Spreadsheets are ubiquitous in modern business. Unfortunately, spreadsheet errors are equally ubiquitous. Financial, scientific, and engineering businesses use spreadsheets to summarize, analyze, and model data in corporate databases. Errors creep into their spreadsheets in many ways and can go undetected for a long time, not because of negligence or inexperience, but because spreadsheets are tedious and difficult to audit.
Formulas in spreadsheets are prime sources of errors.
Parenthesis errors occur when these slim characters are missing or misplaced. Nested parentheses make it hard to understand a formula by simple visual examination. Although Excel often suggests how to fix parenthesis errors, it can be hard to see if its suggestions are appropriate.
Evaluation errors cause formulas to produce the wrong result. For example, Excel evaluates -X1^2 by computing -X1 first and then squaring the result, contrary to ordinary mathematical and programming language conventions, which square X1 first.
Logic errors occur when a function, such as IF or CHOOSE, chooses the wrong branch for conditional evaluation. The likelihood of such errors increases when these functions are nested.
Latent errors can surface when an insufficiently tested formula is applied to new data.
Formula Forge helps users detect such errors by showing multiple views to clarify what a formula means.
Its text view shows the formula's text, as it appears in Excel's formula bar.
Its math view typesets the formula, making it much easier to read.
Its tree view—a hierarchical diagram like an organization chart—shows how Excel decomposes the formula into its constituent elements, along with values for all its elements.
Users can highlight an element they wish to examine in any view. Formula Forge automatically highlights that element in the other views, enabling users to see where they are. Users can also collapse elements to suppress detail and focus their attention elsewhere.
A future release of Formula Forge will provide a drag-and-drop editor. With it, users can construct, debug and modify formulas easily and accurately using simple building blocks. without ever again having to worry about parentheses.
Formula Forge truly helps knowledgeable people gain control over their formulas, improving productivity by streamlining spreadsheet development and debugging.