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VisiCalc Creator Developing WikiCalc 139

Posted by Zonk
from the i-desire-a-wiki-about-pie dept.
An anonymous reader writes "ZDNet has an article about a new wiki that is trying to combine the collaboration of wiki technology and the data manipulation attributes of a spreadsheet. The creator of VisiCalc, Dan Bricklin, is working on an alpha version of WikiCalc for sometime late in February." From the article: "'It holds a lot of promise, both because it's using the spreadsheet metaphor, which is the one thing people know for working with quantitative information and because 'there's nobody better in the world to build this thing,' said Ross Mayfield, CEO of collaboration software maker SocialText. To Mayfield, WikiCalc is the answer to a problem that has been percolating for some time in the world of IT. That is, he said, that spreadsheets have traditionally been a single-user application screaming for functionality that could let multiple people edit data quickly and easily. "
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VisiCalc Creator Developing WikiCalc

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  • by AuMatar (183847) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:14PM (#14744734)
    The ability to make more absolutely pointless spreadsheets.

    Hell, why not just a regular wiki anyway? I figure 90-95% of all the spreadsheets I see don't do any calculations, they're just used as a way to put things in columns.
    • "Hell, why not just a regular wiki anyway? I figure 90-95% of all the spreadsheets I see don't do any calculations, they're just used as a way to put things in columns."

      Do regular wikis have column and cell editing features? Most of what I'm familiar with work like line editors.
    • by caffeinemessiah (918089) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:21PM (#14744789) Journal
      Perhaps many business won't need it, but I know a lot people who will. The combination of a web interface with easy and intuitive (read: not MS Office's reviewing features) multi-user functionality could help, for example, a manager easily collect numbers from multiple people on a team. For the manager, all the data is in one location as it comes in and accessible when he wants it, not as emails with separate Excel attachments which he has to paste together. Or if I'm collecting data in my lab but want to review it at home, then I can just use an online spreadsheet and don't have to do the usual transfer via network/ftp/usb/email/cvs. Believe me, the applications for online tools ARE out there -- there's a reason Microsoft is releasing their uncharacteristic Windows Live nonsense.
    • In the financial industry I've seen mini-applications where spreadsheets were the whole data store. Many financial analysts live in Excel. Spreadsheets can be a powerful, useful tool. But most often they grow into horribly ugly monsters that the IT department has to de-tangle and cram into custom apps.
      • by bb5ch39t (786551) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:29PM (#14744848)
        I've seen this problem here (I'm in IT). A really smart Actuarial creates a very good, effective spreadsheet. It becomes both production and "mission critical" to them. The Actuarial leaves. Oh, did I mention that there is nothing documented? And the person is a Ph.D using calculations that are not understandable to mortal man (or even a woman!). Who supports this? Especially when it breaks because desktop support rolls out the next version of Excel. Screams abound!

        And I giggle because I'm a dino running on old, obsolete mainframe technology where the end user can't just slap something together and put it into production.
    • So true. I wonder if someone could release a spreadsheet for a few hundred bucks that has no computational facilities only. Just arranges things in a grid and allows you to choose your font. That would probably satisfy 95% of users of Excel.

      Personally, I was disappointed when I found that spreadsheets only ran the formulas forward so that if I typed in A1=2*B2 it wouldn't work out B2 from A1. Seems almost as useless as formattable grid to me.

      • If you consider auto-increment to be part of "arrangement", then I'm with you.
      • Personally, I was disappointed when I found that spreadsheets only ran the formulas forward so that if I typed in A1=2*B2 it wouldn't work out B2 from A1. Seems almost as useless as formattable grid to me.

        Your kidding right???
        • Maybe the GPP is generalizing too much on all spreadsheet software out there, but I can think of several scenarios which many spreadsheets may have difficulty solving.

          Given the example, what if B2 contains a formula which itself (recursively, conditionally) depends on A1?
          Only if the spreadsheet app contains or has access to a reasonably sophisticated CAS (Computer Algebra System) like Maple or Mathematica can you expect it perform well in this regard.
          • And what I meant was he has to be kidding if he seriously expects a spread sheet to do that. Yes possibly a very specialized app but not one included with every office suite.
          • You don't need a computer algebra system at all. There is a tendency for people to reach for computer algebra tools (that cost thousands) when a much smaller tool would do. In this case every numerical methods book has algorithms for solving nonlinear sets of equations. They fail for many problems, but most are good enough to solve the kinds of equations that might occur in everyday life for spreadsheet users: eg. "what time period should I pay this loan over if I can afford this monthly payment?" or "how m
    • by dr.badass (25287) on Friday February 17, 2006 @05:35PM (#14745343) Homepage
      I figure 90-95% of all the spreadsheets I see don't do any calculations, they're just used as a way to put things in columns.

