Wildcard: Spreadsheet-Driven Customization of Web Applications


Paper by geoffreylitt, Daniel Jackson (2020)

In this paper, we present spreadsheet-driven customization, a technique that enables end users to customize software without doing any traditional programming. The idea is to augment an application’s UI with a spreadsheet that is synchronized with the application’s data. When the user manipulates the spreadsheet, the underlying data is modified and the changes are propagated to the UI, and vice versa.

Generic tools are especially important for software customization, because a common barrier to customizing software is not having enough time [Mackay 1991]—it’s more likely that people will customize software frequently if they can reuse the same tools across many applications.

One of the most interesting properties of spreadsheets is that users familiar with only a tiny sliver of their functionality (e.g., storing tables of numbers and computing simple sums) can still use them in valuable ways. This supports the user’s natural motivation to continue using the tool, and to eventually learn its more powerful features if needed [Nardi and Miller 1991].


  • suggesters: jryans
  • curators: jryans