Google Spreadsheets

August 28th, 2006

I’ve been fooling around a bit with Google Spreadsheets recently, and I expect that I’ll be using them more in the future. While they’re still in the lab, however, there are a few things I’d like to see on the burner.

  • It would be nice to be able to track changes, a la writeboard, especially those made by other users.

  • It’s not quite obvious that you can go beyond the default 100 rows. You can insert more than one row at a time if you have more than one row selected, but if you have an ongoing project to keep adding to, it can be a bit annoying to keep stopping to insert rows. Not a really big deal I guess, but it breaks up “the flow.”

  • I haven’t had occasion yet to use more formulas than “sum,” but it appears that there’s a generous helping of them available. That’s a good thing, but I can’t find any assistance on syntax in the support pages. In my experience, syntax is similar but not identical in different spreadsheet software (e.g. where MS Excel uses commas, OpenOffice Calc uses semi-colons). I’m pretty sure I could figure out formulas I’m already fairly familiar with, but I find it easier to use my existing software to look up formulas I use less often than to look them up online in the absence of an easily googleable comprehensive list.

  • Spreadsheets are printable if you use “Get HTML” and print them as a webpage, but if you need a hard copy that’s more presentable, you still need to download it into your own software to format it any further.

  • I find myself mainly using Calc to create and edit spreadsheets, and then uploading and downloading them to and from google as necessary. As the main asset of web-based spreadsheets is, as googleblog pointed out, the ability to share and collaborate on a single document without the annoyance or risk of passing around multiple, out of sync copies, it’s a bit unfair to expect this or other Web 2.0-type office applications to be out-and-out replacements of their desk-top bound kin. In that case, all but the first of my points (tracking changes) don’t really matter. But then again, if I do all my work in other software and download and upload it, replacing the previous version entirely each time, I’m guessing that the potential to track changes becomes a very different matter.

    Anyway, it still seems more useful than not for collaborative projects.

    8 Responses to “Google Spreadsheets”

    1. Cliff Says:

      Hi, I am Cliff from EditGrid. Besides Google Spreadsheets which taken the “light application” approach, EditGrid work in a different direction may be more suit your needs~

      - EditGrid provide you with “revision history”, allows you to track your changes made, and rollback to any version in the history.

      - It supports up to 65535 rows.

      - Provide help and full documentation for the spreadsheet functions

      - Can import .xls, csv, .gnumeric, .123 and export .xls, .csv, .html and .tex

      - Comprehensive format support for all number format

      I invite you to give EditGrid a try~

    2. Karen Says:

      Oh no, more stuff I know nothing about!

    3. becky Says:

      Thanks, Cliff – I’ll definitely check out EditGrid.

    4. Cliff Says:

      You’re welcome~

    5. Sophmom Says:

      That’s very helpful. I am going to try this. I need to maintain an online database (no formulas) that will be shared by numerous folks in remote locations (Atlanta, Indiana and West Virginia) and this seems like a perfect solution. Given that I already have the password protected website page(s), can I set up the Google Spreadsheet and post it on these pages? I know you might not know the answer. I talked to Alan briefly and he emailed me. I just haven’t gotten around to it since I got back. My client is probably about to fire me for not having this done yet (I hope not).

      It was really nice seeing you this weekend. Everyone did such a great job putting that on.

    6. becky Says:

      Hi Sophmom, it was nice meeting you last weekend. I really like the sharing potential for Google Spreadsheets. I’m sure you can create a spreadsheet and post a link on your site, but I think that you still have to specifically invite other people via email for them to be able to edit and/or view it. It sounds like that would work well for you, since you need restricted access anyway. Once you’ve shared it, they should be able to visit it whenever they want. Another nice feature is that you can decide whether they have editing privileges, or just viewing, so they can’t add or change anything. It was really easy to upload an existing spreadsheet, so if you’ve already got something working you could get it online almost instantly. It’s easy to download too, so if your users need a copy they can print and/or use offline they shouldn’t have any trouble.

      I still want to try EditGrid too, but I haven’t had much time lately to experiment enough to do it justice.

      If you try either one out, I’d love to know what you think and how it works for your clients.

    7. Jonas Says:

      I’m writing about webapplications on my blog. Just wanted to let you know that Google has added some new features to their Google Spreadsheets application. See my blog for more details.

    8. becky Says:

      Thanks, Jonas. PDF, ODF, print, and sharing without an invitation are all things of special interest to me – I expect I’ll be playing around with google spreadsheets some more shortly.