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Lotus Improv Reviews

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This should go down as one of humanity's greatest achievements. When one has had a taste of the sweet nectar of multi-dimensional modelling, traditional spreadsheets will seem a bitter poison of a primeval era.

The math that drives spreadsheets doesn't fundamentally change, even after decades - and thus one can still derive utility from such a finely-aged program.

This god-tier application moved Steve Jobs to deliver flowers to the developers when they initially released it for NeXTSTEP. The problem was that Lotus, in their folly, continued to promote 1-2-3 while putting negligible resources behind Improv until it was too late and the world was cursed with the perpetuation of Excel and Co.'s lesser model.

Why such effusive praise? Some would argue that using something so classic should migrate to lesser, yet modern, spreadsheet applications. Such suggestions are mired in folly and, certainly, unfamiliarity with Improv's glory! Namely:

  • The ability to have meaningful formulas in natural language is a god-send. Gone are the primitive days of obscure cell references that are difficult to evaluate years down the road - and the errors incumbent to such irrelevant and syntactically empty jibberish.

  • The fact that formulas are separate from cells is how spreadsheets should work. Visible at all times, and easy to assess the order in which expressions are evaluated. This makes perfect sense and further reduces errors.

  • The fact that equations apply to ranges of cells means no more having to duplicate functionally similar formulae. It is still possible, however, to have formulas that apply to smaller ranges - or individual cells - and those will override the earlier category-style equations.

  • Next, being that Improv is multidimensional - it's incredibly easy (and innate to the structure of Improv models) to add additional dimensions. For example, perhaps one has built a sheet and they want to add a temporal dimension. We have categories for region and maybe items sold and it becomes very easy to add a months dimension, or whatever the expanding needs of the model requires. This multidimensional property means that the advantages of "pivot tables" are intuitive and easily utilized. No more wizards or extraneous steps to rearrange the view - one does it directly using tiles representing various dimensions / axes.