The bloody insurgency that has been waged for nearly a decade by molecular biologists against Microsoft over MS Excel’s auto-formatting feature has ended with an unconditional surrender by the biologist camp.
Excel’s auto-formatting feature, which is active by default, wreaks havoc on gene names entered into the software, converting them to dates and floating-point numbers. The feature regularly enrages even the most mellow of researchers by corrupting their data and embarrassing them publicly.
The bloodshed was precipitated in 2007 when Excel support team-member Gene Munger was overheard making the off-hand comment, “But all you have to do is type a single quote in front of each entry, and then Excel won’t change it!”. The research community responded with biological weapon attacks on Microsoft HQ, however these turned out to be probiotics, as someone had used Excel to record the location of their bacteria in the freezer. Microsoft has steadfastly refused to allow users to permanently switch off autoformatting, their only comment on the matter being that they “will never negotiate with biologists”.
After suffering a series of setbacks in recent months, including the revelation that 19.6% of gene name lists published alongside journal papers contain Excel-induced errors, the biologists unconditionally capitulated yesterday, agreeing to officially change all gene names to dates so that they will be Excel-compatible. “It will be a lot of work to go back through all published papers and rename all the genes to dates” said a downcast Tobin Malosovic, representing the biologist faction, “but the only alternative Microsoft gave us was to use R”.
The war has taken a heavy toll.
On the biologist’s side, several research teams have perished attempting to storm the monolithic Microsoft headquarters, having fallen to their deaths or succumbed to exposure before they were able to find any entry or exit points.
On Microsoft’s side, two software engineers were momentarily distracted from their work when they first found out about the conflict on The Allium, but will no doubt move on to viewing cat videos online pretty soon.
(This article was submitted by an avid reader of The Allium).