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conv123 - The ASCII to Lotus(TM) spreadsheet converter


conv123 [inputfile] [outputfile]


conv123 is a utility for reading a specially-formatted flat ASCII file and converting it into a Lotus/123(TM) ".wk1" file. Each specially-formatted ASCII file creates one entire spreadsheet. This spreadsheet file is in its final, directly-readable binary form, and need undergo no further translation before being read directly by Lotus/123(TM). This feature makes conv123 especially suited to networked environments, where report writers or programs running on transaction processing machines can easily and directly create spreadsheet output, instantly ready for copying, downloading, or direct access in the MS-DOS(TM) or Macintosh(TM) environments. In addition to individual data values, certain common aggregate functions (formulas) may be specified (sum,min,max,variance,std deviation, and average), and five binary functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and percentage) may also be specified.

The input file format has been optimized for generation by a simple top-down, left-to-right report generator, and is human-readable. The input logic has been made fairly intelligent, automatically discerning numeric and non-numeric values, calculating formula ranges, and calculating the maximum number of decimal places in a row or column.


There are currently no command-line options for conv123.


The only parameters are the input and output file names, both of which are optional; conv123 can act as a filter, and by default accepts its input from stdin and sends its output to stdout.

Input File Format

The major feature of the input file format is a "definition" line, consisting of all dashes (-) and spaces. Each string of contiguous dashes on the "definition" line will become a column in Lotus/123(TM), the width of that column being determined by the number of dashes. Characters in the input file that fall outside these "column definitions" are ignored. In addition, up to two lines above the "definition" line can be used for header information, though this is not required. There may not be any white space before the first dash on the definition line; in other words, the definition line MUST begin in the first column of the input file.

Following is an example input file, followed by a more detailed explanation of its contents:

Jan Feb Mar Qtr
Product Sales Sales Sales Total
--------- ----------- ----------- ----------- -----------
widget-1 45000.87 54390.9 75947.12 @RSUM
widget-2 47000.78 64550.0 73647.77 @RSUM
widget-3 47800.11 67830.5 54536.37 @RSUM
widget-4 33003.30 76530.7 98653.83 @RSUM
widget-5 12000.44 64836.7 27637.91 @RSUM


This is a fairly simple spreadsheet with ten rows and five columns. The fifth column is actually made of formulas ("row sums"), as is the last row ("column sums"). conv123 is smart enough to know that each data value in the first column is non-numeric, and creates the formulas in the fifth column accordingly, i.e., the "row sums" are sums of the values in the second through the fourth columns. In addition, since conv123 keeps track of the maximum number of decimal places used in a given row or column, the number of decimal places displayed in Lotus/123(TM) will be two (2) for all formulas, with the exception of the CSUM in the third column, which will display with one (1) decimal place. Note also that the position of the number or formula code in each column is not significant, as long as the entire values fits under the dashed-line column definition(s). Also, most spreadsheet programs will re-position the values within each cell as the values are displayed.

Formula Codes

As has been shown in the above example, cell contents may be decimal numbers or character values, with the width of the cell determined by the width of the contiguous dashes in the "definition" line. Cell contents may also be formula codes. A formula code is a contiguous set of characters, always beginning with a commercial "at" sign (@). There are three types: row, column and both. The type indicator is a single upper case letter, one of "R" (row), "C" (column) or "B" (both), immediately following the "@" ("at" sign). The formula function immediately follows the type indicator, and may be an aggregate function or a binary function. The range for an aggregate function is calculated automatically, being the range from the earliest available cell -- i.e., the cell farthest "above" for columns, or farthest to the "left" for rows -- to the cell immediately adjacent to the formula definition. Note that this "farthest" cell location is re-adjusted when a non-numeric cell definition is encountered, being set to begin at the next numeric cell (this does not include non-cells, i.e., positions within the spreadsheet with no value). The automatic range start position may be overridden for "row" functions by placing a numeric value at the end of the formula code (still contiguous). A numeric value at the end of a formula code is treated as an absolute column number, with the first column defined as column one (1) .

The range for a binary function is simply the last two adjacent cells "above" the formula definition for column functions, and "left" of the formula definition for row functions. The adjacent cell is always used in the calculation; an override number after the function code in a row function is treated as an absolute column number overriding the penultimate cell. For commutative functions (addition and multiplication), order is not significant. For non-commutative functions (subtraction and division), the definition is a - b, or a/b, where a is the penultimate cell, and b is the immediately adjacent cell. If there is an override column number, THIS ORDER IS REVERSED -- i.e., b - a and b/a, where a is the overriding column number and b is the immediately adjacent cell. This situation is made clearer in the examples below.

Following is a summary of the available functions, which MUST be in upper case where applicable:

SUM -- Performs addition on a range of cells.
AVG -- Takes the average value on a range of cells.
MIN -- Extracts the minimum value on a range of cells.
MAX -- Extracts the minimum value on a range of cells.
VAR -- Calculates the variance on a range of cells.
STD -- Calculates the standard deviation on a range of cells.
+ -- Adds two cells.
- -- Subtracts two cells.
* -- Multiplies two cells.
/ -- Divides two cells.
% -- Divides two cells, and multiplies the result by 100.
NUL -- This is actually not a function, but performs the task
of a "placeholder", preventing the "resetting" of auto-
matically calculated numeric ranges without creating
cell contents. This function is most frequently used to
extend the row range of aggregate column functions.

Formula Examples

Here are some sample input lines, with result following.

--------- ----------- ----------- ----------- -----------
widget-1 100.00 200.00 300.00 @RSUM

--------- ----------- ----------- ----------- -----------
widget-1 100.00 200.00 300.00 600.00

--------- ----------- ----------- ----------- -----------
widget-1 100.00 200.00 300.00 @R+

--------- ----------- ----------- ----------- -----------
widget-1 100.00 200.00 300.00 500.00

--------- ----------- ----------- ----------- -----------
widget-1 100.00 200.00 300.00 @R/

--------- ----------- ----------- ----------- -----------
widget-1 100.00 200.00 300.00 0.67

--------- ----------- ----------- ----------- -----------
widget-1 100.00 200.00 300.00 @R/3

--------- ----------- ----------- ----------- -----------
widget-1 100.00 200.00 300.00 1.50

Note in the above example that the order of divisor/dividend as
regards the immediately adjacent cell is the reverse of the
previous example.

--------- -------- -------- -------- ---------- ------- ----------
widget-1 100.00 200.00 @RSUM 300.00 400.0 @RSUM
widget-2 100.00 100.00 @RSUM 100.00 200.0 @RSUM4

--------- -------- -------- -------- ----------- ------- ----------
widget-1 100.00 200.00 300.00 300.00 400.0 700.00
widget-2 100.00 100.00 200.00 100.00 200.0 500.00

200.00 500.00 0.00

Special Considerations

The dashed-line definitions must begin at the first character of the line in which they occur.

Output files are basically in Lotus(TM) ".WK1" format, and output files should be named with this extension to provide maximum information to spreadsheet programs.

Binary functions in column formula codes are allowed, but rarely make much sense.

The program is simple by design, and makes no attempt to incorporate useful, more complex features such as absolute cell positioning, general-purpose formulae, macros, etc. It also has not undergone a complete test suite.


The maximum number of columns is currently hard-coded into the program at 124; memory should be dynamically allocated to support an arbitrary spreadsheet size.

Optimizations could be applied at several points.

Starting/ending points for formulae should be arbitrarily specifiable.

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