An Excel Spreadsheet Toolset For Simulator Pilots

If you don't have Microsoft Excel...

Well, there's bad news, some slightly less bad news and some much better news.

First, the bad news. Until recently (see below) it seemed that you really did need Microsoft Excel V5.0, or later, in order to enjoy the full functionality of the toolset. The version of Excel that came with Office 95, for Windows 95, works fine, as do later versions. Unfortunately most clones of Excel, and other spreadsheet tools that import Excel spreadsheets, have real problems. This is probably because of the Excel features that the Pilot's Assistant toolset uses, which include:

*       Multiple worksheets
*       Password protected sheets and workbook
*       Simple pie charts
*       Embedded diagram objects

The Pilot's Assistant spreadsheet contains locked cells in order to protect its structure. All the cells where you can enter data are of course not locked. Sheets which the user is intended to be able to mess with have protected cells but no password; other locked cells are password-protected. 

These features of Excel, perhaps in combination, do not appear to port to most other spreadsheet programs, unfortunately!

Next, the slightly less bad news. You can download a free Excel viewer from Microsoft here, as a 3.7 MB zip file. It's just what is says - a viewer. It will let you view the sheets of the toolset, exactly as they should properly appear, and that might have some value for you - you can, at least, read all the information (there's a lot of information in the spreadsheet, as well as calculations) and all the static data. What you can't do is to enter any data into those little green cells, which you might find so frustrating that you'll want to heave a brick through the screen.

And now the much better news.... 

Mark Iley writes: "Awesome spreadsheet, must have taken you a good while to develop. I opened it with OpenOffice.Org 2.0 [which is compatible with all other major office suites - OpenOffice is free to download, use, and distribute] no problems at all under the Linux OS partition on my PC. I played around a bit and it seems to function ok (but I don't think I would be able to tell if there was something that OpenOffice wasn't doing right). The only obvious thing that seems to come out different compared to MS Excel are the comments that have been added to some cells - they appear at the top of the sheet are not always so obvious as the OpenOffice spreadsheet seems to draw a thin black arrow line to the comment box which isn't always visible when the cell with the comment is a bit of a scroll down from the top of the sheet).

"Interestingly, when you select to save a document in OpenOffice.org 2.0 it gives you the option to save it in Excel 95 format so it might be more backwardly compatible than MS Office. FYI you can get OpenOfficeorg 2.0 for MS Windows. [OpenOffice works on several platforms, see here for more information]"

[I have added the text in square brackets]

Guido Ostkamp writes: "Regarding your Pilot's assistant sheet you might be interested to hear that the package 'Softmaker Office 2006' which includes 'Planmaker', which is a highly Excel-compatible spreadsheet application, appears to be able to work with the your xls-sheet quite well.

"Softmaker Office is available at www.softmaker.com/english, they also provide a 30-day trial for download at www.softmaker.com/english/ofwdemo_en.htm, in case you want to have a look. This product is a lot cheaper than Microsoft Office."

There is an overview of various spreadsheet alternatives at http://microsoft.toddverbeek.com/sheet.html. If anyone has further information (thanks, Mark and Guido!), please email me!

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