Types of Spreadsheet Programs

By Regina Edwards

Spreadsheet programs consist of worksheets with rows and columns (table) for data entry. Spreadsheet programs can perform complicated calculations and generate charts and graphs from the data. Spreadsheet programs can also be used as simple databases for lists, which can be automatically merged into document templates. Productivity suites containing word processing and slide applications often include a spreadsheet program in the package. Freeware and commercial suites are available. The principles of worksheets to collect data are often the programmed functions within financial applications.


Spreadsheets are electronic worksheets that enable users to type data into tabular format. The table consists of cells that can contain calculated data. Spreadsheet programs can generate data from other sources such as other worksheets (relational) or user-entered values such as names or numbers. Spreadsheet programs can contain multiple pages or workbooks to compile information. Before the advent of spreadsheet programs, data was recorded on ledgers using a similar tabular format, with calculations performed by the user.


The function of spreadsheet programs is to provide a table to calculate formulas and organize information. Spreadsheet programs are essentially large tables that enable users to input information to evaluate data. The data can be numbers that can also be calculated in rows or columns, or information that can be linked to other programs for merging. Many spreadsheet programs also have the function of creating charts and graphs for a visual depiction of the data.


Free spreadsheet programs are available. Popular applications include Calc (from OpenOffice) and Gnumeric (from the GNOME Project). These spreadsheet applications include formulas for calculating data, sorting functions and wizards to create charts. Many applications can pick up spreadsheets created in other formats for sharing worksheets.


Productivity or office suites contain several types of applications such as for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. Popular suites include Microsoft Office and MS Works, LotusWorks, iWork, AppleWorks, WordPerfect and StarOffice/OpenOffice. The spreadsheet programs, respectively included are Excel, Spreadsheet, Lotus 123, Numbers, AppleWorks Spreadsheet, Quattro Pro and Calc. While the spreadsheet applications can be purchased separately, these programs are usually bundled within the office suite package, and many include an integrated interface to guide users in preparing visuals and text for projects. Spreadsheets can be incorporated into word processing and presentation documents as tables or charts.

Relational Databases

Spreadsheet programs are often used as relational databases or integrated into programs for its database functions. Spreadsheets can be used as data tables for automatically merging into documents (such as mailing lists, letters or labels). Other programs such as accounting and financial software (e.g., Quicken and TurboTax) incorporate spreadsheet organization and calculations behind a user-friendly interface to facilitate specific data for reports such as financial ledgers and tax returns.