It all adds up

日期:2018-01-21 03:20:33 作者:牛浣 阅读:

By Mark Ward PEOPLE often make mistakes when setting up complex spreadsheet programs for handling accounts, and their errors can cost companies millions. Now a researcher at the University of Oxford has developed a programming language that could prevent the most common errors. Most mistakes in spreadsheet programs arise when the programmer links the wrong columns or someone enters the wrong figures. Research by Ray Panko of the University of Hawaii has found that over 30 per cent of spreadsheets contain errors, many of which arise because the programs are now so easy to use (This Week, 16 August 1997, p 13). Spreadsheets generally allow any combination of columns to be linked without checking what is being represented by those columns. Now Jocelyn Paine of Oxford’s experimental psychology department has created Model Master—a software interface for spreadsheets that he claims makes these mistakes less likely. Unlike the scripting languages used by popular spreadsheets, Model Master resembles a programming language. It forces people who use it to be much more rigorous about the variables they employ, and how they are combined. Instead of numbered cells, which are easy to confuse, Model Master uses named variables. This reduces the chance that the programmer will make a link to the wrong cell or column. “Because you have to give variables names, it guards against major slips,” says Paine. He adds that Model Master can check for “dimensional” errors—ensuring that money is not being multiplied by money, for example. It is also much simpler to reuse old formulas on new spreadsheets because they are written in discrete chunks, called objects, that can easily be exported. Panko says he is aware of Paine’s work. “It’s just one of several new tools in the works for developing spreadsheets and auditing them,