Review Spreadsheets

Applies to Collaborator 13.10, last modified on December 30, 2021

Collaborator supports reviewing spreadsheets of the following formats:

  • Microsoft Excel 95 and later (.xls, .xlsx, .xlsb, .xlsm, .xltm, .xltx),
  • OpenDocument Spreadsheet (.ods)
Note: Reviewing spreadsheets is only supported in Collaborator Enterprise. For a complete list of differences between Collaborator editions, see the comparison page.
Document review is only supported on 64-bit Collaborator servers. On 32-bit platforms, Collaborator may fail to process the documents due to insufficient memory.
The Collaborator Visual Studio Extension and Eclipse Plug-in do not support reviewing spreadsheets. Use the Web Client instead.

Upload Spreadsheets

To review spreadsheets, just attach them to the review as you would any other file and when you open the Diff Viewer, the content area will display the spreadsheets contents for review.

Alternatively, you can install SmartBear Collaborator for Excel plug-in and upload your spreadsheets directly from Microsoft Excel.

  • When a file is uploaded for review, hidden rows are shown.
  • You may need to save your file with word wrap enabled to more easily see the content during reviews.
  • Do not rename spreadsheets between uploading revisions. If a spreadsheet's name was changed, Collaborator cannot map them. As a result, it will display cell location's values as deleted, and will show the "Sheet not present in this version" warning.

View Differences

The UI displays a diff of two versions of a spreadsheet side-by-side. There is a panel at the bottom that shows the contents of the selected cell in both versions of the spreadsheet on top of one another for easy visual comparison. When you click in a cell, the value is displayed in the cell detail pane (equivalent to the formula bar in Excel). The values for the selected cell appear in the cell detail pane with the value for the "after" version on top:

Reviewing Spreadsheets

Click the image to enlarge it.

The use of color allows you to quickly identify changes in diffs so that you can address just what has been modified, added or deleted between spreadsheet revisions.

Highlighting cell differences
Highlighting cell differences
  • When cell content was added it is highlighted with a green background in current revision panes.

  • When cell content was modified it is highlighted with a yellow background both in current and previous revisions panes.

  • When cell content was removed it is highlighted with a red background in previous revisions pane.

  • All other cells (empty or not) display with a white background.

  • Empty cells (cells without content) could be highlighted when the Ignore Empty Cells option of the Display panel is disabled. In this case they would have the same color as added or deleted cells.

  • Inserting entire rows with content is interpreted as inserting a series of cells.

    Adding rows
    Adding rows
  • Deleting entire rows with content is interpreted as removing a series of cells.

    Deleting rows
    Deleting rows
  • Inserting entire columns with content could be interpreted either as inserting a new series of cells (just inserting new columns) or as modifying a series of cells (inserting columns and modifying nearby cells).

    Adding columns
    Adding columns
  • Deleting entire columns with content could be interpreted either as deleting a series of cells (just removing columns) or as modifying a series of cells (deleting columns and modifying nearby cells).

  • Merging two or more cells into one is interpreted as removal of content of nearby cells.

    Merging cells
    Merging cells
  • Respectively, un-merging a cell into two or more cells is interpreted as adding content of nearby cells.

    Un-merging cells
    Un-merging cells

Since it is difficult to compare spreadsheet revisions to meet all use cases, some changes may not be highlighted in diffs in the way that people would expect. We will continue to work on the Excel diff feature to meet the broadest set of needs.

  • The specific document format used by Collaborator makes it impossible to display diffs in complex objects, such as diagrams, charts and embedded images. If you are using those and want to see their differences, consider converting the spreadsheet to PDF format.

  • DiffViewer displays table borders. Yet, some borders, for example “dot-dash” borders, or too thin borders could not be displayed properly because of html-rendering limitations.

  • Some formatting options are ignored by DiffViewer.

  • If the column widths of spreadsheets are not sized to show the entire text or set to wrap text, the numbering on the rows in Diff Viewer may not line up perfectly.

  • Worksheet is often abbreviated as "sheet". As in Excel, the UI displays a list of tabs at the bottom of the workbook for switching between worksheets. Only one worksheet is displayed at a time.

Review Formulas

By default, Collaborator evaluates formulas and displays the resulting values.

To review formulas on the entire spreadsheet, disable the Evaluate Formulas option of the Display panel. In this case, all spreadsheet cells will display their formulas (if any) instead of the resulting value.

To review formula of some particular cell, select the cell and toggle the Evaluate Formula button in the cell detail pane.

Display Options

The Display panel has specific options for spreadsheet review.

  • When the Evaluate Formulas option is enabled spreadsheets will only show the evaluated results of the formulas, not the formulas itself. This setting affects the entire spreadsheet. To evaluate formulas for the selected cell, you can use the Evaluate Formula button in the cell detail pane.
  • When the Ignore Empty Cells option is enabled Diff Viewer does not highlight addition and deletion of empty cells.

Make Comments and Mark Defects

On the left of the main Diff Viewer page, there is a pane for chat threads, where you can view and make comments and mark defects that should be fixed. When reviewing spreadsheets, you can create global, annotation, overall for file revision and cell comments and defects.

To comment on a specific cell within a spreadsheet, click the desired cell in the content view, type your comment in the text box and click Add. To add defects, click the desired cell in the content view, type the defect description, click Add as defect and fill-in the required fields. Comment and defect description could be in plain-text or use rich-text and Markdown formatting, they could also mention other Collaborator users.

Conversations on cells are displayed in alphabetical order by sheet name, not in the sheet order found in the version content. In the example above, conversations for "ROI Calculation Worksheet" would come before "Summary" work sheet. The name of the chat includes the name of the sheet followed by the location of the cell being discussed. For example, Summary!C10.

Spreadsheets can have content that displays, for example, in cell E5 of the original version and in cell G7 of the reviewed version. The Diff Viewer recognizes these changes, promotes comments to correct places in the newer version and navigates the Before and After panes independently to make this content visible during the review.

Cell comments and defects

Click the image to enlarge it.

To learn more about communicating during the reviews, see Types of Review Comments and Defects and Review Chats, Comments, and Defects topics.

See Also

Review Materials
Diff Viewer

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