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Hands on: Google Spreadsheets

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the reviewing-the-offerings dept.

257

feminazi writes "Google spreadsheets are more powerful than you might think, according to Richard Ericson. The free, Web-based service doesn't currently offer encryption, but the clean interface has standard drop-down menus, icons and buttons (just when MS is switching to "ribbons"). You can use it to work with existing files and "Formatting is simple, direct and fast. ... Sort, does precisely what you'd expect." Most importantly, it has most of Excel's functions -- including some that aren't listed or documented." We covered the launch of this program last week.

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Meh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15516843)

Meh

spreading themselves thin (5, Funny)

Douglas Simmons (628988) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516847)

Anybody nervous that Google may be letting their eye off the ball (their original business model) by going off on these tangential projects?

Re:spreading themselves thin (3, Funny)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516864)

Why nervous? Oh no, a successful company is continuing to expand?

Why should anyone be nervous when a company continues to do what it does well?

Re:spreading themselves thin (2, Insightful)

generic-man (33649) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517497)

Because that same company, in its IPO filing, cited its key strength as an unflinching devotion to search. Everyone praised them as a company that WOULDN'T turn into yet another portal like Yahoo! and AltaVista had before. Since then they've thrown dozens of betas at the wall; some have stuck, some haven't, but very few are directly related to search.

SERGEY BRIN FUCKS 13 YEAR OLDS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15516870)

he is also straying from his original model...

Re:spreading themselves thin (4, Insightful)

MrSquirrel (976630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516879)

What about when Sears created the Discover card (which is now its own company and Sears' future looks gloomy) or when the Wright brothers built a flying machine in their bicycle shop. It's a fundamental of business -- change is fact: you can either be part of it or watch it happen. Google is simply applying their resources to expand the productivity they offer the average user. I like it.

Re:spreading themselves thin (4, Insightful)

david.given (6740) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517007)

It's a fundamental of business -- change is fact: you can either be part of it or watch it happen.

Not necessarily; for 37 years, the WD40 company produced exactly one product (I'll leave figuring out what they make as an exercise to the reader).

There's a difference between change necessary to adapt to a changing marketplace, and change simply for the sake of change.

Re:spreading themselves thin (4, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517055)

Hmmm. Based on the model number you've given, I'm going to guess that it was a Washer/Dryer combo unit.

Re:spreading themselves thin (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517377)

Water Displacement formula # 40 :)

Re:spreading themselves thin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15517097)

What does WD stand for anyways??? Anyone?

Re:spreading themselves thin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15517124)

The "WD" stands for Water Displacer

Re:spreading themselves thin (4, Informative)

tak amalak (55584) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517144)

WD-40 stands for Water Displacement, 40th attempt. Has a much better ring than WD-17 or WD-666.

Re:spreading themselves thin (4, Informative)

redtape (37014) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517109)

OK, I'll bite:
http://www.wd40.com/Brands/index.html [wd40.com]

Lists:
Lava, 2000 flushes, Carpet Fresh, 3-in-ONE, Lava Pro, X-14, and Spot Shot in addition to WD-40.
So which is the one product?

Re:spreading themselves thin (1)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517255)

If you looked around the site some more you'd see that all of those brands were bought. They started selling WD-40 to consumers in 1958 and bought their first brand from another company in 1995, thus 37 years with one product.

Re:spreading themselves thin (1)

MrSquirrel (976630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517163)

Actually, the WD-40 company's product line is sizeable (and growing). http://www.wd40.com/ [wd40.com] [they make lava soap... I love that stuff] I understand your point though -- to succeed you must adapt ...but sometimes there's nothing to adapt to because everything is still the same, you just want to be different (iPod? *barf*).

Re:spreading themselves thin (1)

david.given (6740) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517234)

Actually, the WD-40 company's product line is sizeable (and growing)

Yeah, and look when they started producing product #2 compared to product #1...

Re:spreading themselves thin (1)

DevanJedi (892762) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517023)

To be only partially nitpicky, Discover is now owned by MorganStanleyChaseManhattanBankOneFirstUSADiscover Bank (yep, all under the same ownership). But your point is correct and I agree!

Re:spreading themselves thin (2, Informative)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517439)

Me thinks you are confusing two very similarly named but unrelated companies. Morgan Stanley owns Discover (Dean Witter and Van Kampen funds) but was not affilated with the house of Morgan (it was started by a former JP Morgan partners who left a JP Morgan predicessor prior to Drexel & Co's breakup due to the Glass Stegall act). JP Morgan & Co owns Chase and BankOne.

Re:spreading themselves thin (4, Interesting)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517048)

the average user

Bill Gates got where his is by targeting "the average user", who didn't care about the difference between logical and physical partitions, root and user accounts, and command-line interfaces.

The advent of cheap bandwidth and free browsers affords Google the opportunity to out-Redmond Redmond.

As for the spreadsheet product, when the xpcom programming interfaces for Firefox support the kind of ad-hack programming achievable with MS-Office and VBA (hopefully without the insecurities), it'll be time to start going short on MSFT. I like it.

Re:spreading themselves thin (4, Interesting)

omeomi (675045) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517222)

Bill Gates got where his is by targeting "the average user", who didn't care about the difference between logical and physical partitions, root and user accounts, and command-line interfaces.

Bill Gates got where he is by convincing IBM that they weren't losing anything by allowing Microsoft to own all the rights to the operating system that came pre-installed on their computers, thus opening the door for the massive launch of IBM-clone companies, saturating the market. He was in the right time at the right place, and made the right decision.

