sc: the vi of spreadsheets

by debianjoe



Today, I had a really simple problem that may have formed into a love affair with a very straight-forward program.  One of my hobbies is weightlifting, and I am starting tomorrow on a system to bring up some of my “lagging” lifts.  The plan requires me to work with percentages of my personal best lifts, and so I needed a simple way to keep up with the percentages and edit them all as one number changes.  This seemed like a good job for a spreadsheet.

While I’d normally just use emacs ses-mode, I thought I’d give sc a shot.  I already work with ncurses development libs, so I only had to spare about 300k worth of HDD space to play with it.  In my normal fashion, I simply made a file and started trying to edit it without reading anything at all.  After failing to enter a single line of text about 5 times in a row, I decided to actually read the man pages.

The keybinds are very vi-influenced, so after reading a few of the commands, I once again started to play with it and kept trying vi sequences to edit fields.  This worked almost 90% of the time, so it wasn’t long before I had exactly what I was looking for.  This project was never intended to be complicated, so I didn’t need to look into what all sc was capable of to fill my needs.  It would appear to be significantly more powerful that I needed.

While I’m very comfortable with elisp equations, I can see how the syntax might be daunting to someone who had not adjusted to them.  For that very reason, I think that I’d recommend sc over ses-mode for simple spreadsheet work.  I have no intention of sharing my sheet with coworkers, or doing highly secretive banking with it, and so for this particular purpose I can say that I was very satisfied with what I ended up with as a final product.

I’m sure that for people who actually use spreadsheets for work, my opinion on the matter is probably not that useful.  I’d need a “spreadsheet specialist” to tell me any more about things that are missing, or buggy, or whatever.  That being said, for the majority of what I’d actually use a spreadsheet for, sc does an amazing job.  If you’re familiar with vi, the learning curve isn’t too aggressive.  On top of that, it’s a very simple program that is very easy on system resources.

I’m really glad that I gave this one a fair shot.