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Spreadsheets save time and provide both flexibility in presentation and accuracy of calculations as compared to the use of calculators or pen and paper. A spreadsheet allows for instant calculations using formulas and is easy to use, alter, store and print data.

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The arrangement of data into columns and rows creates intersections called cells. Data is input into the spreadsheet in the form of numbers, strings or formulas. This allows for instant calculation and also recalculation of data as numbers are input or changed.

The capacity to introduce mathematical formulas also allows for forecasting. Numbers can be modified to calculate what the results would be under different circumstances, which is a function commonly used by businesses to predict potential developments. It may also be used with other types of data, including scientific and statistical, to test a hypothesis.

Data can be arranged various ways depending on the user's needs, and it can be directly copied and pasted into a spreadsheet from other sources in some cases. Spreadsheet programs allow the user to easily change the appearance of the spreadsheet, including column width, row height, font color and color of the spreadsheet itself.

The user can choose to work with or print a whole spreadsheet or specify a particular area, called a "range".

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Popular examples of productivity software include word processing programs, graphic design programs, presentation software and finally spreadsheet software, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite and Google Docs. "Productivity software" refers to almost any program used for creating and editing documents, presentations or media.

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An accountant uses a spreadsheet to carry out complex calculations quickly through the use of cell functions. This is particularly helpful if the data in a column continually change because it saves time. If a formula is already plugged in with cell numbers, the final figure updates automatically.

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Some combined time and distance flight calculators, such as at AirplaneManager.com, include wind speed in calculations to determine estimated flight time. Distance-only flight calculators do not include wind speed as they measure only distance, which wind does not alter.