Some uses of portable spectrometers require the same quality as laboratory instruments. Such quality is challenging because of temperature and humidity variation, dust, and vibration. Typically, one chooses materials and mechanical layout to minimize the influence of these noise and background sources. Mechanical stability is constrained by limits on instrument mass and ergonomics. An alternative approach is to make minimally adequate hardware, compensating for variability in software. We describe an instrument developed specifically to use software to compensate for marginal hardware. An initial instantiation of the instrument is limited to 430 – 700 nm. Simple changes will allow expansion to cover 315 – 1000 nm. Outside this range, costs are likely to increase significantly. Inherent wavelength calibration comes from knowing the peak emission wavelength of an LED light source, and fitting of instrument dispersion to a model of order placement with each measurement. Dynamic range is determined by the product of camera response and intentionally wide throughput variation among hundreds of diffraction orders. Resolution degrades gracefully at low light levels, but is limited to ~ 2 nm at high light levels as initially fabricated and ~ 1 nm in principle. Stray light may be measured in real-time. Diffuse stray light can be employed for turbidimetry fluorimetry, and to aid compensation of working curve nonlinearity. While unsuitable for, Raman spectroscopy, the instrument shows promise for absorption, fluorescence, reflectance, and surface plasmon resonance spectrometries. To aid non-expert users, real-time training, measurement sequencing, and outcome interpretation are programmed with QR codes or web-linked instructions.