spreadsheet

A spreadsheet is an interactive computer application program for the organization, analysis, and storage of data in tabular form. Spreadsheets were developed as computerized simulations of paper accounting worksheets. The program operates on data represented as cells of an array, organized in rows and columns. Popular spreadsheet applications include Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, and Apple Numbers.

Each cell of the array is a model–view–controller element that may contain either numeric or text data, or the results of formulas that automatically calculate and display a value based on the contents of other cells. Spreadsheet users may adjust any stored value and observe the effects on calculated values. This makes the spreadsheet useful for “what-if” analysis since many cases can be rapidly investigated without manual recalculation.

Modern spreadsheet software can have multiple interacting sheets and can display data either as text and numerals or in graphical form. Besides performing basic arithmetic and mathematical functions, modern spreadsheets provide built-in functions for common financial and statistical operations.

Such calculations as net present value or standard deviation can be applied to tabular data with a pre-programmed function in a formula. Spreadsheet programs also provide conditional expressions, functions to convert between text and numbers, and functions that operate on strings of text.

Spreadsheets have replaced paper-based systems throughout the business world. Although they were first developed for accounting or bookkeeping tasks, they now are used extensively in any context where tabular lists are built, sorted, and shared.

LANPAR was the first electronic spreadsheet on mainframe and time-sharing computers. VisiCalc was the first electronic spreadsheet on a microcomputer, and it helped turn the Apple II computer into a popular and widely used system. Lotus 1-2-3 was the leading spreadsheet when DOS was the dominant operating system.

Microsoft Excel now has the largest market share on the Windows and Macintosh platforms. A spreadsheet program is a standard feature of an office productivity suite; since the advent of web apps, office suites now also exist in web app form.