3 things you don't understand about spreadsheets

Really awesome 3-part series about spreadsheets written from the programmer’s perspective :raised_hands:. After reading these articles it’s clear why many companies are building a more flexible solution than Excel. TLDR:

  1. Spreadsheets are programs

  2. Spreadsheets made the PC market

  3. Spreadsheets run the world

The author summarizes the challenges with supplanting Excel:

They are largely a single-user, desktop tools and not “native” citizens of the web. Online spreadsheets are still fairly basic compared to Microsoft Excel’s power running on a local machine, but what is worse: With the exception of (some) collaboration features, they are largely a transfer of the desktop-client metaphor to a client running in the browser with little notice of the things that are truly different when you’re running “in the cloud”.

The author also mentions RescueTime (which I wrote about here) and states 25% of computer users use Excel on a daily basis!


In the first article the author talks about functional and reactive programming and refers to Bret Victor’s talk about “Inventing on Principle.” WHO IS THIS MAGICIAN??? His talk is absolutely mind-blowing :thinking::

This sent me down the rabbit hole of discovering Bret Victor’s projects, and I came across this gem which discusses strategies for new users to understand programming. I see some parallels between Victor’s ideas and Coda’s formula language. Victor makes a side not about spreadsheets in the “See the State” section:

One of the all-time most popular programming models is the spreadsheet. A spreadsheet is the dual of a conventional programming language – a language shows all the code, but hides the data. A spreadsheet shows all the data, but hides the code. Some people believe that spreadsheets are popular because of their two-dimensional grid, but that’s a minor factor. Spreadsheets rule because they show the data.