Re:spreading themselves thin (3, Interesting)

birge (866103) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517513)

What about when Sears created the Discover card (which is now its own company and Sears' future looks gloomy) or when the Wright brothers built a flying machine in their bicycle shop. It's a fundamental of business -- change is fact: you can either be part of it or watch it happen. Google is simply applying their resources to expand the productivity they offer the average user. I like it.

Do you know how many airplanes the Wrights SOLD? Do you see any of their bikes still being made? And you said yourself Sears is going down. Perhaps they would've done better to focus on their core business. Change IS good, but so is recognizing your limitations and core competency. People aren't arguing Google can't do this ok, they are just wondering if its a good idea to divert resources towards spreadsheets, of all things.

Re:spreading themselves thin (4, Interesting)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516893)

I'm betting they're doing it to make Microsoft take their eye off Google's ball - search and contextual ads.

Re:spreading themselves thin (5, Insightful)

Nested (981630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516934)

Although not their original business model, selling contextual ads has by far been their most succesful. In that sense, this new app supports that objective nicely.

Re:spreading themselves thin (5, Insightful)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517011)

No because Google has money has the money to waste. Not all the employees can be focused on search and advertising. Belive me, they have enough resources on search and advertising to not be dropping the golden ball.
Anyways, if they do drop the ball, somebody else will be happy to replace them. No worries there either ... unless you have Google stock.

Re:spreading themselves thin (5, Insightful)

WickedLogic (314155) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517020)



Google provides a services which is somewhat hard to do well (search). It makes money by selling ads (mainly) and services around what it does well (search). The more content there is, the harder it will be for google to have competition that will be able to sprout up, due to data glut.

Remove the expensive cost of content tools, and more people can create more content, which they will WANT to search through. At the same time, remove your supposed competitors major source of revenue by fulfilling a need it would not, software that works, is light weight, and is free/cheap (good enough). This isn't just a smart move, it's about a shift in technology to provide people what they want and moving them toward benefiting your business model (designed to make money around what people want).

Want to see another point you may have missed? (major speculation) Telco's limit content in a tiered system, google buys a little more dark fiber and lights it up. Starts a local isp business through techies who don't want a tiered net, and act as partners in a 'mashup' of reselling google network access. Us local techies not liking telco or nsa habits of late, serve as local wifi resellers via mesh networks to solve the 'last mile' problem. All the time, solving our consumer problems and generating ad revenue for google.

Google has smart people doing smart things solving real problems with simple and very obvious solutions. No, I don't work for google, but if their looking... grin.

Re:spreading themselves thin (5, Insightful)

I Like Pudding (323363) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517021)

Anybody nervous that Google may be letting their eye off the ball (their original business model) by going off on these tangential projects?

No, most people are psyched about it. Long term R&D is something that is hardly encouraged anymore due to quarterly earnings pressure (*cough* HP *cough). Google, on the other hand, actually schedules programmers to work on side projects of their own design. They hire very smart people to think up the Next Big Thing so that they can exploit it. Contrast this with Microsoft expansion policy: throw massive amounts of cash at heavily entrenched markets, then fail to generate any profit. I much prefer Google's method to Microsoft's "send more men over the top" WW1-style attrition.

Re:spreading themselves thin (4, Interesting)

alucinor (849600) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517114)

Their mission is to organize the world's information and make it accessible to everyone. But Google doesn't really "organize information" so much as provide an organized view of information -- and that means creating user interfaces. Of course, this is what worries Microsoft, because as of now, they're the most common interface people use to bridge the gap between humans and technology, but search engines and portals like Google and Yahoo are quickly becoming the most common and important interfaces.

So I'm sure Google wants to experiment with and learn as many interface models as possible, since different information requires different kinds of organization and presentation. As far as I'm concerned, they've nailed email and maps, though still have a ways to go with many of their other services.

(As an aside, we can probably expect more integration of these services in the future. Google probably keeps all the data created via its services in a form similar to the Semantic Web -- just a proprietary version of it. I suspect that just as the relatively high level of integration provided by Microsoft applications raised people's expectations and led to a new era of cooperation between the non-MS tech companies, so also the level of integration Google's services provide for the web will be the driving factor that leads to increased collaboration in the Semantic Web: the push for a neutral commodity platform.)

Re:spreading themselves thin (2, Interesting)

mpower1 (858744) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517128)

I am far more nervous about MS branching out into areas they have no experience in. Google by nature has proven to be ethical about its businesss/privacy actions. MS has always put security/privacy behind profits. This scares me.

Re:spreading themselves thin (1)

mlk (18543) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517248)

As I understand it Google gives its employees 1 day a week "personal time" to work on any project they like. If it then turns out to be useful to google, then great, throw more people onto it.
If not, it has kept the plebs happy & fresh to let them fuck about with new-toy-of-the-week, so all is good.

Re:spreading themselves thin (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517356)

This always was their business model, search was just the first way to pay for it. Google's mission is to provide a competitive platform to Windows. Since that sort of platform is a natural monopoly, there will be only one big survivor.

Re:spreading themselves thin (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517409)

ahh, spreading themselves too thin, I get it! :-p

Google could take the low end of the Office market (5, Insightful)

peterdaly (123554) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516851)

The key to this being an "Excel Killer" is not that it needs to be able to do everything (or even most) of what Excel can do. Most people barely use probably 2% of Excel's capabilities, and don't even know how to use much of the other 98%.

The key to putting some hurt onto Excel sales, and MS Office in general is for Google to offer things like this that are "good enough" for the mass of home users that use 2% of Excel's product offerings. I personally have started using this for a couple personal spreadsheets that I have, where the network availability is more useful than having the whiz-bang Excel features.

