Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
A spreadsheet is a computer worksheet comprised of multiple cells, forming an interlocking grid of horizontal rows and vertical columns, similar to a paper ledger. Computer spreadsheets, however, allow the manipulation of data. Information, either text or numbers, can be entered into a computer spreadsheet to show a number of relationships. Spreadsheet data can be organized and re-organized in multiple ways, allowing users to easily compare a number of different factors. Spreadsheets can be used to enter mathematical formulas, perform calculations, and sort data in various ways. Spreadsheet data can be keyword searched, printed, and shared electronically. Spreadsheet programs are often included in various home and business software packages and may come pre-installed on computers when purchased. Popular spreadsheet programs include Microsoft Excel and Macintosh Numbers.
In genealogy, spreadsheets are useful for organizing family information, in particular timelines. Spreadsheets could also be used as a research log, to record research activities, results, and sources. The uses are many. One benefit of a computer spreadsheet is that it has endless columns and rows, although one must keep in mind the limitation of printing wide, expanded spreadsheets. Data that extends beyond the printers paper size will be carried over to multiple pages, in some cases making it difficult to patch together and read, thus defeating the purpose of the spreadsheet.