Ability Spreadsheet

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File Format
Name Ability Spreadsheet
Extension(s) .aws, .ast
Released 1994

Ability Spreadsheet (AWS for documents, AST for templates) is the native format of the Spreadsheet program in the Ability Office suite, though this program also supports some other, more widely-used formats.

Templates appear to be in a similar format to documents, though slightly larger.

Current versions of Ability Spreadsheet can read and write files of the current 6.x format and earlier 4.x and 1.5 formats.

In the 6.x format, the characters of text within the spreadsheet appear to be in a 16-bit encoding, little-endian; probably 16-bit Unicode or UTF-16 (ASCII characters show up as their normal values with extra 00 bytes between them to fill out the 16 bits). This is similar to Ability Write. The 4.x format (as with Ability Write) seems to store only ASCII, in 8 bits. However, oddly, the 1.5 format (as seen when you save a file that way in the current program) seems to have 16-bit Unicode, meaning they perhaps started that way, reverted to ASCII, then resumed Unicode use later. Or else the 1.5 save format doesn't work correctly and the files won't really work in that old version.

The format appears to be a variety of the OLE2 Microsoft Compound File.



Files appear to begin with the hex bytes D0 CF 11 E0 A1 B1 1A E1. However, so do files in Ability Write, so you can't easily tell the difference other than by file extension. And it seems that other OLE2 files do as well, so it isn't actually distinctive.

See also

Sample files

  • Spread1.aws - Test document in Ability Spreadsheet 1.x format
  • Spread4.aws - Test document in Ability Spreadsheet 4.x format
  • Spread6.aws - Test document in Ability Spreadsheet 6.x format
  • Spread6.ast - Test template in Ability Spreadsheet 6.x format
  • cashflow.aws - Another 6.x document; sample cash flow spreadsheet

Other links

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