      This is exactly the reason that one of my favorite apps, OmniOutliner [omnigroup.com] (Mac OS X) was created.

      "when the Excel product manager got up on stage at MacWorld several years ago and said, "We've found that 85% of our customers use Excel just to make lists and outlines," we (Omni) said, "Shoot, that'll be our next product. We can do a GOOD job of making lists and outlines, and sell it for a lot less."" -- Wil Shipley, Omni co-founder [wilshipley.com]

      It seems like there might be a market opening up in the "things that people are already misusing Office for" sector.
      • Circa 1985 and 1986, I used two lovely applications, Cricket Graph and DeltaGraph to create graphs and charts. Then Microsoft Excel came out. In my next three jobs, whenever I attempted to purchase graphing or charting software, my manager turned me down on the grounds that "Excel can do graphs and charts."
    • Most people I work for seem to think "oh, Excel. Great--something we can use to make tables!"

      They'd be shocked to know it calculates.

    • Yeah, we should be doing this with Power Point instead. Then we will have REAL productivity from PM's, PHBs, etc. Soon, we can all work together on nice displays.
  • Prior art? (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:15PM (#14744741) Homepage Journal

    a new wiki that is trying to combine the collaboration of wiki technology and the data manipulation attributes of a spreadsheet.

    Isn't that how Enron ran its entire accounting department?
    • Isn't that how Enron ran its entire accounting department?

      No, they just lied and made stuff up. No need for any data entry, ingenuity or even common sense.
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:18PM (#14744759) Homepage Journal
    spreadsheets have traditionally been a single-user application screaming for functionality that could let multiple people edit data quickly and easily.

    Hence corporations all having relational databases with custom GUI applications. Spreadsheets are most useful for tabular data, which of course works well in relational database tables. While spreadsheets are great at free-form manipulation and "playing" with the data, it's the custom apps that are required to sqeeze that data into the corporation's customs workflows. For at least 20 years what corporations have been doing is creating the custom apps and having them export to more freeform data models like spreadsheets as needed. This seems to work pretty well.

    But "supercharging" spreadsheets won't really be providing power to the people that need it. The people that most need power over large amounts of data have hundreds of people working in their IT departments.
    • by hey! (33014) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:30PM (#14744862) Homepage Journal
      preadsheets are most useful for tabular data, which of course works well in relational database tables.

      I'd go farther. Spreadsheets exist to capture the structure of calculations. Data should as far as possible never go in them. The only unequivocal exception to this are parameters used in the calculations (e.g. "assuming the rate of inflation is i...").

      In practice people do have to stage derived data in their spreadsheets, but this is dangerous and leads down the road to the major use of spreadsheets in businesses today: as an ad hoc "direct manipulation" database. This is a dreadful, hair-raising practice. Many a time I've looked at results that don't make sense, because one cell got separated from its brethren in a sort.
      • because one cell got separated from its brethren in a sort.

        I was "upgraded" to excel 2003 this summer, which caused such a decrease in my productivity.

        One new "feature" is that the ever ubiquitous ctrl-A, which every other app, and all older versions of Excel used to "select ALL", no longer selects ALL. Excel 2003 now tries to look at the group of cells you're currently sitting in, and selects what it thinks is a convenient group. The problem is, if there's a gap in a column, it won't reach across all of
      • >Spreadsheets exist to capture the structure of calculations. Data should as far as possible never go in them.

        I see your point -- there are these things called "data"bases for storing data, which have a lot of features for keeping the data safer and more meaningful than it would be in a spreadsheet.

        On the other hand, one of the stories about usability engineering was that Microsoft discovered that customers were using Excel to store lists of things, so they added features to speed up creating and sorting
        • "Pursuing usability took them further from the path you identified as good design."

