Type-Safe Evolution of Spreadsheets

Type-Safe Evolution of Spreadsheets, Cunha, Jácome, Visser Joost, Alves Tiago, and Saraiva João , Number DI-CCTC-10-09, (2010)


Spreadsheets are notoriously error-prone. To help avoid the introduction of errors when changing spreadsheets, models that capture the structure and inter-dependencies of spreadsheets at a conceptual level have been proposed. Thus, spreadsheet evolution can be made safe within the confines of a model. As in any other model/instance setting, evolution may not only require changes at the instance level but also at the model level. When model changes are required, the safety of instance evolution can not be guarded by the model alone. Coupled transformation of models and instances are supported by the 2LT platform and have been applied for transformation of algebraic datatypes, XML schemas, and relational database models. We have extended 2LT to spreadsheet evolution. We have designed an appropriate representation of spreadsheet models, including the fundamental notions of formulæ, references, and blocks of cells. For these models and their instances, we have designed coupled transformation rules that cover specific spreadsheet evolution steps, such as extraction of a block of cells into a separate sheet or insertion of columns in all occurrences of a repeated block of cells. Each model-level transformation rule is coupled with instance level migration rules from the source to the target model and vice versa. These coupled rules can be composed to create compound transformations at the model level that induce compound transformations at the instance level. With this approach, spreadsheet evolution can be made safe, even when model changes are involved.



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