Let's not forget that Google has also purchased Writely, which may be a "good enough" web based word processor to start attracting the mass of people who use Word as a fancy notepad.exe with spell-check. I don't need a heavy duty Word processor for most of what I do, and many other home users don't either. Writely is not yet available for users to register, unless they got in pre-Google.

While the Writely and Google Spreadsheets combo are not "killer apps" in terms of features, they may have enough functionality to put a serious dent in the very low end of Microsoft's user base.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516946)

The key to this being an "Excel Killer" is not that it needs to be able to do everything (or even most) of what Excel can do. Most people barely use probably 2% of Excel's capabilities, and don't even know how to use much of the other 98%.

Yeah, but you still need to get to the 2% mark. I'm looking at this review, and I am utterly dumbfounded at some of the features it's lacking. For example, Charts would be incredibly easy to compute on the server, then download as images. Alternatively, they could use SVG support, or canvas support, or Javascript Drawings. Yet they completely leave charts out! I don't know of a single Excel user who hasn't charted their data at some point in time. If Google isn't supporting this, then they can expect users to dislike their spreadsheet.

Similarly, the lack of online help is a no-no for a spreadsheet program. Users still need to do computations, even if they're as simple as addition, subtraction, averaging, and weighted averaging. Failing to include online help means that users will have no idea how to properly compute these formulas. Even just dropping the expected args into the text field would do wonders for usability!

All in all, this article makes me believe that Google is buying into this "users don't need that much" mantra that makes sites like ajaxLaunch [ajaxlaunch.com] so laughable. GMail "won" because it provided a completely new way to work with email. It wasn't just the best Webmail apps, it was better than even installable apps! If Google wants to follow that success, they need to take that sort of innovation (*blech* sorry, weasel word) into their other office products. Otherwise, they're going nowhere, fast.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (3, Interesting)

sirinek (41507) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517027)

Yet they completely leave charts out! I don't know of a single Excel user who hasn't charted their data at some point in time. If Google isn't supporting this, then they can expect users to dislike their spreadsheet.


I don't use charting on Excel, and I gather a lot of others don't either. A fairly sizable number of people use excel in place of a database for things like contact management or inventories. It's not a feature that'd be critical to have available in a beta test.

Users don't need much or release early and often (2, Insightful)

MCRocker (461060) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517101)

this article makes me believe that Google is buying into this "users don't need that much" mantra
Either that, or they're just following the "release early, release often" strategy, which gives them a chance to find out what users complain about the most so they can figure out which of those "98%" features are really needed and which can be left till later or for value-added or third party add-ons.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (1)

knewter (62953) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517125)

Honestly, I look at it as a matter of iterations. GMail has become better since it launched. It now has spell checking, and draft autosave, and calendar integration - in other words, Google's pretty good at iterating their apps. They seem far less likely to overdevelop than to underdevelop...and why not?

Look at 37signals. Ruby on Rails has been around for a long time, and it keeps getting better, but it's pretty blatantly incremental. They just didn't forget the 'release often' part of the equation, that so many monolithic software packages ignore.

Our startup has an app right now that's pretty useful. We're at six months of development. We didn't wait until it was perfect to offer it to the public. It has some bumps here and there, and some silly seeming features - much of this is our just adding stuff to see how users will utilize it. Right now I have RSS feeds for each data element in the app - they just show the upcoming events and notes for that element. It's a blatantly useless feature in its current stage. But the methods I had to develop on the way are going to make it easier for me to do more robust reporting, for instance. We're going slow but steady, and so is Google. Why question this?

Once again - look at ViaWeb. They released early and often, and listened to the users. Why do people want to doubt Google? ajaxLaunch is a joke, but that's because there was absolutely no reason to use it. Google Spreadsheets, though, currently allows all kinds of spreadsheetable things - network diagrams, logistics management mini-apps, etc - to be kept track of. Without buying a $200 package that is overkill. And allows remote editing of these sheets. Please explain to me how this merits complaint...

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517168)

Just something I noticed. If you have a GMail account, and you've requested to be in the Beta Testing of the spreadsheet program, you may already be approved! I never received a confirmation from Google (perhaps it got caught in the Spam filter?), but I just went to http://spreadsheets.google.com/ [google.com] and found that I could log in!

I have to say, the sheet has a nice feel to it. It really reminds you of Excel or OpenOffice Calc. Unfortunately, this comparison is quickly disappated once you start using it. Things I've noticed:

1. Formulas are edited in the cell rather than having a text field on top. This is REALLY annoying to anyone who uses a spreadsheet program regularly. There is an uneditable text field at the top (doesn't work right in Mozilla 1.7.12), but it's not useful for anything other than ogleing at.

2. Auto-resizing by double-clicking doesn't work. This is a core feature that I should think that everyone uses.

3. No size indicator when changing cell sizes. I don't know about anyone else, but I always try to resize my sheets to about 14.25 points high, as this looks best. In addition, the indicator is a good way of knowing that you've got the right size for a row, rather than by messing with trial and error.

4. You're limited to 100 x T cells. If you're one of those people with a lot of data, good luck. It doesn't look like Google will let you store it without manually inserting enough rows or columns to hold it all.

5. The formatting menu is useless. It's got a few data types, and that is IT. If you need a custom style, or a date in one of the billion other formats, you're SOL.

6. No cell borders. Raise your hand if you tend to mark headers with a cell border. (/Me raises hand.)

7. The "Freeze Rows" command makes no sense. Why are you choosing the number of rows from a menu, when a multiple row-select exists?