          Only in that they didn't follow through with it. What this really means is that something like Access should be included with Excel by default. Microsoft wants to avoid doing this, as Access is an upgrade product (they sell office both with and without Access). The net result is that people use Excel to store data, since it requires some minimal ability to do that.

          Proper design (rather than the after the fact fix that they
      • Sounds like more people should be using linear algebra and matrix math [agdconsulting.ca]. Just don't try it in Excel.

        And another oddball use of spreadsheets [agdconsulting.ca] that will curl most people's short hairs.

        -AD

    • that's the point! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by poptones (653660) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:33PM (#14744880) Journal
      But "supercharging" spreadsheets won't really be providing power to the people that need it. The people that most need power over large amounts of data have hundreds of people working in their IT departments.

      Your last sentence summed it up very well: companies presently pay a LOT of people simply to move data from app to app. A collaborative spreadsheet could change workflows in significant ways that we, having never before used such an app, cannot readily predict.

      I think it's a bloody fantastic idea, and so simple and obvious it seems odd to think such an app doesn't yet exist.
      • It does. This is obviously just an RDBMS with a web front end and hooks for writing (and probably saving) your own "mathematical" SELECT statements. Big deal.
        • by rsborg (111459)
          It does. This is obviously just an RDBMS with a web front end and hooks for writing (and probably saving) your own "mathematical" SELECT statements. Big deal.

          And a podcast is just a RSS based distribution of sound and video media. But it is a good implementation and use of RSS, and a WikiCalc would be a great use of wiki.

          Some of the best most obvious innovations seem rediculously obvious in hindsight, but that doesn't detract from their greatness (in fact, you could just say they were elegant [retrologic.com])

      • "I think it's a bloody fantastic idea, and so simple and obvious it seems odd to think such an app doesn't yet exist."

        It *has* been done before and it *does* exist, in fact there are loads of them... All you have to do is look.

         
  • WikiCalc (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:19PM (#14744770)
    WikiCalc - the site where you get to decide what 2 + 2 equals...
  • Total Bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

    by chill (34294) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:19PM (#14744775) Journal
    "With (Excel), you get people playing e-mail volleyball with attachments all day long, so it's grossly inefficient," Mayfield said. "How do you track changes on a spreadsheet? What happens if you don't have just two people going back and forth, (but) have a finance department of 40 people trying to roll up numbers."

    Share the workbook and multiple people can edit at the same time. I do this daily and have been using this feature for quite some time. Changes are highlighted w/notes on who made what change whenever you save. I haven't played "e-mail volleyball" regarding spreadsheets.

      -Charles
    • Re:Total Bullshit (Score:4, Informative)

      by chill (34294) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:22PM (#14744799) Journal
      To clarify, he's talking about doing instantaneous updates which would be an excellent feature that Excel does NOT have. But, to slam Excel as not being able to share AT ALL is pure BS.

        -Charles
      • TurboDbAdmin? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by poopie (35416) on Friday February 17, 2006 @05:19PM (#14745224) Journal
        Sounds a lot like the turbodbadmin demo to me... just with support for formulas.

        http://turboajax.com/turbodbadmin.html [turboajax.com]

        in other words, "ajax-based web spreadsheet that uses a databse for backend datastore"

        Great idea - it effectively could kill excel for always-connected corporate environments where people are constantly fighting with different spreadsheet revisions and 2nd hand data.

        Give users the interface they know and mostly seem to love. No stupid ODBC drivers necessary. Works in any modern browser. Give the company accurate data in a real database. Win-Win.
      • I think you need to chill.
      • Well sharing is a solution, but a perfectly working excel shared document is nowhere as flexible as one available to internet clients. Its not always feasible or economical to get an excel environment to remotely add review spreadsheet data (Id have to dual boot into osx and get an office license, for example. And, would sharing work with office-mac?)

        And what about other web clients, like PDAs? Net cafes kiosks?
    • Mod Parent UP! (Score:3, Informative)

      by mekkab (133181)
      We have conference calls sitting around an excel sheet populated by other data, and we make our updates, save 'em, and let the main conference holders know, they reload, and its all populated and shared. In near-real time. And we use net meeting, too.

      • Yeah, that's as good as a wiki.

        Not.

