Friday, April 27, 2007

Logical spreadsheets

Paying attention to spreadsheet design ...

"In the last 20 years, spreadsheets have become essential tools. Still, they have some limitations. In particular, if they handle mathematical computations, they're not designed to deal with logical formulas. Now, computer scientists at Stanford University have developed a prototype of a logical spreadsheet using logic instead of math to help us with data management in an innovative way. The U.S. Army would like to use the technology to organize troop deployment and training. And Stanford is already using it to schedule classes, events and rooms. The next step will be to integrate this technology on the Web to replace the forms that we routinely fill by "websheets."

On the left is an illustration showing a room management system created using such a logical spreadsheet (Credit: Stanford University). This research work has been led since 2001 by Michael Genesereth, an associate professor in the Computer Science Department at Stanford University and the current director of the Stanford Logic Group, with Michael Kassoff, doctoral candidate in his group and part of the Logical Spreadsheets project.

Here are two quotes from Genesereth about this project.

"There are many cases where traditional spreadsheets are just not sufficient," says Associate Professor Michael Genesereth, whose group in the Computer Science Department is developing this new method of data management. "Why not have a spreadsheet that looks just like a regular spreadsheet except it has the ability to encode and use logical formulas? That's what you can't do with Excel in any way today."

Genesereth gives the example of trying to use a logical spreadsheet to plan a meal. "You enter the main course, and let the spreadsheet suggest greens and carbohydrates that are gastronomically compatible and satisfy nutritional requirements," he says. "Or you can do it in the other order." Traditional spreadsheets fail in such applications because they are more rigid and cannot represent logical constraints."    (Continued via ZDNet.com)    [Usability Resources]

Logical Spreadsheet - Usability, User Interface Design

Logical Spreadsheet

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