RISC World

PC File Conversion

Brian Pickard

Part 3 Spreadsheet Files

Spreadsheets were one of the first computer applications. As a result most platforms have their 'favourite' spreadsheets programs. In the PC world Microsofts Excel, together with Lotus 123, are used extensively. RISC OS has Pipedream and Fireworkz. Pipedream reached version 4 when RISC OS was first used in the Archimedes when its name became Pipedream4 (now up to version 4.5) Originally marketed by Colton Software (as was Fireworkz) it is now sold and maintained by Abacus Training details can be found on their website at I am sure their must be other applications with spreadsheets built in but I have stuck to dedicated spreadsheet applications, since these seem to have less problems when porting.

Conversion Problems

The structure and workings of Spreadsheets make conversion between platforms rather difficult. For those of you who are not conversant with Spreadsheets I will outline their workings.

Spreadsheets are like electronic Ledges, being made up of a grid of 'cells'. Each cell is known by its column (usually a letter A B etc.) and its row (numeric). So a cell four columns in and three down from the top left is at a position D3.

Each cell can contain one of three types of data, ordinary text, real numbers or a formulae.

In the case of a formula the answer is displayed in the cell.

As spreadsheets developed, formulae became more involved and conditional statements were added.

Needless to say no one had the foresight to agree any standards regarding syntax and so different spreadsheets applications use slightly differing syntax in their formulae. This makes file conversion more involved.

CSV and TSV files

You can easily port the Spreadsheet using comma separated value or tab separated value files. These are a compromise since no formulae or layout is included only the numeric, text values and the formulae/statement answers are saved. This is fine for inclusion in DTP or Presentational software where no editing is required. All Spreadsheet packages have at least one if not both of these save options, so if you know the receiver only wishes to display the actual figures and text of the spreadsheet then you can send them these files. In the PC world they have file extension csv and tsv.

Porting from PC to RISC OS

The PC user will probably have either Excel or Lotus 123. Excel can save its spreadsheet in Lotus format (file extension .wks1). So ask for the spreadsheet file to be in Lotus 123 format preferably in the lowest/earliest Lotus format with the file extension .wks1.

The latest PipeDream and Fireworkz versions can read this format (Pipedream has a conversion program in earlier versions it was called PD123).

Remember to set the file type to &DB0 (or LotusWK1).

You will need to clean up the spreadsheet since font and column/row size will not be ported across, but all the formulae should be intact and the spreadsheet can be edited.

Porting from RISC OS to PC

Here we use the same common Lotus123 file format.

So convert your Fireworkz/Pipedream4 file to the Lotus123 format.

Remember to add to the filename the extension wks1. (If you are sending it via email as an attachment then zip archive it.) The PC user should be able to load the file into Excel and Lotus123. Again some tidying up is required.

Encountered Problems

As with any file conversion there are some pitfalls.

What happens if the PC user has a formulae/statement in a cell that does not have an equivalent in RISC OS?

An error will be shown in the cell, which by the nature of spreadsheets can lead to more errors in other cells if this cells answer is required many times within the sheet.

Try and persuade the PC user to stick to the most common formulae (SUM, AVE etc.) and stay away from exotic ones (statistical formulae etc.).

Likewise when you are sending a file for a PC user do not use any linked live charts in Pipedream4.

More Thoughts

The neatest way of conversion as always is to try and find an application which has both PC and RISC OS versions.

Fireworkz is such an application, so if your PC user and yourself buy the correct version of Fireworkz then you should have no problems!

Microsofts Excel allows for multiple sheets within one file with one sheet referring to any other. This structure cannot be ported across.

Similarly columns and rows can be hidden from view in Excel (I do not know if this is possible in Lotus) again this can cause problems, they will probably not be hidden in the ported version.

If the PC user has Fireworkz and you have Pipedream then you can use Harriet Bazleys FirePipe utility which will convert FireWorkz files to Pipedream files. This free utility can be found at Fireworkz can load Pipedream files.

And Finally

Spreadsheet porting is possible between other operating systems since UNIX and MACs have Lotus variations. I have never been asked by anyone using these OSs for any spreadsheet files so I do not know if it is possible, but in theory if you convert your Spreadsheet to the Lotus format then this could be ported to UNIX and MACs.

If any of you have a Z88 computer then you will know Pipedream. Again I do not know if this version will produce files which can be loaded by Pipedream4 or vice versa.

All in all porting Spreadsheets between different platforms is not as difficult as might be expected. Perhaps the length of time Spreadsheets have been used as slowly resulted in some sort of common/converging standard.

Anyway thats it for Spreadsheets next time I will open a different can of worms and try and tackle Multi media file formats. .

I have included some example spreadsheet files. These are the same sheet but in the differing file type. Its name gives the file type. I do not have FireWorkz but have used Resultz to convert the Pipedream4 files to Lotus. Using this method seems to be fine except in the If statement the text has an extra ".

Brian Pickard