OpenSolver for Google Sheets 2.3.0 (2 April 2017)

Today we are releasing an update to OpenSolver for Google Sheets that includes a new solver: the SolveEngine from Satalia

The update will roll out over the next day or so, and you will then be able to access the SolveEngine in the list of available solvers. The first time you use the solver, you will be prompted to enter your SolveEngine API key, which you can obtain by creating an account using the link in the prompt. This is the beta version of the SolveEngine, which will be free during the beta period. After the beta has ended, users will receive 1 hour of free solving time per month. There will be no queuing during the beta, and after the beta there will be a short queuing time for free users.

The SolveEngine is a cloud-based system, similar to NEOS except with more powerful solvers and much shorter queue times. We hope that it will prove a useful and powerful alternative to the other solvers we offer, and have plans to also offer it in OpenSolver for Excel in the coming future.

SolveEngine Overview

The SolveEngine boasts many features that make it a powerful tool for solving a variety of optimisation problems, notably:

  • A single gateway to a portfolio of solvers;
  • Modern optimisation translators and encoding that give access to a wider range of algorithms;
  • No licence to manage and nothing to install;
  • Distributed cloud computation that enables dynamic resource allocation to accommodate complex and large problems;
  • Machine learning which matches the right algorithms to the problems it receives, improving itself over time.

Users of the SolveEngine benefit from :

  • Access to a constantly evolving portfolio of algorithms, designed to solve problems such as:
    • Boolean Satisfiability problem (SAT)
    • Linear programming (LP)
    • Mixed integer linear programming (MILP)
  • Free solving time (1 hour) after account creation;
  • Free Academic usage;
  • Access to cutting-edge algorithms from academia, and in doing so, supporting academics to commercialise and further develop their algorithmic innovations;
  • Direct access to time honored and also newly developed commercial algorithms;
  • Built-in translators, which means that there is no strict limit to the number of problem formats that can accepted by the SolveEngine and allows for human readable inputs such as GLPK to be submitted;
  • The capability of the SolveEngine to run many solvers in parallel using sophisticated pre-processing and pipelining techniques which identify the most promising routes through to solving the problem faster;
  • Submission of various problems and concurrency of problem solving in a scalable manner;
  • Access to a community of optimisation/modelling experts for support.

Optimisation problems exist across the entire spectrum of business, science and engineering. The SolveEngine has already been used to solve many hard computational problems in graph theory, logistics, system verification, BigData and cryptography.

Satalia Overview

Satalia is a spin-out from the UCL Department of Computer Science. Satalia’s team of academics and artificial intelligence experts harness a library of algorithms, hosted in the SolveEngine, to help companies and organisations solve the world’s most difficult problems. In 2016 Satalia was recognised in the elite Gartner Cool Vendors in Data Science list, the only UK company chosen.

Satalia’s commitment to continued innovation in algorithm development underpins the SolveEngine model through which academics and commercial solver developers can deploy their solvers to the SolveEngine to address the current and emerging requirements of industry and research communities. Providing access to state-of-the-art optimisation algorithms, Satalia enables the industry to analyse problems inputs more efficiently and thus to solve their problems more rapidly.

OpenSolver 2.8.6 (6 Mar 2017)

We have released OpenSolver version 2.8.6 which fixes various bugs:

  • We have updated the URL for NEOS so these solvers will work again
  • Made changes to support Gurobi v7
  • Set worksheet calculation in the OpenSolver file to automatic to avoid setting it to manual for the entire Excel session when OpenSolver is loaded. Thanks to the users that reported this issue.
  • Other minor bugfixes

You can get the new version here.

As always, please let us know about any issues you might have, or features you would like to see in future releases!

250k milestone

Today the download odometer rolled past another milestone:

Thanks to all our users and our development team (and most recently Jack Dunn) for supporting OpenSolver for the last 6 years. None of this would have been possible without the solvers from COIN-OR; thanks to John Forrest and Ted Ralphs for the many years of CBC development, without which the OpenSolver project would never have started.

Andrew

Fantasy Football – from OpenSolver to Cloud optimiser

This blog by Derek Nelson shows how he built an OpenSolver model for fantasy football that worked well for him. “My optimizer was created using Excel with the Open Solver add-in. This worked for me and the results were good. Namely, I had the highest projected points for my teams at the start of the season in both leagues I played in (the best you can hope for in the draft, in my opinion), and I ended the season by winning one league and placing second in the other.”

Derek has now gone on to create a cloud-based version of this. This work is an interesting optimisation-based project.

OpenSolver for Google Sheets 2.2.1 (25 July 2016)

Today we are releasing OpenSolver for Google Sheets 2.2.1, which is a very minor update with changes to improve our support for larger models.

Any script running in Google Apps Script has a strict 6-minute time limit while running, and is immediately cut off with no feedback if this limit is reached. It can often take longer than this to build the OpenSolver models if they are large, so we save the model-building progress as we go. If the build is stopped early, we can simply resume the solve from where we last saved the progress. Previously, this would occur the next time the “Solve” button was clicked. With this update, the solve is now automatically resumed if it is cut off, meaning that there is no need to click the “Solve” button repeatedly to build larger models piece-by-piece.

