Structuring Spreadsheets with the “Lish” Data Model

Hall, Alan Geoffrey; Wermelinger, Michel; Hirst, Tony and Phithakkitnukoon, Santi (2017). Structuring Spreadsheets with the “Lish” Data Model. In: Proceedings of the EuSpRIG 2017 Conference "Spreadsheet Risk Management".



A spreadsheet is remarkably flexible in representing various forms of structured data, but the individual cells have no knowledge of the larger structures of which they may form a part. This can hamper comprehension and increase formula replication, increasing the risk of error on both scores. We explore a novel data model (called the “lish”) that could form an alternative to the traditional grid in a spreadsheet-like environment. Its aim is to capture some of these higher structures while preserving the simplicity that makes a spreadsheet so attractive. It is based on cells organised into nested lists, in each of which the user may optionally employ a template to prototype repeating structures. These template elements can be likened to the marginal “cells” in the borders of a traditional worksheet, but are proper members of the sheet and may themselves contain internal structure. A small demonstration application shows the “lish” in operation.

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