Smelling faults in spreadsheets

Rui Abreu, Jácome Cunha, João Paulo Fernandes, Pedro Martins, Alexandre Perez, João Saraiva

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite being staggeringly error prone, spreadsheets are a highly flexible programming environment that is widely used in industry. In fact, spreadsheets are widely adopted for decision making, and decisions taken upon wrong (spreadsheet-based) assumptions may have serious economical impacts on businesses, among other consequences. This paper proposes a technique to automatically pinpoint potential faults in spreadsheets. It combines a catalog of spreadsheet smells that provide a first indication of a potential fault, with a generic spectrum-based fault localization strategy in order to improve (in terms of accuracy and false positive rate) on these initial results. Our technique has been implemented in a tool which helps users detecting faults. To validate the proposed technique, we consider a well-known and well-documented catalog of faulty spreadsheets. Our experiments yield two main results: we were able to distinguish between smells that can point to faulty cells from smells and those that are not capable of doing so, and we provide a technique capable of detecting a significant number of errors: two thirds of the cells labeled as faulty are in fact (documented) errors.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication30th International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution (ICSME 2014)
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Pages111-120
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780769553030
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2014
Event30th International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution, ICSME 2014 - Victoria, Canada
Duration: 28 Sep 20143 Oct 2014

Conference

Conference30th International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution, ICSME 2014
CountryCanada
CityVictoria
Period28/09/143/10/14

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  • Cite this

    Abreu, R., Cunha, J., Fernandes, J. P., Martins, P., Perez, A., & Saraiva, J. (2014). Smelling faults in spreadsheets. In 30th International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution (ICSME 2014) (pp. 111-120). [6976077] Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.. https://doi.org/10.1109/ICSME.2014.33