7.3 Spreadsheet

7.3.1 Oocalc

I currently use the good spreadsheet called calc, which is part of OpenOffice.org. It can be run by clicking an appropriate menu item from your favourite desktop ("K"--"Office"--"OpenOffice.org Calc") or typing in an X terminal:

oocalc&

I am a very heavy spreadsheet user, so here are some other promising programs I keep my eyes on. In my opinion, Linux does not have an excellent spreadsheet program yet, but oocalc can do a lot.

Users can even define their own function in oocalc. For example, i can write in the editor ("Tools"-"Macros"-"Edit") such a function:

REM ***** BASIC *****

REM This function calculates an area of a donut with radii r1 and r2

Function my_function(r1,r2)

REM return the value using the variable called like the function

my_function=abs(pi()*r1^2 - pi()*r2^2)

End function

and then use it from my spreadsheet using something like:

=my_function(2;3)

Currently (Nov.2002, ver.1.01) oocalc supports 256 columns (A .. IV), 32000 rows (1 .. 32000), and up to 256 sheets ("sheet1", "sheet2", etc., can be re-named). Work is in progress to increase the number of rows and columns. It has hundreds of build-in functions (covering compatibility with anything found in MS Excel).

The user interface is sometimes awkward. For example, adding a new data series to a chart requires highlighting a spreadsheet range, and then dragging and dropping it onto the chart with a mouse. Still, the chart component supports (for XY graphs) two Y axes, two X axes, good selection of line types, bitmaps for data points, error bars, regression fits, etc. Really powerful if you learn how to use it--to my taste too much of careful mouse clicking is required. I would really enjoy a giant dialog box with all the options for the chart typed into it for me to modify when required.

7.3.2 gnumeric

(in X terminal) Nice spreadsheet, part of GNOME, included with standard RH distributions (RH6.0 or higher). As good, and in some areas better than, the openoffice oocalc. gnumeric is under heavy development and definitely has the potential to become really great in the near future--it already has a lot of built-in functions (with emphasis on statistics), but its printing is unreliable--a major inconvenience.

7.3.3 kspread

kspread is another highly promising spreadsheet. It is part of the KDE ("koffice") since KDE2. Still not ready for a serious use.

All major Linux spreadsheet applications (oocalc, gnumeric and kspread) use an xml file format (Microsoft is already working on introducing their own version of xml). This file format is definitely good news if you ever experienced problems with the incompatibility of the MS-Windows-based binary spreadsheet file formats. Like html, xml is legible to humans. The spreadsheet files are compressed, so to view the contents on the console, I can do something like:

zless my_gnumeric_file.gnumeric

A comparison of the file sizes for a simple spreadsheet book (containing just one formula, copied 10 000 times) demonstrates that the human-legible file format is not necessary a liablity, and that MS Excel is bloated:

Gunmeric 1.09 27,136

OOCalc 1.01 57,756

kspread 1.2RC1 90,560

MS Excel 2000 549,888

QuattroPro 9 for MS Windows 155,648

Still, Linux spreadsheet applications have a long way to go before becoming what an "advanced" spreadsheet user would like them to be.



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