A research report by three software engineering students at the University of Stuttgart has ranked Rainbow Analyst as number 1 among spreadsheet auditing tools costing less than 200 euros. As you can see from the summary table on p.41 of the report (shown above), Rainbow Analyst scored 22 points overall, compared with scores of 9 and 16 for two other tools. And this was based on Rainbow version 5.1, which falls well behind the current version 7.2 in functionality and ease of use.
The report was commissioned by a German company which is an industrial partner of the University of Stuttgart, and it looked in total at 14 different spreadsheet auditing tools. Eleven of these were ruled out because they failed one or more of the following preselection criteria:
- Must be fully automatic, i.e. search for and report on potential errors rather than simply assist manual auditing.
- Must cost not more than 1,000 euros for five licences.
- Must be compatible with Excel 2003 (which is why the test looked at Rainbow 5.1, not 7.2).
- Must enable checking for unprotected (unlocked) formula cells.
The remaining three tools (including Rainbow Analyst 5.1) were evaluated on the following criteria, as shown in the summary table above and on p.41 of the report:
- Configurability – the extent to which different tests can be individually configured.
- Format checking – whether the formatting of cells can be checked for compliance with a prescribed set of formatting standards.
- Presentation of findings – whether the tool both highlights cells and generates a report.
- Language of the user interface (in fact all the tools were in English).
- Ease of use – based on the number of steps required to perform tests, and how users rated the tools in practice.
- Learning curve – how long it took users to become familiar with the tools.
- Assessment by the industrial partner company – how useful the company felt the tools would be for them.
Obviously the scores reflect a very specific set of criteria, and for instance Rainbow Analyst scored highly against the other two tools because it presents its findings in a way that exactly met the criteria of the report. But it says a lot for Rainbow Analyst that even though the test was on version 5.1, it scored the maximum 2 points on the broader criteria of ease of use and overall assessment by the partner company.