Doctoral Thesis Defense - Jorge Cunha Mendes

Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 9:30pm

Title: Design, Implementation and Evaluation of Model-Driven Spreadsheets

Abstract: Spreadsheets are omnipresent tools to solve problems of all sorts. Their usage is simple and flexible, which attracts many of their users. The tabular format comes naturally to present data in many situations. This format simplifies the exchange of data between systems, but also provides simple visualizations of this data using some of the many features spreadsheet software provide nowadays. Moreover, users have advanced features available that make spreadsheets a powerful programming environment with a low-entry barrier. However, spreadsheet users usually are not professional developers and thus lack knowledge and development methodologies to allow them to create error-free spreadsheets with minimal effort. This is even more significant with the freedom spreadsheets provide, where error-prevention and detection features are optional and lack emphasis. A solution to improve spreadsheet development, both preventing errors and improving development performance, is defended in this work. This solution consists in using common software development methodologies and techniques to spreadsheet development, namely usingModel-Driven Engineering, a methodology to specify a solution through abstraction. This work brings a new modelling language to specify spreadsheets at a high level, abstracting the concrete data. It introduces an additional artefact in spreadsheet development that is connected to the actual spreadsheet through a conformance relation. With these two artefacts, spreadsheet development is divided into the definition of the layout and logic, and the input of concrete data. The former part defines constraints on the second, preventing errors by design. Moreover, taking advantage of model-driven techniques, the whole life cycle of the spreadsheet is kept safe. In addition to the theoretical definition of the modelling language, the conformance relation and other parts involved in the development of spreadsheets, an implementation of this work is provided as an extension to LibreOffice Calc. This implementation demonstrates the feasibility of the approach and allows to evaluate the work. In order to evaluate this work, empirical studies were performed. These have shown the benefits of this work are significant, reducing error rates and improving spreadsheet development by end users.

Advisors: João Alexandre Saraiva and Jácome Cunha

Jury: - Rector of the University of Minho

        - Doctor José Nuno Fonseca Oliveira, Full Professor - Departamento de Informática da Escola de Engenharia da Universidade do Minho

        - Doctor Gabriel de Sousa Torcato David, Associate Professor - Departamento de Informática da Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto

        - Doctor Vasco Miguel Moreira Amaral, Assistant Professor - Departamento de Informática da Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade Nova de Lisboa

        - Doctor Jácome Miguel Costa da Cunha, Assistant Professor - Departamento de Informática da Escola de Engenharia da Universidade do Minho

        - Doctor Gregor Engels, Full Professor - Department of Computer Science da Faculty for Computer Science, Eletrical Engineering and Mathematics da University of Paderborn, Germany

Location: Sala de Atos - Campus de Azurém - Universidade do Minho - Guimarães