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Forgotten Spreadsheet Programs for Windows

26 June 2019

Spreadsheets, with their pretty perfect grids. They can make some calculations much easier, but these days the complexity is so high with macros and lookup tables, etc. I wanted to take a quick look at some of the older spreadsheet software that existed in the early days of Windows.

SuperCalc 1.0

Computer Associates (1994)

SuperCalc for Windows 1.0 main program screen.

I had SuperCalc 3 for MS-DOS on my Amstrad 1512, and indeed that's where I learned how to make and use spreadsheets. It was much bigger on CP/M systems than on MS-DOS, and fizzled out soon after the Windows release.

Spread32

Bye Design (1999-2012)

Spread32 2.05 main program screen.

I used to use Spread32 on my first Windows running PC. With only 500MB of disk space, I had to use the smallest and most capable programs. This spreadsheet program definitely meets that criteria, supporting the main formats including Excel '97 and CSV. All for less than 1.5MB. The program was mostly written for Windows CE portables, hence the lean-ness. The author's website is still up and it is still possible to buy the program. It hasn't been updated for years, though.

Formula One

Visual Tools (later Tidestone / Reporting Engines) (1994-2007)

Sphygmic Software Spreadsheet main program screen.

What do the following spreadsheet programs have in common:

Answer: They all use the same spreadsheet engine, albeit different versions.

Formula One about dialog box. Program by Joe Erickson, Paul Englis, Stuart 
        White and Krishnan Dhandapani.

Formula One is a common control that allows a programmer to insert an entire spreadsheet application into whatever program you are writing. The four programs mentioned above are simply nice wrappers around said control; observe my daft attempt at making my own:

Empty Visual Basic 3 program except for spreadsheet control in the centre.

The native file format is .VTS (Visual Tools Spreadsheet), but I doubt you'll encounter many of those files anywhere. If you do, SpreadPro 2.1 can open documents made in any version. Formula One could export data to other file formats, so SpreadPro is a great conduit for conversion.

Versions

I currently know of these versions. The control was ported from a Visual Basic Extension to ActiveX around 2006. I don't know if a 16-bit version was maintained in parallel for a while.

I suspect 6.1.6.2 is the final version ever made; it was still the latest version of the control in 2007. It seems it was quietly discontinued in 2008, although it could've been transferred to another company that I haven't found out about yet.

Version       Date             Filename
1.02.08       1994/04/27       vtss.vbx
1.02.16       1994/06/13       vtss.vbx
2.0.0.1       1994/11/03       vtss.vbx
2.0.3.8       1995/02/08       vtss.vbx
3.1.3.1       1996/02/22       vcf132.ocx
4.1.0.5       1997/02/07
4.1.2.2       1997/11/13       vcf132.ocx
5.0.6.2       1999/03/10       vcf15.ocx
6.1.5.12      2000/10/11       ttf16.ocx
6.1.6.2       2003/01/24       ttf16.ocx

I imagine the Formula One engine was intended for use within specialist programs, rather than as standalone spreadsheet programs for the public.

PTab

Z4Soft (1997-current)

PTab 3 main program screen.

I am actually rather charmed by this program. Like Spread32, this is a desktop port of a Windows CE program. Unlike Spread32, it retains the Windows CE interface completely and works exactly like you'd use it on a handheld. But the thing I find most charming is how much data fits on the screen at once compared to others. It's also the smallest program file in this list at 671KB.

JinSheet 97

Sinjinsoft (1997-2000)

Jinsheet 97 main program screen.

A perfectly usable spreadsheet. There was going to be a 2000 update to this program, and it was demonstrated on the website. However, it was vapourware and no updated program was released.

NCell 2.0

Braccini Alessandro (2000)

NCell 2 main program screen.

This is a rather simplified spreadsheet program. It deliberately doesn't have grid references, and is rather feature limited. This might be useful for someone who only needs the most basic functions, but it isn't for me.

OpenOffice.org

Sun Microsystems (1999-2011)

OpenOffice.org main program screen.

I know, it's still an ongoing concern with Apache and there's the LibreOffice fork that is a popular alternative to Microsoft Office. But I thought it'd be fun to see how far it has come since the 1.0 release.

Ability Spreadsheet

Ability Software (1998-current)

Ability Spreadsheet main program screen.

Ability is one of the old names in PC office software. Under Migent they had an MS-DOS office suite called Ability which combined a word processor, database and spreadsheet into one package. Ability Software still exists today and often releases new versions of the suite. Their website also contains a legacy archive of old versions for our (my) amusement.

602Tab

602 PCSuite (1996-2006)

602Tab main program screen.

This software was often found on magazine cover discs. There was a free edition that required an online registration (ugh, hate those), and a professional edition with a few more features. The program moved to the OpenOffice.org code base for a couple years before the whole thing was discontinued completely.

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