Spreadsheet for End-User Programming Might be a Wrong Model

The vast majority of users have never even written a formula


  • Eve team did research, and most users use Excel only for layouting, not for calculation
  • thus saying that Excel is the most widely used programming language might be wrong, since most people never do any programming there (even basic calculation)
  • this leads me to believe that trying to make "better" spreadsheets might not be the way to go
  • related to End-User Programming

Over the next two weeks we visited dozens of Excel customers, and did not see anyone using Excel to actually perform what you would call “calculations.” Almost all of them were using Excel because it was a convenient way to create a table.


most people just used Excel to make lists. Suddenly we understood why Lotus Improv, which was this fancy futuristic spreadsheet that was going to make Excel obsolete, had failed completely: because it was great at calculations, but terrible at creating tables, and everyone was using Excel for tables, not calculations."


  • people use Excel mostly for the grid, not for the equations
  • this might be a different point, but it's interesting to look at popular software through the lens of how it allows users to present data:
    • PowerPoint is for sequences of full screen canvases
    • Excel is for grid
    • Word is for text on pages
  • more in Programming Tools and People's Needs
  • trying to map everything to a spreadsheet model might be Fixating on Solution Aesthetics
Szymon Kaliski © 2021