8. Sorting! Yippe! Now I can make my sheet into a database! (/sarcasm) Seriously, this feature actually works. I was expecting it to choke on numbers by treating them as text, but it automatically sorted then correctly. Score one for the team.

There's a lot of other minor annoyances that I won't get into, but the above are the big ones. Unfortunately, I've just about covered 90% of the functionality. My verdict? It's not ready for prime time. If Google wanted to do this, perhaps they should have teamed up with Sun's StarOffice team.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (3, Interesting)

jfengel (409917) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517417)

I've worked with it on exactly one relatively simple spreadsheet, and I found numerous bugs just in that time:

* Some important formatting disappeared. Not just column widths, but numerical formatting. The difference between "currency" and "not currency" is very important for the look of the sheet.

* Re-exporting to Excel had a bug: it capitalized the sheet names, but didn't propagate that to formulas. Any formula that referenced another sheet became #VALUE

* Even for the small spreadsheet I was using (a few sheets, dozens-not-thousands of rows and columns), scrolling was very, ver slow.

This fairly simple sheet is what I think of as a canonical app for Google Spreadsheets: not mission critical, not large, not full of database lookups or macros. Maybe those are just beta complaints, but I've got to concur with your verdict: not ready for prime time.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (1)

miview (981891) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517331)

You might be right. But charting is a resource hungry feature. To one person charting is important, to another, other feature is important. If we try to please everyone, you will once again have 'Bloatware'.

I think what Google is doing is just right. Those who require not-so-used feature can always use Excel or other alternatives.

Keep-it-simple is the mantra I would prefer.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (5, Interesting)

cygnusx (193092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516948)

> While the Writely and Google Spreadsheets combo are not "killer apps" in terms of features

Actually, Writely and Google Spreadsheet are Labs toys right now. However fast forward one year, with Firefox sporting an embedded database [bris.ac.uk] , and Writely and Spreadsheets will look far less toy-like. Add support for rich controls from the WHAT-WG [whatwg.org] and in a couple of ears you have an office suite you can download on demand and run inside your browser. And you can work with it offline.

And if you think Microsoft hasn't read the writing on the wall, you haven't been looking at XAML and IE7 very closely.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (1)

baadger (764884) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517080)

Although I find the dynamic of databases on 'both ends' rather interesting, I thought Mozilla were introducing SQLite into Firefox (for bookmarks etc), but now they're introducing Apache Derby too?

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (1)

cygnusx (193092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517187)

Oh, I linked to Derby because they have a credible demo. Really, any storage engine could be used, or even multiple storage engines (unless of course the browser vendor bundled one, in which case you'd be better off targeting just that engine).

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (3, Insightful)

iznogud (162711) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516951)

Only problem with "Most people barely use 2% of Excel's capabilities, let's implement just that 2%" theory is - not all people use the same 2% of Excel, or any other software packet.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15517396)

After downloading the Office 2007 beta 2 and playing around with the new "ribbon" interface, I'm starting to wonder whether Microsoft is shooting itself in the foot with such a radical redesign. For average user (i.e. not readers of Slashdot), the new design will require some major re-training, which most people don't tolerate well. For tons of people, they are just now finally getting to know how to use all the functions of Word/Excel/PPT, only to have MS completely redesign it.
In the past, this wouldn't have mattered much...Office was simply the best option around. Now there are many options, online and offline (OpenOffice.org, Writely, AjaxWrite, etc.) that essentially mimic the functionality and design of the existing Office.
The convergence of the radical design and the recent introduction of these other options that don't require much re-training on the part of the average user MIGHT just shift the balance away from MS.

Of course, MS won't go down without a fight and you can bet that m/billions of dollars in marketing will by plenty of users, plus all the corporate IT buyers won't consider purchasing anything but MS for their minions.

The main things that will kill these "Office-Killers" are security and the ability to monetize the software.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (2, Insightful)

anaesthetica (596507) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517416)

Yeah. This meme is kinda the opposite of the long-tail meme that's being making it's rounds.

On the one hand you have people telling you that you don't need to engage in software bloat, you don't need to add every single feature, you don't need to give the consumer every signle option or customizability in a product or offering.

On the other hand, you have countless numbers of folks touting the long-tail, whether it's the success of Amazon, or eBay, or Netflix, or what-have-you. The idea is that in offering every single last possible thing any consumer could conceive of wanting, you'll then doi more business with the obscure stuff than with the 20% most common/popular stuff.

So which is it? Do we keep things simple stupid? Do we offer limited functionality? Things that only do one thing and do it really well? Or do we offer swiss army knives of features/products? Do we appeal to every possible need and win out in the long run because no one just uses that initial 20%?

Let's settle this meme war once and for all.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (1)

Tx (96709) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516976)

The spreadsheet was the first "killer app" for the microcomputer, wasn't it? Be interesting for the humble spreadsheet to still wield such importance after all this time.

This could be big for Google, depending how they play it. It's not necessarily just the home user that could be the eventual target, the could offer the back end to businesses, ditto for other "office" apps. That would arguably be much more important, if in fact they are targetting taking on microsoft in that area, long term.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (1)

mlk (18543) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517057)

Given that its key feature is multi-user editing, I would have thought its primary target was biz.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (2, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516999)

The key to putting some hurt onto Excel sales, and MS Office in general is for Google to offer things like this that are "good enough" for the mass of home users that use 2% of Excel's product offerings.


I imagine if they wanted to put the hurt on MS's Excel sales, they'd target the business user, not the home user.

