A Spreadsheet For The Python Hacker

Barbie Espinol

You can write a Python program or use a Jupyter Notebook to do almost anything. But you can also get a lot of things done quickly using a spreadsheet. Grist is a “hacker’s” spreadsheet that merges these worlds. It looks like a spreadsheet, but underneath are SQLite tables and the formula language is Python.

The code is open source and if you want it hosted, there are free and paid plans. You can even try it out without even logging in and either start with a blank screen or use a template. You can see an introductory video below.

If you are adept at spreadsheets, be prepared. Grist isn’t exactly a spreadsheet — it is more of a spreadsheet-like interface on a database. So if you have a row with a quantity and a price on it, you might add a column that computes the total price. That’s fine, but you’ve now done that for every row in the table. Depending on your point of view, that might be a feature. What if you want a grand total at the bottom? Then you add a widget which is actually a separate table.

You can fork spreadsheets and reconcile copies sort of like merging source-controlled programs. You can easily make dashboards and different views on data. For example, if you want to see which goat begat which goat… there’s an example for that. Since this is Hackaday, you might prefer a Morse code quiz.

This seems like a good balance between coding everything and the much-vaunted “no code” tools floating around. Honestly, we might be as comfortable with Jupyter. But the fact that this is spreadsheet-like will make it more palatable in certain situations.

We do love oddball spreadsheet software. On the other hand, we also enjoy abusing traditional spreadsheets, too.

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