A Graphical Approach for Reducing Spreadsheet Linking Errors
Charles E. Morrison (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, USA), Joline Morrison (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, USA), John Melrose (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, USA) and E. Vance Wilson (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA)
Copyright: © 2003
Spreadsheet programs are deceptively simple tools that are widely used by end user developers in organizations. However, recent studies have shown that spreadsheets often contain significant, decision-affecting errors. One study that addressed “linking errors,” i.e., incorrect references to spreadsheet cell values on separate work areas, found these errors to be a major error source in complex spreadsheets that use distinct work areas spread across multiple worksheets. This paper describes a code inspection approach that visually represents the structure of a linked spreadsheet and graphically identifies linked cells and their sources. We tested this approach in an experimental study where subjects created a complex spreadsheet. Results indicate that subjects who used the approach made significantly fewer errors and experienced no decrease in speed of spreadsheet production or satisfaction with the production process.