FEC Reports overwhelm Excel. Maybe it’s time to learn a real program …

Dan Toffey sent me a link to today’s Politico report that the Obama and Clinton campaign have reshaped campaign finance in an unexpected way: the reports are so large that they overwhelm the capacities of Excel to process the data.

Excel is limited to 65,536 rows and 256 columns, but the most recent reports are larger than that.

The reporter writes: : If you want to comb through Obama or Clinton’s cash, you either need to divide and import their reports section-by-section (a time-consuming and mind-numbing process) or purchase a more powerful database application, such as Microsoft Access or Microsoft Excel 2007, both of which retail for $229.

Data geek alert! There is a cheaper option: R, a free statistical software widely used by statisticians, political scientists, biostatisticians, and others. There are graphical front ends for R. Every data analysis and data display option you’d want is available. And I’m sure it won’t be long before some enterprising soul posts the data input code for R.

For those who are wed to Excel, maybe it’s time to learn a real data processing program!

A final editorial comment to the Politico: “Lotus 1-2-3”?? Who is younger than 40 that even remembers this program? Does anyone still use it? (I guess they import their 1-2-3 spreadsheets into AmiPro!) Why don’t you really trot out your nerd credentials and refer to Visicalc?