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Office Suite Evaluation: Spreadsheet

Assignment: Compute the amortization of a loan, and view three sample spreadsheets provided by Mathematics Department staffers.

Microsoft Excel is the Windows competitor for spreadsheets. Calc (screenshot)

I know OpenOffice has a spreadsheet component called Calc, but how do you start it? Apparently you do openoffice file.xls, that is, it starts the right app based on the file extension. Or you can start any component and choose File-New, and you can create a new document of any kind, and the correct application will be started. An odd quirk: if you have two apps open and you exit from one, all of them will be terminated. This test was run under Gnome; OpenOffice seems to not care which window manager you use.

The three sample Excel spreadsheets were all opened in good order. Of all the spreadsheet programs tested, scalc did the best job of making all the data visible. Either it had the best relation between column widths in the sheet and available fonts, or it was auto-sizing the columns.

On the loan example, it was easy and convenient to create the spreadsheet. There was a close correspondence between some of the toolbar functions between scalc and gnumeric, leading me to believe that both of them emulate Microsoft Excel closely.

Resource usage: Installed size is not obvious separately. File size 6.7 Kb (binary), virtual 126 Mb, rss 53 Mb, CPU 10 secs (for all the sheets).

KDE: KSpread (screenshot)

KSpread was able to open all three sample spreadsheets from Microsoft Excel, including two fairly complicated multi-page ones. It doesn't seem to have a real good idea of adjusting column widths so the data is readable, although it may have tried and done a poor job or may have been cueing on width data in the Excel file that was inappropriate to the available fonts. As with Excel, column widths can be adjusted with the mouse. It spewed great numbers of error messages on stderr, plus a syntax error dialog box when closing 2 out of 3 files.

Creating my own spreadsheet: This was very simple, and after reading the manual a little, I had no trouble to do it.

Resource usage on an arbitrarily selected one file: installed size 5 Mb, file 16 Kb (compared to 44 Kb from Excel), virtual 59 Mb, rss 21 Mb, CPU 2 secs.

Gnome: Gnumeric (screenshot)

The help files were in the Gnome-1 location and were not found by Gnome-2. Thus I had to view them with a separate web browser.

Loading the three sample spreadsheets: All three of them loaded in good order. Column widths were mostly adequate; when too narrow, the width could be adjusted with the mouse.

The loan problem: it was simple to set up this spreadsheet and to designate and copy cells appropriately. Gnumeric has one odd quirk: when you change a cell it only partially auto-recalculates; thus you have to repeatedly press F9 (recalculate) until the output cell stops changing. I was not able to discover how to engage complete recalculation.

Resource usage (for loan): installed size 30 Mb, file size 1.6 Kb (binary), virtual 23 Mb, rss 14 Mb, CPU 5 secs (for all the spreadsheets).

Conclusion: All the tested spreadsheet programs were easy to use, and all of them could read the test spreadsheets from Microsoft Excel. But they all had annoying quirks. Gnumeric is probably the one the author will use in the future.

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