Write a Blog >>
ICPC 2021
Tue 18 - Thu 20 May 2021
co-located with ICSE 2021

The use of spreadsheets in industry is widespread. It is known that spreadsheets have an average life span of five years, and during this life span, they are used on average by thirteen different persons. Consequently, spreadsheets need maintenance, and knowledge about the spreadsheet needs to be transferred from one user to another. To minimize the risk of introducing new errors, a thorough understanding of the spreadsheet’s formulas is needed during maintenance and knowledge transfer tasks.

Research on the use of block-based languages has shown that they positively affect the comprehension of program code. We hypothesize that using a block-based representation of a spreadsheet formula will positively affect formula comprehension.

Hence, we extended XLBlocks, a block-based formula editor for spreadsheets, with the functionality to generate a block-based representation of an existing formula. We conduct a think-aloud study with twenty-one experienced spreadsheet users from industry and ask them to perform a set of spreadsheet comprehension tasks using XLBlocks. During an interview, we ask them, using the Cognitive Dimensions of Notations framework, to reflect on the use of XLBlocks.

We found that participants preferred to use the block-based representation of formulas when analyzing or explaining formulas or to implement non-trivial changes. Named function parameters and the absence of parentheses and commas make functions easier to understand. Furthermore, the visualization enables the user to separate smaller parts in the formula, which improves comprehension. Finally, the possibility to navigate from formula to formula makes it clear how formulas work together and improve the understanding of the spreadsheet as a whole.

Conference Day
Tue 18 May

Displayed time zone: Amsterdam, Berlin, Bern, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna change

10:10 - 10:50
Empirical Studies in Program ComprehensionResearch / Education at ICPC Main Room
Chair(s): Chaiyong RagkhitwetsagulMahidol University, Thailand
10:10
10m
Paper
Considerations and Pitfalls in Controlled Experiments on Code ComprehensionICPC 2021 Honorable Mention
Research
Dror FeitelsonHebrew University
Pre-print
10:20
10m
Paper
Let's Ask Students About Their Programs, Automatically
Education
Teemu LehtinenAalto University, André L. SantosUniversity Institute of Lisbon, Portugal, Juha SorvaAalto University
Pre-print
10:30
10m
Paper
The effect of block-based formulas on formula comprehension in spreadsheets
Research
Bas JansenDelft University of Technology, Felienne HermansLeiden University
Pre-print
10:40
10m
Paper
Is Algorithm Comprehension Different from Program Comprehension?
Education
Philipp Kather, Jan VahrenholdDepartment of Computer Science, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Pre-print

Information for Participants
Tue 18 May 2021 10:10 - 10:50 at ICPC Main Room - Empirical Studies in Program Comprehension Chair(s): Chaiyong Ragkhitwetsagul
Info for room ICPC Main Room:

Go directly to this room on Clowdr