I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to try out Google’s Limited Test of it’s new Google Spreadsheets web app. At first glance, I must say I was fairly impressed with what I saw. Here’s what I found.
A lot of effort has gone into replicating the user experience we’ve all come to expect from Microsoft Excel who currently
possesses a dominant market share. Intuitive behaviour such as pressing shift and using the arrow keys or clicking and dragging to select cells and double clicking or pressing F2 to edit a cell have been faithfully recreated. Finding your way around is pretty straight forward too, you’ve got three main tabs: format, sort and formula which are pretty self explanatory. You also have buttons for cut, copy, paste, undo and redo which are always there on the right hand side of the the toolbar.
A lot of the basic functionality you’d expect from a spreadsheet is included. For example, you can format cell content to be displayed as dates, dollars, etc… and you also have access to standard font styling features such as size, family, bold, italics, colour, etc… What’s missing is the famous “auto sum” button (represented by the Greek letter Sigma “Σ”) but you can just as easily click below your cells, click on “sum” in the toolbar and then click and drag your mouse over the cells you want to add up. Sure, it’s the same as doing it in Excel and it isn’t as fast as clicking the Sigma button, but hey, it’s still pretty quick.
I could put in more time and include a bunch more screen shots, but it’s a quarter to one in the morning and I’m going to have to wake up in four hours to get ready for work so here’s a quick summary of what Google Spreadsheets has to offer.
- Uses RPC (Ajax) to persist every change you make, presumably to ensure you don’t lose anything
- You can share your document by inviting others to either come view or edit your work
- You strangely don’t have search functionality (something I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t catch until I very quickly skimmed over Terminally Incoherent’s review)
- Allows you to import .xls and .csv files (Excel killer mayhaps?)
- There are no context menus
- You can’t draw borders around cells (though you can change their background colours)
- You can insert/delete rows and columns
- There isn’t a separate field (that I could find) where you can edit your formulas. Everything is done in the cell
- Cells automatically expand in height depending on the size of their contents
- You can click and drag column widths and row heights but you can’t double-click to get them to snap
- You can freeze up to 5 rows
- A document can have multiple sheets accessible via tabs at the bottom of the page (just like in Excel)
And there you have it, a first glance at Google Spreadsheets. I’d like to be able to invite someone to view/edit a document and see how that works out. Any takers?
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