Microsoft’s Visual Basic programming language lets Excel users customize their spreadsheets in all kinds of time-saving ways, but few people take advantage of it. Although designed to be intuitive and easy to use, Visual Basic can still be daunting to users with no previous programming experience.As both an intern and a consultant at Microsoft, Rishabh Singh, a graduate student in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT, has worked with Microsoft Research’s Sumit Gulwani to develop a system that lets Excel users customize their spreadsheets simply by giving examples of how they want data processed. Singh and Gulwani describe the work in a pair of papers they’re presenting this summer at the Computer-Aided Verification and Very Large Databases conferences.The system has two main components. The first, which Singh and Gulwani developed during Singh’s first internship at Microsoft, can modify text strings on the basis of a few...
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