Getting Started with AnalyticSolver.com

AnalyticSolver.com is a comprehensive, cloud-based SaaS toolkit for predictive and prescriptive analytics. It shares technology with Analytic Solver Platform, Frontline Systems' best-selling toolkit for desktop Excel: Both platforms offer a Ribbon user interface with three tabs featuring nearly-identical buttons and menus, and a Task Pane that summarizes models and provides access to Platform and Engine options. Both platforms use the same modeling languages (Excel formulas and our RASON® modeling language, handled by our PSI Interpreter), and use the same algorithmic "engines" for mathematical optimization, Monte Carlo simulation and risk analysis, forecasting, data mining and text mining. But there are some differences in how these two platforms are used.

This page provides getting started hints for analysts and learners who have used Analytic Solver Platform for desktop Excel. For full access to Analytic Solver Help, User Guides, over 100 example models, and technical support, register or login here, or on Solver.com. To access the SaaS application, click Analytic Solver in the top left.

Loading and Saving Workbooks

AnalyticSolver.com can open, use and save Excel workbooks (extension xlsx), comma-separated or other delimited text files (usually extension csv). It can also load data from SQL databases and Apache Spark Big Data clusters, as discussed later.

Generally, AnalyticSolver.com works with files stored "elsewhere" -- on your desktop or laptop, your network drives, or your cloud storage such as OneDrive. But you do have the ability to save files to your AnalyticSolver.com account, subject to certain size limits or storage charges, depending on your account type. These files are stored by our back-end RASONĀ® server; they are shown in a dropdown list on the Solver Home tab. When you open a file you can choose the source, and when you save a file you can choose the destination: your account, or "elsewhere".

Opening a Workbook: In Analytic Solver Platform, you open a workbook using Excel's File Open menu, or create a workbook with File New. To open a workbook in AnalyticSolver.com, click on the Solver Home tab, then click the Open button, or the New button to create a new one. When you click Open, you'll see two dropdown choices, From AnalyticSolver.com and From Other Sources. The first choice displays a list of files in your account; the second choice displays a File Open dialog through your browser. In this dialog, you can navigate folders and select a file on your desktop or laptop, network drive, OneDrive, etc. If you have unsaved work, you'll be prompted to save.

Saving a Workbook: In Analytic Solver Platform, you save a workbook using Excel's File Save menu option. To save a workbook in AnalyticSolver.com, click on the Solver Home tab, then click the Save button. You'll see two dropdown choices, To AnalyticSolver.com and To Other Sources. The first choice displays a dialog where you can edit the filename in your account; the second choice displays a File Save dialog through your browser. In this dialog, you can navigate folders and select a destination on your desktop or laptop, network drive, OneDrive, etc.

Workbook Changes in Memory: In Analytic Solver Platform, your workbook contents are stored in memory within Excel; you can make changes, but these changes won't be "persisted" until you use File Save in Excel. In AnalyticSolver.com, your workbook contents are stored in memory within your browser; you can make changes, but these changes won't be "persisted" until you use the Save button on the Solver Home tab. In either case, if you close the window without saving, you will lose your work. Note that pressing F5 or clicking the Refresh button in your browser has the same effect: All changes since you last saved will be lost.

Using the Spreadsheet Grid

The differences you will likely encounter most quickly involve using the spreadsheet itself. In Analytic Solver Platform, you are using "native Excel", which has many features for spreadsheet editing. In AnalyticSolver.com, you are using a spreadsheet-like grid, rendered in HTML and "powered by" JavaScript code. This grid has many common spreadsheet editing features, but it is not native Excel, and some common editing steps work differently.

Many basic steps are the same as Excel: You move from cell to cell with the arrow keys. You can type numbers like 123.45 and character strings such as ABC into cells, ending with the Enter key or an arrow key. If a single cell is selected and you press the Del key, its contents will be deleted; but at present, if multiple cells are selected and you press the Del key, nothing will happen. You can adjust column widths or row heights by clicking on the thin border between the columns and rows and dragging the mouse. Note that you can adjust the width of the left-edge row header like any other column, to ensure that row numbers fit well.

Inserting and Deleting: In Excel, you can insert or delete rows and columns by right-clicking on the left-edge row header or the top column header, and you can insert or delete worksheets by right-clicking on the worksheet tab at the bottom. In AnalyticSolver.com, none of these headers or tabs accept right-clicks -- but you can right-click on any cell in the grid, and use the context menu to insert or delete rows, columns, and worksheets.

Referencing Cells and Copying Formulas

Referencing Cells: In Excel, when you want to refer to a cell or cell range, you can either type A1 (or an "absolute cell reference" such as $A$1) or a range such as A1:A5, or you can "point, click and drag" the mouse to select the cell or cell range. In AnalyticSolver.com, you must type A1, $A$1 or A1:A5 -- you cannot "point, click and drag" (at least not yet). This applies in formula entry, and also in dialog boxes when you want to refer to a cell or cell range.

Copying Formulas: You often want to copy or "replicate" formulas, where "relative cell references" are automatically adjusted, and absolute cell reference are copied literally. In Excel, if you select a cell or cell range and press Ctrl+C, then select another cell or cell range and press Ctrl+V, relative cell references in the range are automatically adjusted. In AnalyticSolver.com, you can use Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to copy numbers and strings, but cell references will not be automatically adjusted. However, you can do this:

This will copy the formula in the same way as Excel, where relative cell references are automatically adjusted, and absolute cell reference are copied literally. (In Excel, you can drag a small box at bottom right of a cell outline, but you cannot do this in AnalyticSolver.com.)

Using Operators and Functions

In AnalyticSolver.com, you enter a formula starting with =, and use cell references like A1 or $A$1, numbers like 123.45, Boolean values true or false, and strings like "ABC" in your formulas. You can use nearly any Excel built-in function, from the common SUM, SUMPRODUCT, ABS, IF and LOOKUP functions to text functions like CONCATENATE, engineering functions like ERFC, and financial functions like IRR (of these, note that only SUM and SUMPRODUCT are useful in linear programming). You can also use over 100 custom Psi functions that also work in Analytic Solver Platform for Excel, such as PsiNormal and PsiMean used in Monte Carlo simulation. But there are some "exotic" Excel functions that cannot be used, such as CELL, HYPERLINK or CUBEVALUE.

When your model is calculated and displayed in Excel, your formulas are interpreted by Excel's own formula interpreter. But during optimizations and simulations in Analytic Solver Platform, Frontline's PSI interpreter, which closely matches Excel but is much faster, is used. In AnalyticSolver.com, the PSI interpreter is always used to calculate formula values. This occurs automatically when you enter or change numbers or formulas, but you may see a slight lag before cell values update, since this involves a "round-trip" between your browser and the server.

One difference is that array formulas, entered in cell ranges via Ctrl+Shift+Enter and displayed with surrounding { braces }, and array constants such as {1,2,3} or {1;2;3} cannot be used in AnalyticSolver.com. (These are supported by the PSI interpreter, but not yet by the spreadsheet grid.)