Lotus Improv was the second, lesser-known spreadsheet developed by Lotus Corp.. The first was, of course, Lotus 1-2-3, the first "killer app" for the IBM PC.

Improv came a bit later. Lotus gave a group of developers the task of coming up with interface ideas to make spreadsheets easier to use. A next generation spreadsheet was created around their ideas. Improv version 1.0 was released exclusively for the NeXT platform in February of 1991. Just like the NeXT, Improv was a revolutionary reimplementation of an old concept.

Improv allowed users to name and catagorize the columns and rows of their spreadsheets. The formulas could use the meaningful names of the items like "= Income - Expenses", rather than arbitrary cell names like "= A1 - B2". You could also create multiple views of one set of data by dragging your catagories into new configurations. The ability to quickly see data from different perspectives was completely unique at the time, and it still outshines today's spreadsheet programs.

Improv won rave reviews throughout the press, even from the PC magazines that didn't usually touch non-PC hardware and software. But people weren't ready to shell out for a 10k NeXT system just to run this program. The Lotus marketing machine was also reluctant to allow this risky new program to cannibalize the 1-2-3 cash cow.

Improv 2.0 was eventually released, this time supporting Windows 3.1. But between being squeezed internally by 1-2-3, externally by Excel and Quattro Pro, and the general shakedown of office suite software, Improv was doomed to fade into obscurity.