EQUS – Enhancing the Quality and Usability of Spreadsheets

EQUS is a useful spreadsheet add-in for Microsoft Excel, it helps to ensure correct use of formulae by visualising them and highlighting potential issues and errors. Did you know that nearly 90% of spreadsheets contain errors? This is the figure discovered in research conducted by Salesforce, and spreadsheet errors are costing businesses and other organisations billions of dollars due to miscalculations and misinterpretations of data.

EQUS stands for Ensuring the Quality and Usability of Spreadsheets. This handy, low cost spreadsheet add-in has been developed by VeryViz Ltd – a joint commercial venture between Sheffield Hallam University and Learning Light Ltd in South Yorkshire, UK.

What Does EQUS Do?

EQUS from VeryViz Limited is an “Add In” for Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that enhances the accessibility and understanding of “formulae creation” and the numeric systems in spreadsheets. This supports an improved user understanding (and greater formula integrity) of calculations made in spreadsheets. We call it a “Formula Visualizer” as EQUS dynamically illustrates what is happening with a spreadsheet formula. For example, the formula =PI()*(H2/2)^2 is illustrated by “exploding it” into its constituent parts, referencing the cells, the mathematical operators and thereby showing the mathematical precedence in the formula, the intermediate results used in the calculation and the final answer. Any error in the formula construct preventing it being resolved is highlighted. EQUS has been robustly tested and works with most numeric and mathematical functions in Excel.

What EQUS Does NOT Do:

EQUS does not influence or act upon in anyway the data in your Excel worksheets. EQUS only visualizes what data you have entered into the specific spreadsheet cells and the numeric functions you have chosen to use – it does not make suggestions for improvements or alternatives. EQUS does not attempt to visualize anything when ranges of cells are selected and when working with non-numeric Excel functions.

What are the Benefits of EQUS for Working with Excel Spreadsheets?

EQUS will highlight errors in your formulae. If an equation generates an error, EQUS will show the sub-computation that is the cause of the overall error. EQUS works with most of the standard Excel functions. EQUS will work simultaneously with multiple Excel workbooks and worksheets open, and there is no specified limit on the size of equations that EQUS can visualize. • EQUS will work with referenced cells • EQUS will work with Auto-Sum • EQUS will work with If Statements • EQUS will work with multiple sheets • EQUS works with cell references between different worksheets • EQUS will work offline, but will occasionally check for updates when connected to the Internet.

Some Background / History of the Product

The EQUS toolkit has been developed over a number of phases. Initially feedback from paper-based examples was gathered from tutors and students, and an early prototype was developed operating with Google Sheets. This was refined to operate with Excel and evaluated with over 100 students as well as school and FE tutors. The final phase was to integrate EQUS with Excel as a plugin and ensure that it operates robustly and reliably.

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