Google Spreadsheets: The Online Collaboration Tool from Google

Picture this: One person works on an excel file. Then he sends it to another person for review. Second person reviews the file and sends it back. Then the original author sends it to a larger audience. Each one of them makes changes in their copy, and sends it back to the author. The author then compiles all the changes together and wow the final excel is ready. It just took a few rounds of iterations, a few days of sending back and forth and the final excel is ready.

I know a lot of you would have wished it might happen in some way like this: Author creates the excel as an online file which is stored at a central repository and authorized users from around the world can access the file. Multiple users work on the file together and final excel is ready in no time.

Bless you, it is possible now. Google seems to be reading what is in your mind and turning out solutions as per your needs. And the latest from their stable is Google Spreadsheets. Google Spreadsheets is an online spreadsheet. It is a web based spreadsheet product from Google that makes it a lot easier for people to create, store, share and collaborate spreadsheets on the web.

This is what Google has to say regarding Google Spreadsheets:
“Google Spreadsheets is a web-based spreadsheet product from Google that makes it easier for people to create and share spreadsheets on the web. It enables people to create simple web-based spreadsheets that others can simultaneously update from their own computers. It’s a free, secure service that will save people the hassle of manually consolidating spreadsheets from others – a tedious and mind-numbing task.”

You create a login for Google Spreadsheets and you can immediately start using it. There is no software to download, and it is completely free (and till now, I am surprised to see that it is free from ads too. But that may not last long.)

When you open Google Spreadsheets you come across an easy to use excel like interface. It does not resembles Excel in latest Office version, but more resembles the preliminary Excel ( and that’s what actually this is!). The excels that you create are stored in your name on Google’s servers. You can login from any computer and work on an excel that you have created. Personally, this was the reason that forced me to use this service. I maintain a big list of all my contacts in an excel, and found it hard to maintain the same version at my home as well as my office. Now I use this service and life is a whole lot easier.
The best part is that you can access this from anywhere because it is online, and there is no need to install any software to use this service. Now you do not need to carry your files around. Just go online and access them.

This all seems to be so good, and you might be wondering that why do you need Microsoft Excel now. For those users who use excels just to store some numbers and do primitive calculations, this service works best. In can replace Microsoft Excel in that respect. But if you use any advanced features of excel, such as multiple-page calculations, cross-tab features, and programmability, it looks like Google will come up short.

However, Google spreadsheets are best used as a tool for online collaboration. Soon they will have a built-in chat client that will let a lot of people work together on the same sheet. In terms of collaboration, it beats the hell out of excel. In fact, up to 50 people at any one time may now edit or view any single Google spreadsheet!!

Google Spreadsheets is still in its infancy. It is not as advanced as Microsoft Excel simply because it has just started. However, knowing Google, it would be furiously working towards its shortcomings to beat its veteran rival. But this time Microsoft also has not been sitting quiet. It has responded by launching Microsoft Office Live, a set of collaboration tools built right into Office. The difference being you have to pay huge sums to use Microsoft Office, and Google as always remains completely free. Let’s wait for some more time and let these two biggies come up with their best products. Meanwhile, I am sitting tight and updating my contact sheet in Google Spreadsheets. For the time being, that would pretty much satisfy me.

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