Simon Willison’s Weblog


5 items tagged “spreadsheets”


So VisiCalc came and went, but the software genre it pioneered – the spreadsheet – endured to become arguably the most influential type of code ever written, at least in the sense of touching the lives of millions of office workers. I’ve never worked in an organisation in which spreadsheet software was not at the heart of most accounting, budgeting and planning activities. I’ve even known professionals for whom it’s the only piece of PC software they’ve ever used: one elderly accountant of my acquaintance, for example, used Excel even for his correspondence; he simply widened column A to 80 characters, typed his text in descending cells and hit the “print” key.

John Naughton

# 2nd July 2024, 5:23 am / excel, spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are not just tools for doing "what-if" analysis. They provide a specific data structure: a table. Most Excel users never enter a formula. They use Excel when they need a table. The gridlines are the most important feature of Excel, not recalc.

Joel Spolsky

# 10th June 2024, 12:43 am / excel, joel-spolsky, spreadsheets


The Tyranny of Spreadsheets (via) In discussing the notorious Excel incident last year when the UK lost track of 16,000 Covid cases due to a .xls row limit, Tim Harford presents a history of the spreadsheet, dating all the way back to Francesco di Marco Datini and double-entry bookkeeping in 1396. A delightful piece of writing.

# 23rd July 2021, 3:57 am / history, spreadsheets, covid19


Wildcard: Spreadsheet-Driven Customization of Web Applications (via) What a fascinating collection of ideas. Wildcard is a browser extension (currently using Tampermonkey and sadly not yet available to try out) which lets you add “spreadsheet-driven customization” to any web application. Watching the animated screenshots in the videos helps explain what this mean—essentially it’s a two-way scraping trick, where content on the page (e.g. Airbnb listings) are extracted into a spreadsheet-like table interface using JavaScript—but then interactions you make in that spreadsheet like filtering and sorting are reflected back on the original page. It even has the ability to serve editable cells by mapping them to form inputs on the page. Lots to think about here.

# 28th February 2020, 7:39 pm / greasemonkey, spreadsheets


US economic data spreadsheets from the Guardian. At the Guardian we’ve just released a bunch of economic data about the US painstakingly collected by Simon Rogers, our top data journalist, as Google Docs spreadsheets. Get your data here.

# 16th January 2009, 6:17 pm / data, economics, google-docs, simon-rogers, spreadsheets, the-guardian, usa