Principles of Data Design in Spreadsheets

Alexander Prutzkow


Spreadsheets remain a relevant data processing tool for end users, despite the proliferation of databases and information systems. There are principles for writing easily-modifiable programs. However, there are no such principles for spreadsheets. We have formulated three principles for data design in spreadsheets. The data elementarity principle states that any component of a spreadsheet (cell, row or column, table, sheet) must contain indivisible (for this component and problem) data. This principle determines the arrangement of data in cells, tables, sheets, and spreadsheets. The data consistency principle states that data must not have contradictory values. This principle defines the relationship of data among themselves, the relationship of source and derived data. The principle, together with the previous principle, is related to the organization of data. The data certainty principle states that any component of a spreadsheet must have purpose. This principle determines the presentation of data in a workbook. The data must have names and a single designation. Each principle has rules that govern the details of data design in spreadsheets. Compliance with these principles and rules will make the spreadsheets readable and easily-modifiable. The formulated principles are used by us in spreadsheets for organizing the educational process and maintaining electronic journals, as well as in teaching how to work in spreadsheets.

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