Summary: How to automate UNIX -> Mac/PC spreadsheet analysis?

From: Youhei Morita (
Date: Thu Nov 19 1992 - 20:28:30 CST

I put a question several days back on how to share data between UNIX
user program and a commercial spreadsheet. Here is the summary of
what I got so far. Thank you for those who responded to my question.

In article <>, I wrote:
>We take real-time data using some UNIX workstaions and/or VAX/VMS.
>Most of the data will be stored and analyzed afterwards, but we
>would like to review some part of data repeatedly using ready-made
>spreadsheet application(s) like Microsoft Excel.
>We know how to port data from UNIX/VAX to Mac/IBM-PC -- by
>means of "copy/paste" or sevefal types of file transfer/sharing
>mechanism. But we would like to automate the procedure of porting the
>data from UNIX to Mac/PC, creating cell macros, and generating a plot.
>It would even be nicer if one could make use of publish & subscribe
>feature of the Mac System 7.
>Now the question is, does anyone know how to achieve such an automated
>real-time spreadsheet analysis? Requirements/constraints are as
> 1. Spreadsheet has to be a commercial-quality. (Excel 4.0 or
> equivalents.)
> 2. Price of the spreadsheet license has to be an order of the
> Excel on a Mac or a PC, or less.
> 3. Data is on UNIX (SUN/DECstation) or on VAX/VMS.
> 4. Data is updated every 10 seconds or so.
> 5. Size of the data to be analyzed on the spreadsheet will be
> several tens or hundreds of KByte.
> 6. A few series of plots have to be generated every 1 minutes
> based on the data using cell macros, hopefully by a single
> key-stroke or a mouse-click.
> 7. Spreadsheet analysis (worksheet) must be changed easily and
> interactively. (ie, should not be hardwired into the
> application).

And I devided possible solutions into four categories:

          Spreadsheet User data Location
       1 on Mac/PC Excel(native) format on Unix file system?
       2 on Mac/PC SYLK format on Unix file system?
       3 PC-emulator Excel(native) format on emulator file system?
       4 on Unix Excel(native) format on Unix

Jess Holle recommends to check WingZ from Informix:
 "I would contact Informix, the maker of WingZ. Among other things,
 "they have a Real-Time data link package, though I'm not sure if it
 "is needed for what you are doing.
 "WingZ does do SYLK output.
 "WingZ is reasonably Excel-like and runs on over a dozen platforms (or
 "is it just a dozen). SOME of those platforms are: OS/2, MS-Windows,
 "Macintosh, Sun (Open Windows and Motif), Apollo, SGI, NeXT,.... that's
 "all I can remember at the moment.

Everette Allen also recommends to check WingZ.

Robert Sum recommends to check various Unix spreadsheets:
 " I do not have complete information, but I think that you should investigate
 "some of the Unix spreadsheets--especially if your data is already on Unix. I
 "know that Lotus, Xess, Aster*x, and (I think) Wingz all run on Unix. Lotus,
 "Aster*x, and Wingz all have well developed macro languages. Aster*x includes
 "support for Unix socket communication. Xess does everything using RPC. I
 "that Xess and Aster*x are relatively cheap. (In the case of Aster*x, their
 "complete product line that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, graphics
 "package, electronic mail front end, file filters, etc. is only about
 "$2K. I'm sure that the spreadsheet alone is probably well under that.)
 " There are also public domain spreadsheets available for UNIX. Sc and
 "Oleo are
 "both available through the GNU folks at I do not know much
 "about their features, but with the source you can do anything, right? I have
 "also heard mention of Xspread, but I do not know anything about it.

Joel Spolsky told me that the book for the Excel 4.0 format is available:
 "The file format of Excel 4.0 is included in an MS-Press book
 "entitled "Microsoft Excel Software Development Kit". This should
 "be available from Penguin in Japan.
 "It is usually easier to write the file in CSV (comma separated values)
 "format, which Excel can easily import from the usual "File/Open" command.

Clifford Matthews told me about two Mac-emulator for NeXT:
 "We make "Executor", a Macintosh emulator for the NeXT. I can run
 "Excel 4.0 for the Mac. The reason this makes more sense than SoftPC
 "is both Macs and NeXTs share the same CPU, which means that Executor
 "on a NeXT doesn't have to emulate the underlying CPU; hence it's
 "Another possibility might come from our competitor, Athena Design.
 "They currently have a SpreadSheet called "Mesa". It has a well
 "defined API that may be of use to you. I also believe they are
 "currently working on Excel file compatibility.

Mike Kienenberger also recommends to check with Executor.

In summary, running a spreadsheet application on Unix is a popular
solution than I'd thought. I checked the listed price of WingZ in
Japan (available from ASCII). They are, 98,000 yen for Mac, OS/2,
and MS-Windows 3.0, 168,000 yen for single user license on Sun,
Sony NEWS and HP, and 128,000 yen each for additional user.
(Academic discount will be available.)

For option 3 (running spreadsheet on PC/Mac-emulator), I had no answer
on pros and cons of sharing file system between the emulator and Unix.

I'm personally interested in Option 1, since we are developing the
data acquisition software ourselves. Maybe the MS-press book would tell
me the answer...

Thanks again to those who have contributed.

$! Youhei Morita National Laboratory for High Energy Physics (KEK)
$! SMTP: Oho, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, 305, JAPAN
$! HEPnet: KEKVAX::MORITA Phone: 0298-64-1171 x3435 FAX: 0298-64-4402

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