Frontline Systems Releases Next-Generation Solver Add-in for Optimization in Excel Online and Excel 2016

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Solver, 27-year-old favorite advanced analytics tool, is re-imagined for modern desktop, tablet and cloud use.

Cloud-based Solver for Excel Online and Excel 2016

New Solver in Excel Online

In our third-generation free version for cloud use, we’ve greatly extended Solver’s flexibility and power for everyone.

Frontline Systems, developer of the ‘classic Solver’ add-in that ships with desktop Microsoft Excel, has released a cloud-based, free Solver add-in that works equally well in desktop Excel 2016 and Excel Online – and handles the smallest to the largest, most challenging optimization models. Users can obtain Solver immediately from Microsoft AppSource. Over 100,000 existing “cloud Solver” users will receive the new version automatically.

“Today Frontline offers tools for the full spectrum of predictive and prescriptive analytics, but we’re still best known for Solver,” said Daniel Fylstra, president of Frontline Systems. “In our third-generation free version for cloud use, we’ve greatly extended Solver’s flexibility and power for everyone.”

Earliest Tool for Prescriptive Analytics is a Perennial Favorite

The Excel Solver, developed by Frontline in 1989, was first introduced in 1990 as part of Microsoft’s launch of Excel 3.0 and Windows 3.0 – partly in answer to the then-popular Lotus 1-2-3/G, which featured its own Solver tool, and Borland Quattro Pro, which had its own linear programming tool. Both Borland and Lotus later adopted Solver versions created by Frontline to replace their own tools. Twenty years later, the INFORMS professional society cited the “the overwhelming success and impact of Solver” when awarding Frontline its 2010 Impact Prize.

Solver has always been popular with Excel users – to the extent that, when Excel 2008 for Mac was released without VBA or Solver, an outcry from users led Microsoft to work with Frontline to quickly “bring back Solver” for Excel 2008, in a form that didn’t depend on VBA. Frontline’s Solver for Excel Online, one of the first-released “modern add-ins” in July 2013, enhanced in December 2015, and adopted by over 100,000 users, is now in its third generation in September 2017.

New Solver Features Touch-Friendly UI, Model Diagnosis, Scaled-Up Solving Power

Solver pioneered an easy-to-use interface for turning an ordinary spreadsheet “what-if” model into an optimization model – using dialog boxes with the ability to either type cell coordinates or “point and click” with a mouse to fill in those coordinates. But Frontline’s “next-gen” Solver, designed for mobile devices and touch screens as well, appears in a “modeless” Task Pane to the right of the spreadsheet, where nearly all user selections are made and messages appear.

The ‘classic Solver’ in Excel handles optimization models of every type – linear programming and nonlinear optimization, and ‘arbitrary’ models solved via genetic and evolutionary algorithms. But users had to determine their problem type and select the right “solving method”. The new Solver does this automatically: With an algebraic “diagnosis” of the user’s formulas, it determines the model type, then selects the best “solving method,” from the three basic options to all twelve of Frontline’s Solver Engines for large problems.

The ‘classic Solver’ handles models of limited size for free; meanwhile Frontline has offered compatible Solver upgrade products to scale from hundreds to millions of simultaneous decisions. The new Solver makes this easier than ever: When users of the free version try to solve a model that’s too large, Solver will actually “solve it anyway” (subject to some CPU time limits on Frontline’s cloud servers), report the solution status and final objective, and offer an easy upgrade to get full solution results. Customers with Frontline’s upgrade products can simply login with their credentials, and immediately use their licenses to solve larger models with the new Solver in Excel 2016 or Excel Online.

Compatible with Past, Present and Future Analytic Tools

Solver models have remained “upward compatible” between basic Excel on Windows and Mac, and all of Frontline upgrade products for more than 25 years, enabling users to just “open their model and solve”. Today – thanks to RASON® – this compatibility extends much further: The same Solver model that works in desktop Excel not only works in Excel Online and Frontline’s Analytic Solver upgrade products – it can also yield results in modern data visualization tools like Tableau and Power BI.

RASON (RESTful Analytic Solver® Object Notation) – Frontline’s increasingly-popular modeling language that contains the entire Excel formula language, but is embedded in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) – makes it radically simple to move Excel analytic models virtually anywhere, including users’ own apps for desktop, server, web or mobile use. RASON makes it easy for Excel-savvy business analysts and developers using C++, C#, Java, R or Python to work together, to deploy analytic models in applications.

Frontline Systems Inc. ( is the leader in analytics for spreadsheets and the web, helping managers gain insights and make better decisions for an uncertain future. Its products integrate forecasting and data mining for “predictive analytics,” Monte Carlo simulation and risk analysis, and conventional and stochastic optimization for “prescriptive analytics.” Founded in 1987, Frontline is based in Incline Village, Nevada (775-831-0300).

Excel® and Power BI® are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Tableau® is a registered trademark of Tableau Software, Inc. Analytic Solver® and RASON® are registered trademarks of Frontline Systems, Inc.

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