Detecting and Visualizing Inter-worksheet Smells in Spreadsheets

We had this paper accepted at ICSE in Zurich!

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 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)