Tue 6 Nov 2018 13:30 - 14:00 at Beacon Hill - III Chair(s): Sean McDirmid

Nearly every organization is responsible for processes that involve collection and manipulation of structured data subject to certain rules. A significant portion of the work of these processes cries out for automation by what we call an organizational application, but such applications still seem unreasonably difficult for non-expert programmers to build, even after years of work on “low-code” application building tools. With the Espalier tool, we seek to overcome both the ease-of-use and expressiveness deficits of previous tools by making a more serious effort than before to integrate structured data manipulation into the popular and successful spreadsheet paradigm. At Espalier’s core is a spreadsheet interface that allows lists of items (which may be nested) to be displayed either vertically or horizontally by repeating a template of cells for each item, so the layout automatically adjusts as items are added and removed. By defining formulas in item templates and allowing them to traverse the structure of the sheet, we achieve SQL-like expressive power. To the base spreadsheet system, we add ephemeral “view sheets” generated on demand from templates based on supplied parameters, a customizable view-update mechanism, and styling support, and we find that view sheets are flexible enough to serve as custom user interfaces. Espalier proves the concept of end-user development of organizational applications based on a true integration of structured data into the spreadsheet paradigm, and we hope that future work will ultimately validate the usability and utility of the approach.

Tue 6 Nov

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