I really don't think Google is out on a crusade to hurt MS. It probably doesn't care about MS one way or the other. It cares about driving more people to its search engine/advertising and creating a buzz, and if some web app does that for them, great. And if it hurts MS too, that might be a good thing (in their POV). Or maybe not.

The only way I can see MS hurting google is if they make IE point to MSN like Firefox does with Google on the top right search box. (Perhaps they've already done this, haven't used IE in a long time.) Other than that, they are in seperate markets, no matter how much MS wants to try to have a finger in every pie.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (1)

BalanceOfJudgement (962905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517164)

"The only way I can see MS hurting google is if they make IE point to MSN like Firefox does with Google"

Well, IE already defaults to MSN.com with a new Windows installation, and MSN is the default search engine if you type stuff into the browser it doesn't recognize. That's in IE6 though.

I do recall reading something here about MS putting MSN as the only 'preinstalled' search engine in the IE7 search box, although that was in an IE7 beta so it's possible the release will have additional searches installed. But, that doesn't help much if the DEFAULT search engine selected is MSN. We'll just have to see when IE7 goes to release.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (1)

scolby (838499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517016)

The key to putting some hurt onto Excel sales, and MS Office in general is for Google to offer things like this that are "good enough" for the mass of home users that use 2% of Excel's product offerings.

But isn't Open Office also "good enough", and just as free? How come we don't see that eating into MS's consumer Office sales?

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (1)

Twanfox (185252) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517073)

Compatability with existing and old file formats is key there. If it cannot read and format just the same as the original, who is going to want to go through and reformat however umpteen million documents in order to have them work right under the new office suite? It's easier to just use what you're using instead.

That and interface. Users have to be able to easily figure out how to do things, else they don't get used.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517062)

The key to this being an "Excel Killer" is not that it needs to be able to do everything (or even most) of what Excel can do. Most people barely use probably 2% of Excel's capabilities, and don't even know how to use much of the other 98%.

Who's saying it's an "Excel Killer"? My take is that it's yet another beta that Google tossed out. As others have pointed out, if Google were actually planning such a thing, they'd target the business users (which is where the money is). That means in particular, that web-based spreadsheets are out since the user doesn't have full control over the data. This is a fundamental problem with a lot of Google's tools. Google simply has far too much control over that data for serious companies to use it.

Re:Google could take the low end of the Office mar (1)

I'm Don Giovanni (598558) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517428)

I find it sad that you and slashdotters in general support the idea that a product with 2% of the functionality of a richer product should "kill" off the richer product. If that's the future of software, then society is in for a world of crapware. Sure, the crapware will be "free" (as in beer), but that's because the crapware will be so primitive that a developer has no choice but to give it away for free (and support it with ads and whatnot). You support the idea of society being without rich products for the sake of your ideology (or your Microsoft hatred)? Very sad indeed.

Also very hypocritcal on the part of the typical slashdotter. Google's web apps are free as in beer, not as in speech. Google does not release the code of their web apps, so the community is not allowed to "redistribute" the web apps (i.e. host them on other sites for free), nor is the community allowed to derive works from Google's code and "distribute" the derivations (i.e. host them on non-Google sites for free). Also note that the GPL doesn't cover web apps (allowing Google and others to use GPL code in their web apps and distributing those web apps to the public without releasing the code), so as software development moves more and more to feature-deprived web apps, the GPL loses more and more power. In a world where virtually all software is feature-deprived web apps, the GPL is completely irrelevant.

Seems that when it comes down to it, slashdotters are much more concerned with free as in beer than free as in speech.

Google Base Are Belong To Us? (1, Offtopic)

patio11 (857072) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516858)

Sorry, couldn't resist. The page is slashdotted before any comments.

Undocumented functions? (4, Funny)

DikSeaCup (767041) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516878)

"... it has most of Excel's functions -- including some that aren't listed or documented."

Does that include vulnerabilities that act as infection vehicles for viruses/worms?

Why no ODF? (5, Interesting)

thebdj (768618) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516888)

I am really wondering about this. I mean I am sure it is on the list of things to do, but I would think the OpenDocument Format would have been a bit easier to implement then working with XLS would have been. Granted more people use Excel then OOo, but I still find it strange that ODF wasn't in the list of early supported file formats.

Re:Why no ODF? (1)

tobybuk (633332) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517001)

I bet it will be but lets face it, 99.99% of users don't use it - they use .XLS Its no great surprise.

Re:Why no ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15517069)

The first day I got access to it, I sent them a feature request asking about ODF. I haven't heard back yet, so I hope that they're hacking in ODF support right now...

Re:Why no ODF? (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517100)

That's the one thing holding me back from using it more.

Re:Why no ODF? (2, Insightful)

JoshRosenbaum (841551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517317)

They might be using a pre-existing library/module that supports XLS, but not ODF currently. XLS support has been around for a long time and is stable while ODF is relatively new. (And possibly unstable.)

Not secure but pretty ? (0, Troll)

kYsis (696094) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516900)

From TFA:
The free, Web-based service doesn't currently offer encryption, but the clean interface has standard drop-down menus, icons and buttons
Not secure, but since it is pretty I'll use it ? wow ... slashdot articles are so lame lately

Re:Not secure but pretty ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15516911)

Some people don't need encryption. We've seen this discussion before. Just keep your finances out of it and stick to your Little League schedules and science fair projects and you'll be fine. :P

Re:Not secure but pretty ? (1)

kYsis (696094) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516971)

What's the point then? People use excel to do this right?

