Authors: Schmitz, Thomas
Title: Automated model-based spreadsheet debugging
Language (ISO): en
Abstract: Spreadsheets are interactive data organization and calculation programs that are developed in spreadsheet environments like Microsoft Excel or LibreOffice Calc. They are probably the most successful example of end-user developed software and are utilized in almost all branches and at all levels of companies. Although spreadsheets often support important decision making processes, they are, like all software, prone to error. In several cases, faults in spreadsheets have caused severe losses of money. Spreadsheet developers are usually not educated in the practices of software development. As they are thus not familiar with quality control methods like systematic testing or debugging, they have to be supported by the spreadsheet environment itself to search for faults in their calculations in order to ensure the correctness and a better overall quality of the developed spreadsheets. This thesis by publication introduces several approaches to locate faults in spreadsheets. The presented approaches are based on the principles of Model-Based Diagnosis (MBD), which is a technique to find the possible reasons why a system does not behave as expected. Several new algorithmic enhancements of the general MBD approach are combined in this thesis to allow spreadsheet users to debug their spreadsheets and to efficiently find the reason of the observed unexpected output values. In order to assure a seamless integration into the environment that is well-known to the spreadsheet developers, the presented approaches are implemented as an extension for Microsoft Excel. The first part of the thesis outlines the different algorithmic approaches that are introduced in this thesis and summarizes the improvements that were achieved over the general MBD approach. In the second part, the appendix, a selection of the author's publications are presented. These publications comprise (a) a survey of the research in the area of spreadsheet quality assurance, (b) a work describing how to adapt the general MBD approach to spreadsheets, (c) two new algorithmic improvements of the general technique to speed up the calculation of the possible reasons of an observed fault, (d) a new concept and algorithm to efficiently determine questions that a user can be asked during debugging in order to reduce the number of possible reasons for the observed unexpected output values, and (e) a new method to find faults in a set of spreadsheets and a new corpus of real-world spreadsheets containing faults that can be used to evaluate the proposed debugging approaches.
Subject Headings: Spreadsheets
Model-based diagnosis
Sequential diagnosis
Corpus of errors
Subject Headings (RSWK): Tabellenkalkulation
Modellbasiertes Schließen
Konflikt <Informatik>
Constraint-basiertes Schließen
Issue Date: 2017
Appears in Collections:Dienstleistungsinformatik

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