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Technological Thoughts by Jerome Kehrli

AirXCell - online programmable spreadsheet and R GUI

by Jerome Kehrli


Posted on Tuesday Mar 27, 2012 at 01:10AM in Computer Science


I want to share an interesting project that has appeared on the Web recently : the AirXCell project.
(As some of you already know, I am somewhat involved in this project :-)

AirXCell is an online R application framework currently supporting a programmable spreadsheet and an R development environment.

AirXCell is based on R - The GNU R Project for Statistical Computing. Current version is still somewhat limited yet fully functional.

Quoting the AirXCell User documentation :

AirXCell intents to revolution the world of spreadsheet applications and computational software by providing a product that:

  • implements a web application on the most cutting edge of technology that outpaces the current classical spreadsheet applications in terms of user experience, potential and features,
  • merges the world of spreadsheet application (e.g. Microsoft Excel, GNUmeric, etc.) and the world of computational software (e.g. Mathematica, Mathlab, etc.) and
  • revolutions the usual approach in spreadsheet applications.
The original idea behind AirXCell is to use the R statistical engine as a spreadsheet calculation engine. Pushing it further, let's dream together ...
  • Imagine a spreadsheet application, not limited to typing values or formulas in a cell. What if we could type obviously values and formulas, but also real functional commands - in the form of R programs or scripts - mixed up with formula cell range notations?
  • Imagine a spreadsheet whose underlying data matrix would be available in a real statistical environment - the R environment - and usable within any R function.
  • Imagine a Web application offering you a complete access to as statistical environment - for instance the R environment - with a code editor, a virtual graphic device, etc.
  • Imagine an online web spreadsheet and R environment making you feel like you are working right there on your desktop with a classical rich client application.
  • Imagine a spreadsheet application where any calculation - no matter how complex, extended or the volume of manipulated data - is performed within seconds.
  • Imagine you have a framework at your disposal enabling you to build any kind of Web application with access to the full power of the R calculation environment.
The lack of efficiency in addressing these criterion in the current spreadsheet or calculation products have made us want to develop AirXCell, an online spreadsheet application and R development framework attempting - in its coming 1.0 version (still far from there now) - to provide the user with:
  • a spreadsheet application going much further than other state of the art spreadsheet applications,
  • a spreadsheet application giving you access to several thousand of high end statistical functions from within a real statistical environment such as R instead of only a few hundreds of poorly implemented functions,
  • a pretty complete R development environment and
  • various other custom forms able to trigger significant calculation programs within the R environment.
AirXCell has the potential to become a great software. It is amazingly efficient, the UI responsiveness is way beyond other flagship RIAs and the Java backend is pretty impressive in terms of resources consumption optimization.

The AirXCell project is available at www.airxcell.com.

This is a screenshot of the AirXCell UI:

AirXCell calculation Sheet

An example of a dynamic form, this one is for portfolio optimization:

Portfolio Optimization form

An example of a result of a portfolio optimization backtesting:

Portfolio Backtesing with Airxcell 1
Portfolio Backtesing with Airxcell 2

The User Documentation of AirXCell is available here.



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