I just got my invite to play with the latest offering from Google, the Google Spreadsheets and my initial reaction after playing with it for the past hour is incredibly positive. Unlike some of the duds Google has launched recently, this is a pretty nice, robust and useful offering.
I started off by creating a simple spreadsheet and tried out some simple formulas and it worked – I shouldn’t be surprised but I was. Tying in =(a1 – a2) actually worked and that’s pretty cool. Here are 2 simple screen-shots from my playing with the formula.
After I hit enter, the results are plopped into the cell.
The other neat thing was that the formula was saved in my document and the numbers updated when I changed one of the columns involved in the formula. I know it sounds pretty simple but it’s great to have a web application behave like a fat-client application.
Google Spreadsheets have a ton of other formulas that you can apply and it seems to offer all the functionality I use out of Excel. The collaborative feature also has great possibilities but that’s limited to people who have Google Accounts only at this point. Weird but I guess that’s something that they are working on to include anyone with an email address.
A couple of other nice features include options to export to Excel (xls), CSV and HTML. The Excel export works great and I was able to open up the exported spreadsheet in Excel as you would expect. The HTML export also works but the generated HTML does not validate which seemed odd but I know this is beta [insert your own joke here] software.
In addition to creating new spreadsheets, you can import existing Excel documents and this application did a great job of importing the spreadsheet with a ton of data and some complex formulas. I am very impressed with the overall functionality and overall usability of this application. Would I dump Excel to start using this? No – The accessibility and collaboration features are great but there are privacy concerns that would not make me comfortable using this application with some personal and confidential data. Maybe when GDrive launches, we will feel more comfortable about how data is encrypted in storage, segregated from other users and protected from hackers. Till then, I’m sticking with Excel for my rudimentary needs.