performance since calculations can execute in a low overhead environment; and (3) tables can have columns that are themselves tables (subtables), which addresses complex data such as representing hierarchically structured data and n-to-m relationships. Our future directions include refinements to subtables, github integration, and plotting. At present, SciSheets can do robust demos, but it is not yet beta code.

Keywords

software engineering

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