        One company I was at (several hundred very-distributed people) paid $45000 to put in a conference call server. It paid for itself in a few months, we'd gotten so addicted to conference calls without paying attention to the per-line per-minute costs. Even WITH the conference server and a VOIP or similar way of making intra-corporate calls insanely cheap, there's still a per-office broadband cost to shuttling a gig per day of voice data around, especially when you're talki
    • Re:Total Bullshit (Score:2, Interesting)

      Shared workbooks in Excel are very good for specific instances: they work fine, so longs as the datasets aren't huge, everyone knows when they're going to synchronise/update, nobody, but nobody get's a connection problem, Excel doesn't crash and nobody's box goes down. And if one of those happens mid-save, your spreadsheet could be toast.

      Excel has many features that allow it to be used as a sort of database - I've even seen heavily 'locked down' workbooks relying on enormous quantities of VBA code workin

    • Except that turning on sharing doesn't work well across teh intarnets.
    • Sure, people could share files, and email the link.

      In practice, offices don't do that. It'll be easier for the PHB to have it explained that you can do this in a browser than how to turn on sharing.
      • In practice, offices don't do that. It'll be easier for the PHB to have it explained that you can do this in a browser than how to turn on sharing.

        Uh, no. Tools --> Share Workbook.

        And PHBs may not know much, but I guarantee you they grasp the basics of at least PowerPoint and Excel, with the Outlook Calendar not far behind.

        In practice, most offices that use spreadsheets at all do just that. They put the sheet on a shared drive that is mapped on boot and access it thru a link in their "My Documents" or
  • by New Breeze (31019) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:20PM (#14744782) Homepage
    Think about things like budgeting/forcasting in a large operation with multiple departments, all of whom need to work on their individual sections. You end up with either lots of spreadsheets that are linked together if you're lucky, or everyone taking turns at the master spreadsheet. If they get a decent selection of formulas working this could really simplify things for stuff like that.
    • because that's what a lot of the budgeting and forcasting stuff is built on. Think those bean counters are going to take a flyer on some new app, learn a new way to write macros and see what happens? In every company I've worked for, the finance department is an extremely busy place.
    • I don't see how this could really be accomplished anytime soon without custom apps. Any large corporation has hundreds of software developers. One core job the IT department is workflow. They've been writing custom apps to handle this sort of thing for decades.

      Would it be nice for a more generic app to save on software development? Of course. But I can't imagine a magical tool that easily fits in without needing massive customization.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:21PM (#14744788)
    What exactly would you do with a spreadsheet/wiki cross if you had one? I just can't visualize a use case. It sounds like the people doing this chose their product by taking a bag full of buzzwords written on refrigerator magnets and pulling out two at random. "Oh, we're going to make an AJAX... microcontroller!"
    • You want a use case? I'll give you a use case.

      At home, my wife and myself already use a wiki to keep track of things to do, current events, the progress of our baby, etc.

      A wiki coupled with a spreadsheet would bring us:
      - An easier way to share tabular content or to format content in tabular form (file listings, tasks, events),
      - An easier way to balance accounts. Well, easier than GNUCash anyway :)
      - A collaborative framework to implement useful computations. If you consider formulas as functions, you have an
      • I've got another one:

        In my small business, I have to send my accountant monthly spreadsheets of the bank activity, what invoices I've sent, and what expenses I've claimed. Pretty simple stuff.

        Now if I have two people doing that, we can both be adding stuff in, and our accountant gets to see it as it happens.

        Granted, this is possible with Excel sharing, or SharePoint, but the point here being that (a) it's simple and (b) is web based and (c) it doesn't require all of us to share a fileserver and (d) it's ope
  • JotSpot Tracker? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by br0ck (237309)
    This sounds pretty similar to JotSpot Tracker [jot.com].
  • by WED Fan (911325)
    ...a new tool to add money to the big boys' pockets. Saw an interview with him years ago. He tried to make it sound as if creating a program that eventually put billions into the coffers at Lotus and Microsoft but left him with a teachers salary didn't sting all that much. But, it was evident in his eyes that he was stung and felt he missed the boat that made young millionaires out of the geeks of the late '70s.
  • From TFA: WikiCalc's potential success, however, also assumes that Bricklin--who in recent years has been consulting, speaking and running his small software company, Software Garden--can effectively get the word out.

