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Birgit Hofer & Franz Wotawa


Locating faults in spreadsheets can be difficult. Therefore, tools supporting the localization of faults are needed. Model-based software debugging (MBSD) is a promising fault localization technique.

This paper presents a novel dependency-based model that can be used in MBSD. This model allows improvements of the diagnostic accuracy while keeping the computation times short.

In an empirical evaluation, we show that dependency-based models of spreadsheets whose value-based models cannot be solved in an acceptable amount of time can be solved in less than one second. Furthermore, the amount of diagnoses obtained through dependency-based models is reduced by 15% on average when using the novel model instead of the original dependency-based model.

The short computation time and the improved diagnostic accuracy enable the usage of model-based debugging for spreadsheets in practice.


Dependency graph example
Dependency graph example

One might think that capturing the dependencies of cells is easy, but the tracking of dependencies can be demanding even for small spreadsheets.

This figure demonstrates the dependency graph for the running example. The input cells are shaded in dark gray, the output cells are shaded in light gray.

Even for this small example, there is some time and attention required to track and understand all dependencies.


2014, International workshop on principles of diagnosis, September

Full article

Improving dependency-based models for fault localization in spreadsheets