Part of the Data and data management glossary:

A spreadsheet is a sheet of paper that shows accounting or other data in rows and columns; a spreadsheet is also a computer application program that simulates a physical spreadsheet by capturing, displaying, and manipulating data arranged in rows and columns. The spreadsheet is one of the most popular uses of the personal computer.

In a spreadsheet, spaces that hold items of data are called cells. Each cell is labeled according to its placement (for example, A1, A2, A3...) and may have an absolute or relative reference to the cells around it. A spreadsheet is generally designed to hold numerical data and short text strings. Spreadsheets usually provide the ability to portray data relationships graphically. Spreadsheets generally do not offer the ability to structure and label data items as fully as a database and usually do not offer the ability to query the database. In general, a spreadsheet is a much simpler program than a database program.

Daniel Bricklin and Bob Frankston created the first spreadsheet application, VisiCalc (for "visible calculator"). Lotus 1-2-3 came next, followed by Microsoft Excel. While Lotus 1-2-3 was the first to introduce cell names and macros, Microsoft Excel implemented a graphical user interface and the ability to point and click using a mouse. There are many other spreadsheet applications on the market today; however, Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel continue to be the most popular.

This was last updated in January 2006
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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