Articles tagged #sc

  1. A crash course in sc

    Photo by Katerina Bartosova

    I previously mentioned the spreadsheet tool sc in my text-mode overview, noting that it deserved a separate post. It is one of the oldest spreadsheet programs around, maybe even the oldest still in use today. (The date examples in the documentation are all from the 1970s, for what it’s worth.)

    sc was originally written by James Gosling, who later went on to create the programming language Java. Like any sufficiently old piece of software, development is spread across a handful of forks. There’s at least three direct forks that I can find, as well as derivative versions like sc-im. There also exists a graphical frontend for X11/Athena called Xspread, but I can no longer find anything resembling a home page for it, and distros seem to have dropped the package. (It didn’t offer much that sc didn’t, anyway.)

    sc has a rather steep learning curve, especially for those not already passingly familiar with vi-style editing. If you’re expecting a terminal equivalent of Excel (or OpenOffice, or LibreOffice, or whatever its name is this year), you will likely be disappointed. Moreover, while it adopts many of vis principles, only the most basic keystrokes work similarly; it is quite a different animal. That is, Excel is a dog, vi is a cat, and sc is a fox. Hope that’s clear.

    For heavy command-line users, it’s worth the effort to learn, and fortunately it also comes with plenty of resources to help, including a well-written manual page, a detailed tutorial, and an interactive quick-reference help system. This might be surprising to those used to modern software, but back in The Day, programs generally came with good documentation.