On the Numerical Accuracy of Spreadsheets

Marcelo G. Almiron, Bruno Lopes, Alyson L. C. Oliveira, Antonio C. Medeiros, Alejandro C. Frery

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This paper discusses the numerical precision of five spreadsheets (Calc, Excel, Gnumeric, NeoOffice and Oleo) running on two hardware platforms (i386 and amd64) and on three operating systems (Windows Vista, Ubuntu Intrepid and Mac OS Leopard). The methodology consists of checking the number of correct significant digits returned by each spreadsheet when computing the sample mean, standard deviation, first-order autocorrelation, F statistic in ANOVA tests, linear and nonlinear regression and distribution functions. A discussion about the algorithms for pseudorandom number generation provided by these platforms is also conducted. We conclude that there is no safe choice among the spreadsheets here assessed: they all fail in nonlinear regression and they are not suited for Monte Carlo experiments.

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