Automatically Inferring ClassSheet Models from Spreadsheets

Automatically Inferring ClassSheet Models from Spreadsheets, Cunha, Jácome, Erwig Martin, and Saraiva João , Proceedings of the 2010 IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing, Washington, DC, USA, p.93–100, (2010)


Many errors in spreadsheet formulas can be avoided if spreadsheets are built automatically from higher-level models that can encode and enforce consistency constraints. However, designing such models is time consuming and requires expertise beyond the knowledge to work with spreadsheets. Legacy spreadsheets pose a particular challenge to the approach of controlling spreadsheet evolution through higher-level models, because the need for a model might be overshadowed by two problems: (A) The benefit of creating a spreadsheet is lacking since the legacy spreadsheet already exists, and (B) existing data must be transferred into the new model-generated spreadsheet. To address these problems and to support the model-driven spreadsheet engineering approach, we have developed a tool that can automatically infer ClassSheet models from spreadsheets. To this end, we have adapted a method to infer entity/relationship models from relational database to the spreadsheets/ClassSheets realm. We have implemented our techniques in the HAEXCEL framework and integrated it with the ViTSL/Gencel spreadsheet generator, which allows the automatic generation of refactored spreadsheets from the inferred ClassSheet model. The resulting spreadsheet guides further changes and provably safeguards the spreadsheet against a large class of formula errors. The developed tool is a significant contribution to spreadsheet (reverse) engineering, because it fills an important gap and allows a promising design method (ClassSheets) to be applied to a huge collection of legacy spreadsheets with minimal effort.



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