[Haskell-cafe] Speculation, OT: Program a Spreadsheet

Joachim Durchholz jo at durchholz.org
Sun Nov 19 19:31:03 UTC 2017

> There is the language or languages used by the developers of the 
> spreadsheet product. There is the language of the spreadsheet itself.

Not sure what you mean with "language of the spreadsheet iself".
The formula language?

> There are the programming languages used by the developers of the 
> spreadsheet (say accounting power users), like VBA.

> Note that a spreadsheet product can have programming languages, it can 
> be a programming language,

A spreadsheet is not a programming language, so you must be meaning 
something different, but I have no idea what.

> On Sun, Nov 19, 2017 at 5:07 AM Joachim Durchholz <jo at durchholz.org 
> <mailto:jo at durchholz.org>> wrote:
>     Am 19.11.2017 um 08:05 schrieb trent shipley:
>      > * Is a spreadsheet you can program from the spreadsheet a
>     reasonable goal?
>     I.e. use the same programming language for cells formulae and scripts?
>     Yes, that's very much reasonable.
> That is possible.
> However, I am interested in programming scripts in spreadsheet, not say, 
> programming formula in Haskell.

I have no idea what your plan is, then.

>      > * Would using a functional language as a basic language of the
>     project
>      > save effort and intellectual load?
>     That depends on whether you're talking about the implementation language
>     or the cell/macro language.
> I was talking about implementation language.

If you plan to create a new spreadsheet program, that's a huge project.
Even if you stick to cells and formulae and skip everything on the 
presentation side.

>     For the implementation language, you'll save the most time by using
>     whatever you already know. Unless the project is going to last longer
>     than, say, two years. And if you plan on getting other people to join
>     the project, you'll want the language with the largest pool of
>     interested and able people, which is essentially guesswork but I'd
>     avoid, say, the VBA or PHP crowd ;-)
> Would there be any advantage over preferring a functional over an 
> imperative language given that Scriptsheets (as a full blown product) 
> would itself be a functional language.

The choice of the programming language for building a new product is 
pretty independent of the product itself. This is because the logic that 
you see (cell calculations) is just a very small part of the overall code.
For a new spreadsheet program, look for a language that has a good GUI 
library, for example, that's going to be a much larger timesaver than 
language semantics that matches the application domain.

> I know Hadoop in in Java, except where speed is of essence, then Hadoop 
> uses C++ or sometimes C. I figure the same would be true for this project.

Only once the project has seen several person-decades of work.

>       > then sweet talk
>      > real developers to help out.
>     That's a good plan :-)
> Do you know any gullible developers with the chops?

Actually I'd be interested in something like this if I didn't have my 
own project ;-P

> Which do you see as more promising a real GUI spreadsheet for Case B or 
> one for Case C? Or would it make sense to be ambitious and try to do 
> both in the same project using a common spreadsheet core backend and 
> largely shared front end?

I haven't really understood what you're trying to do, so I can'd advise.


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