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Title Copy-paste tracking: Fixing spreadsheets without breaking them
Authors Felienne Hermans & Tijs van der Storm
Year 2015
Type Proceedings
Publication International Conference on Live Coding
Series July

Spreadsheets are the most popular live programming environments, but they are also notoriously fault-prone. One reason for this is that users actively rely on copy-paste to make up for the lack of abstraction mechanisms. Adding abstraction however, introduces indirection and thus cognitive distance.

In this paper we propose an alternative: copy-paste tracking. Tracking copies that spreadsheet users make, allows them to directly edit copy-pasted formulas, but instead of changing only a single instance, the changes will be propagated to all formulas copied from the same source.

As a result, spreadsheet users will enjoy the benefits of abstraction without its drawbacks.

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Copy-paste tracking
Copy-paste tracking
We propose XanaSheet, a spreadsheet system that employs origin tracking techniques to maintain a live connection between source and destination of copy-paste actions. Whenever a copied formula is edited, the modifications are transformed and replayed on the original and all other copies.