A table of values arranged in rows and columns. Each value can have a predefined relationship to the other values. If you change one value, therefore, you may need to change other values as well.
Spreadsheet applications (sometimes referred to simply as spreadsheets) are computer programs that let you create and manipulate spreadsheets electronically. In a spreadsheet application, each value sits in a cell. You can define what type of data is in each cell and how different cells depend on one another. The relationships between cells are called formulas, and the names of the cells are called labels.
Once you have defined the cells and the formulas for linking them together, you can enter your data. You can then modify selected values to see how all the other values change accordingly. This enables you to study various what-if scenarios.
A simple example of a useful spreadsheet application is one that calculates mortgage payments for a house. You would define five cells:
Once you had defined how these cells depend on one another, you could enter numbers and play with various possibilities. For example, keeping all the other values the same, you could see how different mortgage rates would affect your monthly payments.
There are a number of spreadsheet applications on the market, Lotus 1-2-3 and Excel being among the most famous. The more powerful spreadsheet applications support graphics features that enable you to produce charts and graphs from the data.
Most spreadsheet applications are multidimensional, meaning that you can link one spreadsheet to another. A three-dimensional spreadsheet, for example, is like a stack of spreadsheets all connected by formulas. A change made in one spreadsheet automatically affects other spreadsheets.