Re:Not secure but pretty ? (1)

BalanceOfJudgement (962905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517199)

I'm with you. I have no intention of ever using any of these newfangled "web apps" - nothing like the security of someone else storing all your data, and without encryption on top of that.

I'll stick with programs that run on my computer and can't be sniffed, packet-snooped or wiretapped (so long as I unplug the ethernet cord and it still works!), thank you very much.

"files saved on Google's server" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15516922)

Eh, thanks but no thanks. Very interesting but useless.

Improv (0, Flamebait)

jefu (53450) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516959)

Yet another spreadsheet!

Wheee!

Now if they'd built an online version of Improv, or "advance" (if I remember the name correctly), I'd be more interested and impressed. Why not explore the "spreadsheet space" a bit more - what if it were built around constraint propagation (so changes would propagate both ways)?

I know, I know. People expect the standard sort of spreadsheet, they know how it works, they've already pushed past the hump of the learning curve, so they don't want to learn anything different.

One missing feature... (4, Interesting)

vishbar (862440) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516962)

When I was at work, I decided to give Google Spreadsheets a shot (it wasn't for anything critical, just some simple calculations). I noticed one feature that, surprisingly, was not implemented--as far as I know, Google Spreadsheets can't merge cells vertically. Cells can only be merged horizontally. I ended up having to use Excel because of this one tiny missing feature. However, it's still in beta, and I am really impressed with what they've done. It's the second-coolest AJAX app out there (the first being Meebo [meebo.com] ).

Keep up the good work, Google!

Problems importing (3, Interesting)

SamMichaels (213605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516983)

TFA mentions you lose some formatting...but I've had a ton of problems importing XLS. The majority of the time it adds random characters to the cells.

Overall, I agree that it'll be a cool app. Right now it's just very beta and not usable in the real world so it's difficult to give a real review.

Chasing The Long Tail (5, Insightful)

WombatControl (74685) | more than 8 years ago | (#15516998)

Google's doing this in a rather smart way, IMHO...

They're not chasing Excel's market. Nobody's going to be using this for business-critical applications, and this won't challenge the corporate market for Office. What Google is doing is chasing the long tail [wikipedia.org] of the market - the people who might want to use a spreadsheet, but have no need for Excel. Let's face it, for a quick and dirty budget, a team roster, or a simple document, Excel is more than overkill.

What Google Spreadsheets has that Excel doesn't is simple collaboration -- no need to install SharePoint servers or any of that other Microsoft lock-in garbage required. Just add a few emails to a field and you're done. That is ideal for a whole host of simple, small projects. Say you're running a small business and want to have online schedules -- would you use Excel and some expensive Microsoft server setup, or just make a simple spreadsheet with Google and share it amongst your employees? It seems pretty easy to guess which one is the easiest and least painful option to someone without an IT budget.

Google knows that if they try to compete with Office, they'll get crushed. So they're not doing that at all. Google Spreadsheets isn't an enterprise app, it's a quick and dirty system for simple tasks -- and it excels at being what it is. By capturing that long tail of users who don't need Excels features and won't pay Excel's price, Google can pick up a sizeable user base. The real question is what Google intends to do with those users and how they'll turn this into a revenue generator.

Re:Chasing The Long Tail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15517166)

Excel Enterprise?

Re:Chasing The Long Tail (1)

Mydron (456525) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517239)

Of course it doesn't hurt that chasing the long tail also means implementing a minimal set of the simplest of spreadsheet features.

You attribute genius to what amounts to an immature product. I think the real genius is the Google brand for engendering this kind of attitude.

Re:Chasing The Long Tail (1)

bahwi (43111) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517362)

Agreed. I use it to track my protein to calrorie ratio(How much protein I've eaten, how much calories I have left to consume for the day, what is the minimum ratio I need to be eating for the rest of the day, etc... to achive my target goal).

Excel is really overkill, I don't need to spend money on Office for that. OO is overkill, wait, wait, wait, wait, ok, it's up.

Here we diverge, again. (1)

jeswin (981808) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517000)

When I read the post, the first thing that occured to me was Mark Lucovsky Post, about Shipping Software [blogspot.com] . It was one of the reasons why he quit Microsoft.

Shipping Software. That's what its about now. Anyway, it does not mean Microsoft is standing still though. It is just that they have chosen to do it another way. Google looks at AJAX powered, HTML based applications. Firefox downloads help too, it isnt surprising they are offering $1 for every Firefox referral. Microsoft will depend on .Net, XAML and IE for application delivery. No doubt they will be more capable, compared to HTML. But only if you overlook the lockin. Ahh.. i dont know. But yes, online Word will not be far off.

Enter the Ribbon (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15517003)

I had no idea what a "Ribbon" was so I googled it, and found this page: Jensen Harris: An Office User Interface Blog [msdn.com] which neatly summarises a ribbon:

One of the core components of the new user experience is something we call the "Ribbon." The Ribbon is a strip across the top of the window that exposes what the program can do.

Following that description was an image which apparently shows a ribbon. I'm still having difficulty grasping where the ribbon starts and other user interface controls end because the image appears to be almost entirely full of user interface controls.

The webpage went on to say: "One of the concepts behind the Ribbon is that it's the one and only place to look for functionality in the product. If you want to look through Word 2003 to find an unfamiliar command, you need to look through 3 levels of hierarchical menus, open up 31 toolbars and peruse about 20 Task Panes. It's hard to formulate a "hunting" strategy to find the thing you're looking for because there's no logical path through all of the UI."

Well, this is one of those Duh! statements. There's no logical path through the User Interface because Microsoft has no strong conceptual model of the document or the application functionality. Therefore functions are placed almost at random within the menus, toolbars and task panes.

Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought the menus were supposed to expose all the application functionality. "Ribbons" sound to me as though they are merely replacing menus. Perhaps they have more flexible layout.

Overall it seems to me like Microsoft is implementing Ribbons as yet more eye candy to attract people to upgrade. The talk of increased usability is merely lip service, misdirection from the fundamental problem that I have with Microsoft's user interfaces. The page mentions that "most people don't click on an unlabeled 16x16 icon". Microsoft's at fault here for their feature-driven requirements. It seems to me that a requirement of Microsoft user interfaces (particularly Word and Excel) is that every possible piece of screen real estate needs to have some function: either an icon or clicking with the mouse will do something. That makes the interface incredibly busy - not good for newbies, perhaps not necessary for experienced users.

Re:Enter the Ribbon (1)

guy-in-corner (614138) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517211)

"Ribbons" sound to me as though they are merely replacing menus. Perhaps they have more flexible layout.

Did you actually read any of the other entries on Jensen Harris's blog?

He goes into quite a lot of detail about how they're doing extensive usability testing, and using the feedback from the Customer Experience tool that shipped in Office 2003 to work out which features people use the most, and how they use them.

Now, I'm not saying that you (or I) are going to be happy with how Office 2007 turns out -- I've not had a chance to play with any of the previews yet, but to disparage what they're doing as "merely lip service" misses the mark by a mile.

Re:Enter the Ribbon (3, Informative)

PPGMD (679725) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517286)

Commenting on something you haven't used, how very slashdot of you.

I have the Office 2007 Beta, yes the Ribbons are different from the old version, but after a couple of days of working with them, they became natural, one benefit is that they are very flexible so you can have a very similar GUI between all the applications, something Office hasn't always had. Sure it's not a single reason to upgrade (heck I use Crystal 8.5 for some of my work, it has a horrendous GUI), but it's a nice upgrade to be had, and I am sure somewhere there is a menu where you can turn it back to the old style.

The point of another spreadsheet (0, Flamebait)

krod4 (516423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517004)

What is the point of having another spreadsheet? We have an industry leader, Excel. Not only is this google offering lagging 10 years behind in features and usability, it is plain ugly! If people actually believe we need another spreadsheet-program (which we really don't), then they should start making something that not actually sucks.. I have yet to see something even resemble Excel in usability.

Re:The point of another spreadsheet (1)

x3rc3s (954149) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517441)

I don't know. I have been playing around with the demo for Quantrix Modeler [quantrix.com] and I think I like it a lot more than Excel.

20% (2, Insightful)

MatrixCubed (583402) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517006)

According to [searchenginewatch.com] these [eightypercent.net] , this useful application is potentially something that evolved based on smaller projects and a common code-base.

Admittedly, I've never used a spreadsheet for more than its basic functions (organizing data in columns for personal finances or some of the homebrew programming projects I work on), but if X% of Excel users are only utilizing Y% of the program's capabilities (where Y is a significantly small percentage of the program's full feature-set), any company can come along, produce a simple app which elegantly handles the most-sought-for features, and voila, competitor. From what I've seen of the managerial staff at work, the only thing Google Spreadsheets is missing to be a 'real' (read: truly useful for aforementioned X% of users) spreadsheet app, is a chart wizard.

Make your bid: when we expect an open source clone (1)

nektra (886676) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517028)

When we expect an Open Source clone of these technologies at sourceforge? Less than one year and half?

Google spreadsheet experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15517039)



Join this [slashdot.org] google experiment.

No thanks! (3, Insightful)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517040)

I'll stick with keeping spreadsheets on my own hard drive and servers, created with OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Excel.

Thanks, but no thanks Google. I do use gmail for personal stuff but I do not and will not use hosted office suites. I have no desire for you to know how much I weigh, what my client lists are, how much I spend, my DVD and CD collections, or anything else I might use a spreadsheet for.

Re:No thanks! (1)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517165)

Most of those should be a database or in a personal wiki anyway. How much math do you do for any but the weight list?

Re:No thanks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15517321)

Good for you, tubs.

already using it (2, Informative)

carlosGames (943841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517044)

I'm using it to manage the world cup scores which are shared with another ppl I know, and the spreadsheet is cool I really didn't expected it to support formulas but It Does and i'm using them :)

Google is trying to do everything... (1)

The Real Toad King (981874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517047)

... And is doing it pretty sucsessfully. Nearly every project they try has been fairly sucsessful, with many being very sucsessful (Gmail and Google Video) And I, for one, welcome our new Google overloards, and have been for years.

The real story (1, Insightful)

ndansmith (582590) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517061)

I think the bigger story here is that Google appears to be building an entire web-based office suite to go toe to toe with Microsoft (and OO.o?). They already have a mail client, word processor (Writely), and spreadsheet. What's next?

Okay, where's the flight sim? (2, Funny)

Chas (5144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517102)

I want my effin' easter eggs!

The Lawyers Love This (2, Interesting)

Doomedsnowball (921841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517105)

Working a bit in litigation support, I know that a significant amount of time and money is spent trying to make excel spreadsheets presentable as evidence in a courtroom (Arthur Anderson anyone?). There is an entire industry supported by excel being a whopping pile of crap to work with. If a better alternative were to take the market, it would definitely be championed by a world full of corporate lawyers. And I'm sure the lack of privacy is making the NSA positively bubbling with anticipation.