    This appears to be a main point to me. Marketing and user adoption. The article refers to various existing alternatives: honestly, I don't care that much about having 5 collabo-spreadsheet alternatives, I just want one that will do what I want bugless with plenty of features. Take OpenOffice sp
  • Uh, sharepoint? (Score:5, Informative)

    by briancnorton (586947) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:28PM (#14744840) Homepage
    I know there isn't an opensharepoint yet, but MS Sharepoint lets you do much of what they discuss. It was developed for exactly the same reasons, and it does a pretty good job if people know it and use it.
    • Not just that - but Office SharePoint 2007 includes Excel Services so that you can work with spreadsheet from your browser
      see http://blogs.msdn.com/excel/archive/2005/11/08/490 502.aspx [msdn.com]
      • Yeah ... but it's implemented as an ActiveX control ... so scratch "from your browser" and make that "from IE".
        • Re:Excel Services (Score:3, Informative)

          by BradleyUffner (103496)

          Yeah ... but it's implemented as an ActiveX control ... so scratch "from your browser" and make that "from IE".

          Umm... NO, read the artical linked. Read the snpped section below and note how it specificly says "No ActiveX".

          So what happened, exactly, to get the spreadsheet in the browser? Behind the scenes, Excel Services opened the file the sales analyst saved to SharePoint, refreshed any external data in the spreadsheet, calculated any formulas, and rendered the results in the browser. Specifically, Exce

    • PLEASE tell me how to use it!! We have been trying for ages now.

      The biggest problem is that it is virtually impossible to navigate the areas. For word documents you get a semi-sharing system. It's sort of what you'd get if you put a document in version control--the merge isn't good, but it's possible.

      However, as far as I can tell, the Excel portion is horrific. There is really no decent merge, it's no better than putting it in version control.

      If I'm wrong about it, would you please refer me to a summary
  • by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro@NosPAM.gmail.com> on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:30PM (#14744854) Homepage Journal
    This is all well and good, until every cell reads "Penis".
  • And what happens when, like the author suggests, you get 40 people together to edit a single spreadsheet? Let me see how well they -- the people -- handle seeing a spreadsheet automagically updating it self from 40 different sources at once. They're not going to know what is safe to touch, what is up to date, or WTF is going on. It is going to be sensory overload as stuff keeps chaning on your screen while you're typing.

      -Charles
    • Indeed. I have this vision of a spreadsheet behaving like the Fridge Magnet site, with letters constantly getting yanked out from underneath you.

      http://web.okaygo.co.uk/apps/letters/flashcom/inde x2.htm [okaygo.co.uk]
    • Have you ever used a wiki? If two people edit simultaneously but one finishes first, the second has to merge the first edit into the second. That's all. SVN works like this too. There's no "stuff moving on the screen."
      • Have you ever used a wiki? If two people edit simultaneously but one finishes first, the second has to merge the first edit into the second. That's all. SVN works like this too. There's no "stuff moving on the screen."

        Quoth the article: "Bricklin's answer is to make it possible for anyone using WikiCalc to enter data and for anyone else to edit that data and have those edits be reflected on everyone's computers instantaneously."

        I updates come across to my screen when someone else merges, then that is what I
  • Hmmm lets see. A rows and columns type structure similar to a spreadsheet that lets multiple users edit and view data, and can link in other similar structures in some sort of relational way.... and provides simple functions for doing calculations... this sounds like a RDMS. Im not sure, but I have the feeling this technology has been around for many years.
    • Oh... almost forgot. It uses the technology of the minute, AJAX, so it must be revolutionary.

      While I admit that an AJAX front-end giving the look and feel of a spreadsheet that allows large-scale collaboration for companies is a cool concept, now it will allow for any idiot to change those crucial forecasting numbers for the 4th quarter, which is kind of from a business standpoint, even if it is internal only.
      • it will allow for any idiot to change those crucial forecasting numbers for the 4th quarter

        Riiiight... because "any idiot" is the policy Wikipedia has chosen, therefore anything with "wiki" in its name must also adopt the same policy!

        See if you can try to separate the technology from the policy. It's fun!

        (And if this hasn't beat some sense into you, then I'll spell it out plainly -- wiki technology is widely used in restricted environments, usernames and passwords, people with varying levels of acc

    • A database is the correct structure for this kind of thing. However, not all of us want to us a database. Actually, I do. I prefer use a database to a spreadsheet any day. It's handy. I ask for the information that I need, and I get it back. I write a script to help me visualize the data or perform calculations, and it's great.

