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FelienneHermans.Publicationsr1.11 - 21 May 2012 - 09:23 - FelienneHermans

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Measuring Spreadsheet Formula Understandability (Published at Eusprig Conference 2012)
Abstract Spreadsheets are widely used in industry, because they are flexible and easy to use. Often they are used for business-critical applications. It is however difficult for spreadsheet users to correctly assess the quality of spreadsheets, especially with respect to the understandability. Understandability of spreadsheets is important, since spreadsheets often have a long lifespan, during which they are used by several users. In this paper, we establish a set of spreadsheet understandability metrics. We start by studying related work and interviewing 40 spreadsheet professionals to obtain a set of characteristics that might contribute to understandability problems in spreadsheets. Based on those characteristics we subsequently determine a number of understandability metrics. To evaluate the usefulness of our metrics, we conducted a series of experiments in which professional spreadsheet users performed a number of short maintenance tasks on a set of spreadsheets from the EUSES spreadsheet corpus. The results of these tests clearly indicate that the number of ranges, the nesting depth and the presence of conditional operations in formulas significantly increase the difficulty of understanding a spreadsheet. (PDF, Zip file containing test spreadsheets)

Detecting Code Smells in Spreadsheet Formulas (Published at ICSM 2012)
Abstract Spreadsheets are used extensively in business processes around the world and just like software, spreadsheets are changed throughout their lifetime causing maintainability issues. This paper adapts known code smells to spreadsheet formulas. To that end we present a list of metrics by which we can detectsmelly formulas and a visualization technique to highlight these formulas in spreadsheets. We implemented the metrics and visualization technique in a prototype tool to evaluate our approach in two ways. Firstly, we analyze the Euses spreadsheet corpus, to study the occurrence of the formula smells. Secondly, we analyze ten real life spreadsheets, and interview the spreadsheet owners about the identified smells. The results of these evaluations indicate that formula smells are common and that they can reveal real errors and weaknesses in spreadsheet formulas. Read more on my blog.

Detecting and Visualizing Inter-worksheet Smells in Spreadsheets Accepted at ICSE 2012
Abstract Spreadsheets are often used in business, for simple tasks, as well as for mission critical tasks such as finance or forecasting. Similar to software, some spreadsheets are of better quality than others, for instance with respect to usability, maintainability or reliability. In contrast with software however, spreadsheets are rarely checked, tested or certified. In this paper, we aim at developing an approach for detecting \emph{smells} that indicate weak points in a spreadsheet's design. To that end we first study code smells and transform these code smells to their spreadsheet counterparts. We then present an approach to detect the smells, and to communicate located smells to spreadsheet users with data flow diagrams. To evaluate our apporach, we analyzed occurrences of these smells in the Euses corpus. Furthermore we conducted ten case studies in an industrial setting. The results of the evaluation indicate that smells can indeed reveal weaknesses in a spreadsheet's design, and that data flow diagrams are an appropriate way to show those weaknesses. (PDF)


Breviz: Spreadsheet Visualization and Quality Analysis Accepted as tool demo at VL/HCC 2011
Abstract Similar to software developers, professional spreadsheet users demand support for understanding spreadsheets, and analyzing their quality. This paper describes Breviz, a tool that visualizes spreadsheets as leveled dataflow diagrams, showing users all worksheet in a spreadsheet and the data that is flowing between them. Initially, we used these diagrams to support spreadsheet users in explaining and transferring spreadsheets to colleagues. In further studies of the tool however, we have seen that the visualization is also useful to help detect anomalies in the spreadsheet. (PDF)

Breviz: Visualizing Spreadsheets using Dataflow Diagrams Eusprig Conference 2011
Abstract Spreadsheets are used extensively in industry, often for business critical purposes. In previous work we have analyzed the information needs of spreadsheet professionals and addressed their need for support with the transition of a spreadsheet to a colleague with the generation of data flow diagrams. In this paper we describe the application of these data flow diagrams for the purpose of understanding a spreadsheet with three example cases. We furthermore suggest an additional application of the data flow diagrams: the assessment of the quality of the spreadsheet's design.
This paper was awarded the David Chadwick student prize

Supporting Professional Spreadsheet Users by Generating Leveled Dataflow Diagrams Published at ICSE 2011
Abstract Thanks to their flexibility and intuitive programming model, spreadsheets are widely used in industry, often for business-critical applications. Similar to software developers, professional spreadsheet users demand support for maintaining and transferring their spreadsheets. In this paper, we first study the problems and information needs of professional spreadsheet users by means of a survey conducted at a large financial company. Based on these needs, we then present an approach that extracts this information from spreadsheets and presents it in a compact and easy to understand way, using leveled dataflow diagrams. Our approach comes with three different views on the dataflow and allows the user to analyze the dataflow diagrams in a top-down fashion also using slicing techniques. To evaluate the usefulness of the proposed approach, we conducted a series of interviews as well as nine case studies in an industrial setting. The results of the evaluation clearly indicate the demand for and usefulness of our approach in ease the understanding of spreadsheets. (PDF)


Improving the Requirements Process by Visualizing End-User Documents as Tag Clouds Published - Flexitools @ICSE 2010
The process of requirements gathering has been a much-discussed subject in computer science for years. It seems difficult to incorporate end-users in this process. Although there have been numerous papers devoted to this subject, it remains unsolved. We propose to ease this process by describing tools and methods to extract information from end-user documents, bringing their knowledge into the requirements and design phase of software systems. We do so by analyzing two different types of end-user documents: spreadsheets and text documents. Furthermore we introduce a novel way of representing the extracted domain information, in structured tag cloud diagrams. We present results of the extraction processes and describe avenues for future research. (PDF)

Automatically Extracting Class Diagrams from spreadsheets Published - ECOOP 2010
Abstract The use of spreadsheets to capture information is widespread in industry. Spreadsheets can thus be a wealthy source of domain information. We propose to automatically extract this information and transform it into class diagrams. The resulting class diagram can be used by software engineers to understand, refine, or re-implement the spreadsheet's functionality. To enable the transformation into class diagrams we create a library of common spreadsheet usage patterns. We localize these patterns in the spreadsheet using a two- dimensional parsing algorithm. The resulting parse tree is transformed and enriched with information from the library. We evaluate our approach on the spreadsheets from the Euses Spreadsheet corpus by comparing a subset of the generated class diagrams with reference class diagrams created manually. (PDF)


Gathering Domain Knowledge from SpreadsheetsPublished - ESEC-FSE Doctorial Symposium
Abstract Many companies use an ad hoc notation to describe the domain they work in. We consider this notation, that often occurs in the form of spreadsheets, as an unexplored source of domain knowledge. With this research we will investigate how software engineering techniques, like reverse engineering and data mining, can be applied to spreadsheets. Our first goal is to develop means to formalize spreadsheets. Formalization can be used in different ways, such as the validation of existing spreadsheets, documentation, and also for the transformation of spreadsheets into applications. (PDF)

Domain-Specific Languages in Practice: A User Study on the Success Factors Published - Models 2009
Abstract In this paper we present an empirical study on the use of a domain-specific language(DSL) in industry. This DSL encapsulates the details of services that communicate using Windows Communication Foundation (WCF). From definitions of the data contracts between clients and servers, WCF/C\# code for service plumbing is generated. We conducted a survey amongst developers that use this DSL while developing applications for customers. The DSL has been used in about 30 projects all around the world. We describe the known success factors of the use of DSLs, such as improved maintainability and ease of re-use, and assert how well this DSL scores on all of them. The analysis of the results of this case study also shows which conditions should be fulfilled in order to increase the chances of success in using a DSL in a real life case. (PDF)

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