A graph is a graph is a graph.

After hacking for about two hours the cell dependencies yesterday using dicts, I found myself saying "how can I check if the dependency graph is cyclical?"

And of course it hit me. That's the dependency graph. Use a graph library!

I looked for about 2 minutes before finding one that's probably not optimal, but is damn simple and in the public domain: graph_lib.py by Nathan Denny.

First interesting data point, the first two lines on the file (yes, I found out there is a later version):

#--Version 1.0.0
#--Nathan Denny, May 27, 1999

Yup. In two days this piece of code is turning 8 years old and untouched. But it works just fine and dandy!

Here's the piece of code that makes the engine run which has grown from a humble 10 LOC to almost a whooping 40 LOC:

class SpreadSheet(QtCore.QObject):
    _cells = {}
    tools = {}

    def __init__(self,parent):
        for name in dir(functions):

    def __setitem__(self, key, formula):
        self._cells[key] = [c[key][0],False,compile(c[key][0],"Formula for %s"%key,'eval')]

        # Dependency graph
        if not self.graph.has_node(key):
        for edge in self.graph.in_arcs(key):
        for cell in c[key][1]:
                print 'GRAPH(TOPO): ',self.graph.topological_sort()
                print 'GRAPH(BFS) : ',self.graph.bfs(key)
                for cell in self.graph.bfs(key)[1:]:
        except Graph_topological_error:
                # We made the graph cyclic
                # So, mark this cell as evil
                # And remove all incoming edges to go back to
                # status quo
                for edge in self.graph.in_arcs(key):

    def getformula(self, key):
        return self._cells[key][0]
    def __getitem__(self, key ):
        print self._cells[key]
        if self._cells[key][1]:
                return "ERROR: cyclic dependency"
                print 'evaluating [%s]: '%key,type(self._cells[key][0]),self._cells[key][0]
              return eval(self._cells[key][0], self.tools, self)

This engine supports:

  • User defined functions (just add them in formula.py)
  • Cell dependencies with detection of cicles, of any length
  • Unlimited size spreadsheets
  • Notification of cell changes to other modules
  • Automatic recalculation
  • A custom formula language (ok, that's not in this piece of code ;-)

The whole project is now 1167 LOC, of which 591 are generated or graph_lib, which means everything including the traxter "compiler" and the UI is less than 600 lines of code.

Not too shabby.

My goal is a functional spreadsheet with a working GUI and supporting the most common functions and pieces of the formula language in .... 2000 LOC, and I am willing to work on it for about two weeks.

Let's see how it turns out. Of course anyone with 5 free minutes can contribute his favourite spreadsheet function (I already have sum ;-)


Comments powered by Disqus