The other important change in this release is a new mechanism for saving the progress as we build the model. Previously we used the Google Apps Script CacheService to store the updates, but this limits the saved data to 100 KB which is too small for larger models. This update changes our behaviour to instead save the progress to a new hidden sheet in the workbook, allowing us to save much larger models.

Other minor changes include:

  • A bug where the costs were not loading correctly when resuming the solve has been fixed.
  • Error messages now contain the stack trace for better debugging.

If you already use OpenSolver for Google Sheets, the update will roll out automatically. If you are not yet a user, you can add it to Google Sheets using the link below:

As always, we welcome any feedback or ideas. We are coming up on a big milestone of 10,000 weekly active users for the Google Sheets addon, and are very happy to see that it is proving useful! If you find it useful, we would appreciate if you could rate us in the Chrome Webstore and/or leave a review for others.

Cool OpenSolver Applications

I recently received a nice email from Andrew Trapp, Assistant Professor, School of Business, Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Andrew has been using OpenSolver and SolverStudio in his student projects. He writes:

I’m writing to first of all thank you for the excellent software tools that you make, OpenSolver and SolverStudio, that I have been using and featuring for 4 years now in my optimization courses. They have also been used in a number of “senior design” projects that I have advised (specifically, OpenSolver in conjunction with VBA…)

Andrew’s OpenSolver projects look very interesting, and show how OpenSolver can be used in practical applications. The reports are available online, as follows:

Andrew

OpenSolver for Google Sheets v2.2.0 (18 April 2016)

Today we are releasing OpenSolver for Google Sheets 2.2.0, which is a minor update with the following changes:

  • We have added support for early stopping in GLPK. If your problem is taking a while to solve and you are satisfied with the quality of the best solution that has been found so far, you can stop the solve and OpenSolver will load this solution into the sheet. To stop a solve early, just click the “Cancel solve and use current best solution” button.
  • When solving a “Target Objective” problem, we now try to minimize the deviation from the target rather than making the target a hard constraint. Previously, if the target was hard or impossible to reach, the solver may have taken a long time to finish. Coupled with the early stopping in GLPK, you can now stop the solve early if you see that the solution is close enough to your desired target. We will be adopting this approach in OpenSolver for Excel in the very near future.

If you already use OpenSolver for Google Sheets, the update will roll out automatically. If you are not yet a user, you can add it to Google Sheets using the link below:

As always, we welcome any feedback or ideas.

OpenSolver for Google Sheets v2.1.0 (15 April 2016)

Today we are releasing version 2.1.0 of OpenSolver for Google Sheets! This is a minor update that brings the following changes:

  • We have added support for the GLPK solver. You can now solve problems in your browser using the open-source GLPK solver, via glpk.js by Henri Gourvest. This solver runs in the browser on your computer rather than on a cloud server, so is typically much faster than the alternatives and we heavily recommend choosing it in place of Cbc via NEOS. Please let us know if you find this useful!
  • The linearity check now occurs before solving, in order to catch non-linearities before spending time solving the model. We recently changed the linearity check in OpenSolver for Excel to be much more robust and better at detecting non-linearity, and we are pleased to roll these changes out to Google Sheets as well.
  • Bugfixes:
    • Fixed bug where dialogs could time out before they finished loading.
    • Fixed sheet-scoping issue when storing constraints in multi-sheet models.

There is more information about the Google Sheets addon here on the dedicated page.

If you already use the addon, the update will automatically roll out. If you haven’t used it before, you can try it out here:

Update on Google’s Linear Solver

Google’s LinearOptimizationService has been fixed as of earlier today, so the Google Linear Solver should be working again. We are happy to now offer two additional solvers in case this happens again. It took over two weeks for Google to fix this bug, which is very frustrating for all of us, and hopefully is a problem we will be able to avoid in future!

Feedback and Issues

OpenSolver for Google Sheets is younger and less mature than the Excel version, so does not yet have the full range of features as in the Excel version. There are also a lot of possibilities that are created by the online aspect of Google Sheets (such as sharing sheets and multiple users on a sheet at once). This means there are many new features to consider and add to the addon as it evolves over time.

If you have any feature requests or experience any problems while using it, please let us know either here or by using the “Report an Issue” button inside Google Sheets (you can find this in “Add-ons > OpenSolver > Help”). If you use “Report an Issue”, please make sure that you include your contact details, otherwise there is no way for us to follow up!

We are always interested to hear how you are using OpenSolver, and in particular if you find the Google Sheets version useful (because we can”t count downloads, we have much less user information on the number of Google Sheets users). This allows us to balance the time we spend developing the Excel and Google Sheets versions according to user demand.

If you like the Google Sheets addon, please consider rating us in the store and/or leaving us a review, which will help other users find out about OpenSolver!