[Sugar-devel] updates and testing SocialCalc on the Sugar Live CD

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Sat Sep 5 22:47:52 EDT 2009

On Sat, Sep 5, 2009 at 6:39 PM, Dan Bricklin<danb at bricklin.com> wrote:
> Edward,
> Thanks for doing the testing. Here are some answers to some of the questions
> you asked or things you found undocumented.

Thanks. I believe that you are right in your comments below, that the
Open Document spec, manuals for other software, and your video will
enable us to create an excellent manual at FLOSSManuals.net. Would you
like to join us when we do the Book Sprint?

I am thinking about what we might add to the Help in SocialCalc,
allowing for the tradeoff between space and completeness. Adding links
to existing documentation will provide a sufficient backstop, but I
think that there are several places where just a few words will make
all the difference for beginning SocialCalc users, particularly for
harried teachers. I don't want to make them learn too much themselves,
or to have to tell children to rely too much on external resources.

I'm sure that we can find a suitable balance on these questions.

> The database functions, like all of the functions, are pretty much the same
> as the functions by the same name in Excel and many other spreadsheets (many
> going back to Lotus 1-2-3 and even sometimes VisiCalc). They are defined in
> the Open Document Format specification. The same is true of all of the
> financial functions. (There used to be an Open Formula specification, which
> I think got moved into Open Document Format. I coded the functions looking
> to the Open Formula specification.) The built-in SocialCalc doc does not
> provide more than the simple explanation for all functions to save space and
> since they are well documented with other spreadsheets.

Of course, our target users (students and teachers) do not have local
access to this other software. But we can put it into a manual.

>Most of the
> SocialCalc documentation is about what is special to SocialCalc. Also, the
> code itself documents what it does, including, with the financial functions,
> a reference to the Wikipedia entry that helped in their specification. I
> assumed that others can read that to produce appropriate written
> documentation.

As a mathematician and programmer, I can, if necessary.

> (I think there is a reported issue that SocialCalc's IF
> function only takes the 3 argument form, not the 2 argument form. It also
> evaluated all arguments unlike many other IF functions.)
> The toolbar buttons, including the two types of move and swap colors, as
> well as the sheet settings, names, and more are explained in a video I
> created. The 54 minute Flash video, created with Camtasia, goes over many of
> the features of the main SocialCalc engine that the Sugar version of
> SocialCalc is built upon. (For example, that version does not have the
> Sugar-specific graphing tab.) You can view the video at:
> http://www.peapodcast.com/sgi/socialtext/sctraining1/

Perfect. I'll report on that soon.

> Note that the value format specification language, used to define numeric
> formatting, is similar to that used in most spreadsheets, including Excel.

Right. I didn't have any trouble with it.

> You can learn much of it by looking at the samples already built into the
> product (set a format and the choose Custom to see the definition). This can
> be used when customizing the product for other locales to, for example, have
> different currency symbols and placement. Custom formats are demonstrated in
> the video.

I tried it in Cyrillic briefly without problems, but I cannot type
other currency symbols such as € or £ within Sugar. I will have to do
much more language and locale testing.

> Thanks again for taking time to work with SocialCalc so we can help provide
> this functionality around the world through this platform.
> -DanB
> Edward Cherlin wrote:
> I ran through all of the basic functions of SocialCalc, including
> every icon on every tab. I have tested some but not all of the 109
> functions provided, with good results so far. Although there are
> functions I could wish for, the only real deficiency I have found is
> in the documentation.
> I have created a page for elements of Sugar that children are not
> likely to discover on their own,
> http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/The_undiscoverable. I recommend it to
> developers who want to think about whether more of Sugar can be made
> discoverable, or whether we need to write lesson plans for the
> features that cannot be made obvious to the novice. I will put in a
> section for SocialCalc. These are not bugs in the sense of incorrect
> behavior or missing explanations, so I omit them here.
> Here is a summary of the other issues I have encountered.
> o The database functions are severely underdocumented. What database?
> What are databaserange, fieldname, criteriarange?
> o Where does Paste Formats get its formats from?
> o What does Swap Colors do?
> o The financial and statistical function definitions in the Help might
> be clear to one who uses other spreadsheets a lot, but certainly are
> not to a beginner.
> o More explanation is needed on angles in degrees and radians.
> o I understand Move From and Move Paste, but not Move Insert.
> o I see how to set names, but not what to use them for or how.
> o I don't see the Sheet setting control on the Format tab that the
> Help refers to.
> o I found the OK and Sort... buttons on the Sort tab confusing. It has
> since become clear to me. Perhaps OK should be renamed Set Range.
> Not bad for a beta.
> On Thu, Sep 3, 2009 at 12:16 PM, Manusheel Gupta<manu at laptop.org> wrote:
> Dear community members,
> We are preparing for the next release of SocialCalc on Sugar. Localization
> infrastructure, canonicalization of the save format and collaboration will
> be the key features available in the next release. We are also looking
> forward to develop interoperability between SocialCalc format and a number
> of other spreadsheet formats like .wk3/.wk4/csv/excel/open office
> spreadsheet. We have recently received a number of requests on developing
> interoperability between SocialCalc and .wk3/.wk4 format, which has been a
> challenging problem to work on. Hope to get this feature ready before the
> next release.
> Lately, I have been testing SocialCalc on the Sugar Live CD, and have run
> into issues. I can't seem to get SocialCalc to start.  I fired up the Sugar
> LiveCD, and opened up the USB icon in my journal.  I can see the file
> SocialCalc.xo on my USB stick.  When I click on it, I get a start button,
> but then nothing happens.  Below is a gears image, which starts something
> that looks like a developer interface. Not sure, where I have been going
> wrong. Any help on this issue is highly appreciated.
> Please visit the SocialCalc on Sugar page at
> http://seeta.in/j/products-and-services/socialcalc-on-sugar.html. The
> activity is available for download both from the SEETA website
> (http://seeta.in) and from activities.sugarlabs.org. If you have any
> questions, or would like to add suggestions/comments/feature requests,
> please do so here.
> Thank you for your continued support.
> Regards,
> Manu
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Edward Mokurai (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) Cherlin
Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.

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