      However, to a CSR, a spreadsheet is life. Unfortunately, the RDBMS isn't what a CSR is ready to use. CSRs want auto-filter, column-rearranging, sorting, etc. And they don't want to w
  • I'm not entierly sure how many buisnesses will be willing to trust such a system. One needs to be carefull that your competitor hasn't inserted some special logic to screw things up when *your* data is entered into the system. Unlike wikipedia where everyone can see any devious attempts to change things code or calculations can seem fine and work fine on most data but contain subtle bugs.

    However, for plenty of individuals and personal buisnesses this seems like a great idea. All the time there are common
    • I was being an idiot. He doesn't actually seem to be setting up a public wiki to host these kind of calculations but creating a spreadsheet sharing system for inside a company. Still usefull but much more boring.

      Hopefully someone will come along and do what I suggested anyway.
  • WikiPoop (Score:3, Funny)

    by GweeDo (127172) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:39PM (#14744915) Homepage
    I have just started working on WiKiPooP.com [wikipoop.com]. This is a colabrative site where people can help each other figure out how to poop. Anyone can edit anyone elses poop to make it more accurate and to the point. This just goes to show that the WiKi is the future of allt hings!.
  • Dan Bricklin is currently the CEO of an unknown company, trying to make a living by selling a 27-year old idea with the "collaborative" buzz-word attached.
  • by k3v1n (262210)
    It's been done...

    Num Sum [numsum.com]
  • Sounds like... (Score:3, Informative)

    by slappy (31445) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:41PM (#14744941)
    Dabble DB [dabbledb.com]
  • What I really want to know is, can multiple people play Sudoku using it?!
  • I think that they should use the origin labs program for feature ideas and whatnot. Linux needs a data visualization program like this. In the science community this is a final barrier for linux adoption. It is easy to write specialized programs for particular problems in linux, but for general data visualization and curve fitting there is no good alternative. The current spreadsheet programs are modeled after excel which is much more limited.
  • Microsoft announces WikiPoint as an robust alternative to the venerable PowerPoint.
  • Now managers everywhere will have a Web-based, collaborative application to use in place of a database...
  • by everphilski (877346) on Friday February 17, 2006 @04:53PM (#14745015) Journal
    On the Tools menu, click Share Workbook, and then click the Editing tab.
    Select the Allow changes by more than one user at the same time check box.
    Click the Advanced tab.
    Under Track changes, click Keep change history for, and in the Days box, type the number of days of change history (change history: In a shared workbook, information that is maintained about changes made in past editing sessions. The information includes the name of the person who made each change, when the change was made, and what data was changed.) that you want to keep.
    Be sure to enter a large-enough number of days because Microsoft Excel permanently erases any change history older than this number of days.
    Click OK, and if prompted to save the file, click OK.
    easy enough. Straght from TFM
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Friday February 17, 2006 @05:01PM (#14745091)
    The intricacies of spreadsheets make them much harder to edit in parallel. On a wikipedia entry it doesn't matter if one person edits something about the history of something while another person expands a section on the future. Aside from minor inconsistencies, which are easy to spot, the document is essentially the sum of its parts.

    In contrast, the parts of a spreadsheet have strict dependencies that can span the spreadsheet and affect correctness in subtle ways. For example, if one person adds a row in one section, how should formulas in a different section react (do range references to the row above expand to encompass the new row or do range references to the row below expand or neither?). "Trace dependencies" functions can help but only if each editor recognizes that the scope of their edits is potentially unbounded.

    The point is that it's harder to allow simultaneous independent edits because the internals of a spreasheet don't have independence.
  • A whole bunch of people mucking about with my data.
  • I work in content development that requires lots of data tracking, with multiple people working with the data at once. More than a few times, a shared doc has lead to some data toe-stepping. We actually use expressions to generate monthly reports, so I could see some sweet applications of this in-house.
  • Wiki (Score:4, Funny)

    by BigZaphod (12942) on Friday February 17, 2006 @05:17PM (#14745207) Homepage
    Uh oh... Is "wiki" becoming the new "i" which was the new "e" a few years ago?
  • Are there any currently existing broswer-based, sharable, editable spreadsheets? Or a place that hosts a sandbox for wikiCalc? I couldn't find a place to test out wikiCalc online.
  • by maynard (3337) <j.maynard.gelina ... GERcom minus cat> on Friday February 17, 2006 @05:57PM (#14745492) Journal
    Yup. Now all we need is Michael Shrayer, the original author of The Electric Pencil [digibarn.com], to write a decent wordprocessor / text editor for Wiki and we'll have an online Office replacement with wiki capabilities....