Can't deal with large spreadsheets? (4, Interesting)

kiscica (89316) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517112)

I thought it might be interesting to import into Google Spreadsheets the database I keep of my movie collection. That's about 2,000 lines long, by a few columns, but first I just tried a single column of titles. Nothing fancy -- just a sorted list. I made a .csv file and uploaded it -- it was only about 50K, so that step was plenty fast.

When I tried to actually open the imported spreadsheet with Google Spreadsheet, however, it just hung. I waited about an hour then killed Firefox. Tried twice with the same result.

That was with 2,000 lines; I guess I'm not going to be trying the application out with my 30,000-line book collection database or my 25,000-line record collection database any time soon :-) A pity, 'cause having these online from anywhere I can get to Google was an intriguing idea (although I have my own site for that). My impression of Google Spreadsheet is "neat, but basically toy." I don't use Excel very often either, but I do know it has no trouble with spreadsheets that are tens of thousands of lines long (nor would I expect any modern standalone spreadsheet to).

Kiscica

Same problem here, a little different... (1)

The Mutant (167716) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517490)

As a life long student of the markets, I've got a large number of spreadsheets that I use to track various indices, shares, bond prices, what have you. I'm currently using .Mac across several machines, and thought I'd give Google Spreadsheets a try.

I tried to upload daily NYSE closing prices from 1929 to date, about 21K rows and roughly twenty columns. It was a native XLS, and after maybe five minutes I got an error message, something along the lines of "Opps! We can't process your request at this time".

Oh well - it's beta so I'm not too fussed. This will really help though if I can keep all my trading spreadsheets up on Google and acccess them from pretty much any web enabled system. .Mac is ok, but this would allow me to share and do other neat stuff.

Desktop replacement ready? (2, Informative)

dtsazza (956120) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517120)

FTS:
Most importantly, it has most of Excel's functions -- including some that aren't listed or documented.
I'd be quite interested in knowing what those undocumented functions are. Then, after I've been enlightened, I'd like to know how many people actually use them.

I mean, you've all heard the 80-20 (or 90-10, depending who you ask) law - and it's a valid point that there are many people still running Office 97, since it does everything they need from it. Makes you wonder whether it was really worth Google's while including these features - I guess anyone that uses them is likely to really need them, and is a power-user likely to trust Google as their primary(/only) spreadsheet app?

For the moment, Web 2.0 stuff is undoubtedly cool and useful (Google's own Maps and GMail both good examples of both), but I wouldn't really want to rely on it. It'd be like only having a mobile phone - most of the time you don't miss a landline, but when you need to make an emergency call, you don't want to be without one. Anyone else feel the same?

(Don't get me wrong, for casual stuff like writing birthday letters this'd be great - I'm thinking of the people running businesses off it here.)

Re:Desktop replacement ready? (1)

octaene (171858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517259)

Yes. I'm actually having a tough time understanding why anyone would rely on a Web 2.0 application. When you don't control the processor being used to manage data, how can you be sure it's safe and secure?

No Clippy! (2)

Chas (5144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517210)

Awwww crap! The deal's off! I'm the one person in the omniverse that actually uses it!

[Doctor Evil] No. Not really.

Decisions, decisions. (1)

ACQ (966887) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517247)

Let's see... -I have a "free" copy of Office2K3. -I can use the free Google Spreadsheet that relies upon my internet connection. -I have a free installation of OpenOffice. I do love what Google's doing, but until I can install it locally (without the worry of spyware/malware/ads/tiny strippers), I won't feel 100% at ease using it.

One Step Closer To World Domination? (1)

Dot Solipsism (972171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517265)

Is Google even trying to keep secret their intentions to create an OS independent computing platform. I imagine their end goal is a Google OS appliance, perhaps even being touted as being "OS free."

Trolling for Feds (1, Troll)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517272)

I wonder what would happen if you set up a spreadsheet with assorted illegal drugs, prices, and people. How about weapons and ammo, porn, etc? No real information, obviously, but just to trigger the all seeing eyes that want to get in everyones lives.

Tried it... (3, Interesting)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517303)

Just last week I was wishing there were an online spreadsheet so I could organize some simple budgets from the thousand different computers I use. I love having my gmail account because it's a decent enough mail client that I can access from anywhere and doesn't require any maintenance on my part.

But the spreadsheet was just not ready for prime time. The limitations of a browser hacked to do what really should be done by a local app really showed. Even the most basic things didn't work as expected (copy/paste buttons instead of working shortcuts? No thanks.)

What would be ideal would be enough easily browsable online storage so that I could work on my spreadsheet locally and save it online. There's no way for Google to make money off such a thing, though, so I don't see it happening. (And yes, I know about the gmail-based filesystem that Linux has.)

I really wish we'd get away from the idea that all of these apps have to be implemented in a browser over HTTP. There's a reason nobody ever developed a GUI toolkit that works like that -- and it's because it's a horrible mess, and makes simple things hard and hard things impossible.

Unfortunately, with the way people are diving head-first into AJAX because it's the latest thing, I'm sure we'll be stuck with it forever.

Next stop -- an AJAX web browser. Mostly feature complete.

I can use this! (3, Interesting)

rueger (210566) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517358)

I'm working with team in another country right now. We've been emailing Excel sheets back and forth to track a variety of issues. This is a tool that is perfect for our needs.

We don't need super encrypted security, but we do need an easy way to keep our work in sync. We really don't want to start installing new tools for just one project.

Google has winner on their hands with this one. It's good enough for many jobs, simpler than Excel, and makes sharing a spreadsheet simple and fast.

Better than Apple? (2, Funny)

LFS.Morpheus (596173) | more than 8 years ago | (#15517372)

Well, anything is better than the current Apple spreadsheet offering [about] .
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