Detecting code smells in spreadsheet formulas

Felienne Hermans*, Martin Pinzger, Arie Van Deursen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


Spreadsheets are used extensively in business processes around the world and just like software, spreadsheets are changed throughout their lifetime causing maintainability issues. This paper adapts known code smells to spreadsheet formulas. To that end we present a list of metrics by which we can detect smelly formulas and a visualization technique to highlight these formulas in spreadsheets. We implemented the metrics and visualization technique in a prototype tool to evaluate our approach in two ways. Firstly, we analyze the EUSES spreadsheet corpus, to study the occurrence of the formula smells. Secondly, we analyze ten real life spreadsheets, and interview the spreadsheet owners about the identified smells. The results of these evaluations indicate that formula smells are common and that they can reveal real errors and weaknesses in spreadsheet formulas.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 28th IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance, ICSM 2012
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event28th IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance, ICSM 2012 - Riva del Garda,Trento, Italy
Duration: 23 Sept 201228 Sept 2012

Publication series

NameIEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance, ICSM


Conference28th IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance, ICSM 2012
CityRiva del Garda,Trento


  • code smells
  • refactoring
  • spreadsheets


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