    Oh how I love all the recent computing innovation!
  • by elwinc (663074) on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:18PM (#14745680)
    At the risk of injecting facts into an otherwise perfectly pleasant slashdot discussion, I thought I'd provide a link to the wikiCalk post [danbricklin.com] on Bricklin's blog. Oh, and while we're on the subject, how about the "home page for the wikiCalc Alpha Test." [softwaregarden.com] You can download Mac, Windows and Perl versions there, assiming Dan's server can handle the load. Uh oh, I better paste in the text of the page; hopefully most of you will read this rather than crash Bricklin's host...

    This is the home page for the wikiCalc Alpha Test

    Introduction

    The wikiCalc program is a web authoring tool for pages that include data that is more than just unformatted prose. It combines some of the ease of authoring and multi-person editing of a wiki with the familiar visual formatting and data organizing metaphor of a spreadsheet. It can be easily set up to publish to basic web server space accessed by FTP and there is no need to set up server-side programs like CGI. It can, though, run on a server and be used with nothing more than a browser on the client.

    wikiCalc is currently released in Alpha test. This means that it is largely untested, has bugs, and is missing features that will hopefully be in the 1.0 release (and Beta versions leading up to that). It does, though, implement a large enough subset of the targeted features to get a good idea of what the product is all about. It is also useful in its own right and seems to be able to create, publish, and maintain a wide variety of web pages already. For example, this page and many of the ones it links to about wikiCalc were created with the wikiCalc Alpha. (The graphical design comes from a CSS file and the side bar is in a simple custom template. Much like a blogging tool, you can automatically wrap the output in static nice-looking stuff if you don't want the default.)

    The Alpha release is available for use on Windows, Mac, Linux/Unix, and other platforms that can run the Perl language. On Windows you need only download a single .exe file that will install wikiCalc, a Perl runtime, and assorted sample files. Other platforms need to have Perl already installed (but they commonly come with it pre-installed).

    The program is written by Dan Bricklin (me) and is available under a GPL 2.0 license. When shipped it will also be available with a dual-license non-GPL proprietary license. You can read my essay explaining a little more about what wikiCalc is and why I created it on the "About wikiCalc 0.1" page on my blog.

    Note that this is the 0.2 alpha version which uses AJAX techniques when editing cells. It includes a "Demonstration Setup" option to get you up to speed quickly if you just want to see what a browser-based spreadsheet feels like.

    wikiCalc is currently aimed at users who are comfortable figuring out how best to use a new tool. It is very flexible and there are many options to meet many different needs. It should be especially of interest to the DIY (Do It Yourself) and VAR (Value Added Reseller) crowd. Such people can set it up for use by others.

    . . . skipping part about downloading and running . . .

    News and Reviews

    Here are links to some of what others have written about wikiCalc:

    David Berlind on ZDNet [zdnet.com]

    • I don't really know, of course, and I have yet to try his software out, but the ability to even do simple spreadsheets in a webapplication opens up so many doors that I think this will become as large as wikis itself. The real innovation here is that Briklin is using the flexibility of web apps to have it run locally, on the web, distributed or possibly any mix thereof. It can be huge for all those millions of people who have no need of the advanced features of excel, but need simple functions on data or th
  • Every time I see the program VisiCalc mentioned, it get irked by the fact that the stupid thing will be covered by copyright until like 2050.

    Copyright law is so broken.
  • Imagine that, a webpage that uses tables for tabular data.
  • VisiCalc was great at a time when bell bottom pants and leisure suits were still more than a dim memory, but the user interface sucks from a 21st century perpective.

    There have been a number of new takes on the spreadsheet since VisiCalc, permitting manipulation of tabular data but in a more intuitive way than formulas involving row and column references. Unfortunately, Microsoft Excel killed all that with its mediocre imitation of the original VisiCalc.

    I hope that web-based spreadsheets will happen. I als
  • For those who don't know already, VisiCalc [wikipedia.org] was the first spreadsheet program ever.

"If I do not want others to quote me, I do not speak." -- Phil Wayne

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