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Lotus finds bugs in 1-2-3

Lotus posts a workaround for bugs in its 1-2-3 spreadsheet that can result in miscalculations.

The latest version of Lotus Development's 1-2-3 spreadsheet has bugs that could in rare instances make the program yield wrong results, the company said today.

The bugs appear in four "@" functions, a Lotus spokesman said. They appear to be resulting in miscalculations in spreadsheets with more than 500 columns where some cells have been left blank, the spokesman said.

Lotus shipped 1-2-3 97 a little over a month ago, but the bugs just surfaced this month. The company has posted workaround instructions on its Web site and plans to ship an 1-2-3 update that fixes the problem May 12.

The four affected functions are the internal rate of return, modified internal rate of return, net present value, and summation of every nth value.

The bugs in the spreadsheet--like the bugs that afflicted Intel's Pentium chip two years ago--will only result in wrong answers on very rare occasions. But they still raise questions about the reliability of an application designed with the sole purpose of calculating.

Lotus is trying to head off a public outcry over the bugs by being upfront with the public. Intel had initially downplayed the importance of the Pentium bug, but quickly had to change its tune when a public furor erupted over its handling of the bug. That lesson is still very fresh to companies with similar problems.

Once the best-selling spreadsheet in the industry, Lotus 1-2-3 is still arguably the most popular entry in the company's SmartSuite collection of applications. Microsoft's Office dominates roughly 90 percent of the suite market, with SmartSuite splitting the leftovers with Corel's WordPerfect Suite.

Lotus is a subsidiary of IBM.