[Novalug] OT: sorting spreadsheet columns
maxpublic08 at maxwellspangler.com
Wed Jul 2 02:29:22 EDT 2008
On Tue, 2008-07-01 at 21:49 -0700, Jim Ide wrote:
> Spreadsheets are sometimes used as quick and dirty databases,
> Suppose you have a spreadsheet with the columns Last Name,
> First Name, Address, etc., and you want to sort the rows
> by Last Name. If you click the Last Name column and select
> Sort from the menu, only the Last Name column will be sorted,
> and the other columns will remain unsorted. This often
> surprises/confuses new spreadsheet users.
Databases are logical organizations of data and spreadsheets are visual
organizations of data.
Think about that. In order to make a useful database application, you've
got to think about what the data means and how it will be used. You
setup records with individual fields, indexes to sort the data and
multiple tables with relationships to link them together. Then you get
to gather data by filtering and sorting and then apply formulas and
present the data some how.
With a spreadsheet, you start with a bunch of empty cells and start
putting stuff in *wherever* *you* *like*. Then you spend a lot of time
re-formatting, re-sizing and re-positioning so that the spreadsheet is
visually appealing to you. Then you add some formulas, print and go.
So if this makes sense, then it makes sense that operations in a
spreadsheet are going to be very flexible and operate in visual manners.
If you select a column and say sort, it's going to work only in a visual
manner: sort what you visually selected. It doesn't do anything more
unless you specifically tell it that I want <these rows> to be sorted by
what is in column a, then b, then c.
As a database person you're trained to follow rules of logical thinking.
Those rules give you the ability to perform sorcery-like operations over
massive amounts of data with very little code. It works, as long as you
know and follow the rules. In a spreadsheet environment, there really
aren't any rules and you can make something as elegant and effective at
communicating the data as you like or as messy and useless as you like
does this help?
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