NewsForge: KSpread, Calc and Gnumeric Compared

NewsForge's contributor Bruce Byfield wrote a hands-on comparison between KSpread 1.3.5, Calc beta build 1.9.83 and Gnumeric 1.4.3-6. Seems like KSpread is doing pretty well - the charting capabilities were second to none, and reviewer mentioned KSpread to be a good choice for people making visual presentations. KSpread still needs love and care as handling lists was found to be limited.


Here is some anecdotal material.

Yesterday I was trying to export a spreadsheet to a text file with tab-delimited fields and no quotes. I thought this would be trivial, but alas. I was performing this task on a new SuSE 9.3 installation with the OpenOffice 2 beta (novellized version). This version has a nice export dialog where one can select the delimiter and the quotation symbol. Unfortunately, no file was written to the disk and no error message was given. I played around with this for a bit and decided to try out koffice's spreadsheet.

This didn't fare much better. KSpread (1.3.5) has the option to save to multiple sheets to one file. No matter what the value of this option is, all sheets are exported always. Also it is not possible to not have quotation marks in the output the only possible values for the quotation mark are ' and ", contrary to OpenOffice 2 where and character can by used.

Next in line was gnumeric (1.4.3). I fired up YaST again to install it and opened my spreadsheet file. But again, a problem stopped me from exporting the file. Gnumeric does not allow one to set any options for exporting CVS files!

So in the end, I copied and pasted the data from OpenOffice into Kate with worked very well.

Fazit: The versions of the spreadsheet programs shipped with SuSE 9.3 are not able to perform the very simple, common task of exporting one spreadsheet to a tab delimited text file.

By jos at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

Just out of curiousity: what are reasons for wanting other quotation marks in a CSV file?

Have a nice day!

By Nicolas Goutte at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

You would want other quotation marks so your exported document will work with other tools that expect a different quotation mark.

It is also worth noting that KSpread does not properly export or import CSV files. Specifically, it does not properly encode quotes. For example, if I have a field with:

Joe "crazy, crazy, guy" Schmoe, Ph.D.

KSpread will not store this field in a manner that will allow any tool to automatically recognize that it is a single field. The CSV file should be encoded as:

"Joe ""crazy, crazy, guy"" Schmoe, Ph.D."

But KSpread encodes it as:

"Joe "crazy, crazy, guy" Schmoe, Ph.D."

If you import it back into KSpread it will come out as three fields:

Schmoe, Ph.D.

Note that some of the data actually disappears. It is worth noting that if I put the extra quotes in, KSpread opens the file correctly. Gnumeric will read it as three slightly different fields:

Joe crazy
guy Schmoe, Ph.D.

Which is an accurate representation of the text file. But of course, the CSV file itself is wrong.

By Zippy at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

As a matter of fact either you're wrong or your example does not represent what you meant.

Joe "crazy, crazy guy" Schmoe, Ph.D.

should be read as two fields:

Joe "crazy, crazy guy" Schmoe

This for the reason that anything between quotes should be handled as a single string, no matter what it contains. The purpose of such a behaviour is to allow arbitrary description strings to be included in a table (e.g. book titles, various descriptions of the listed items).

KSpread 1.3.5 reads it incorrectly as

crazy, crazy guy

Moreover, it should handle quotes and apostrophes identically. However, it interprets the string

Joe 'crazy, crazy guy' Schmoe, Ph.D.

as three items:

Joe 'crazy,
crazy guy' Schmoe

While this is what you want, it's still incorrect. The trick is to appropriately set the text delimiter in the import dialog, so that it won't match the delimiter you used.

By Obviously anonymous at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

Yes, that's true, although Openoffice 1.1 served best at this point. But imagine you need to import data from a text file...

By Sebastian at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

In Gnumeric, just save with the filetype name "Text Export (Configurable)." This will give you a dialog with many options for exporting to CSV.

By Brad at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

Thanks for the tip! I'll try that next time.

By jos at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

What a pity that they tested KSpread of KOffice 1.3.5. KOffice 1.4 has much better charting facilities thanks to Inge Wallin. Plus the other improvements which were made in 1.4.

By Bram Schoenmakers at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

1.4 is beta

By Gerd at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

Yes, but they used Calc beta build 1.9.83 too

So, it would have been nice if they had used KOffice 1.4 beta too.

By tim beaulen at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am 2 too

By TF at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

but 1.1.4 is obsolete and 2.0 quite stable

By Gerd at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

Same thing goes for KOffice 1.4

By Dan Leinir Turt... at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

> 1.1.4 is obsolete

Given the number of people using 1.1.4 in their daily work (including myself), I would definitely not say that it's obsolete.

Let us all stick to reality here, ok?

By KDE User at Sun, 2005/05/15 - 5:00am

Wow, thanks!

Unfortunately, that is not really true. My main contributions do not come in the form of new features (although there are some: the new data editor, the row/column stuff, for instance). Instead, I have mostly cut away non-working stuff and removed bugs.

We are currently down to 2 bugs in bugzilla now and with a little luck KChart could be out for 1.4 with no known bugs (yeah, right!).

By Inge Wallin at Mon, 2005/05/16 - 5:00am

I was trying to make some charts the other day and tried also the three tools. In the end only Gnumeric was able to do what I wanted. Ans what I wanted was very simple.

I wanted to make a chart and then be able to edit the chart and add/remove data.

Kspread doess't allow this yes.
OpenOffice (the lates beta) didn't allow me to edit th chart data. No matter what I did, the "Chart Dada" button/option was always disabled.

In the end, Gnumeric was the only too that allowed that.

Aftrer this, I needed to make a document with some tables from that spreadsheet, and I ended saving the document from Gnumeric in Office format, opening it with OpenOffice and then exporting the tables, to be able to make the document has I wanted.

Indeed, each has it's own stength, and I'd really love if each was able to also do what the others do...

By Hugo Costelha at Sat, 2005/05/14 - 5:00am

Yeah, that sucks.

When you use KChart as a stand-alone application you can change data as much as you like. You can add or delete rows or columns, and you can change your data points.

But when you embed KChart in KSpread, you use the spreadsheet as your data source and you cannot change the data from within KChart. That is all good and well, but the problem is that you cannot change the area in KSpread that the chart is drawn from. I really, really wanted to add that feature to 1.4, but I just didn't have time. Sorry.

This is one of the things that I will implement first of all after the release. However, it has to be done in KSpread, not in KChart.

By Inge Wallin at Mon, 2005/05/16 - 5:00am