Google Spreadsheets- An online Office Tool

Sunday, May 13, 2007 Posted by Aman Jain

Google Docs and Spreadsheets are part of Google’s attempt to enter the online office applications domain.The future through Google’s eyes is clear – It would like to see every PC only need an OS,with the rest of the applications online,accessible as and when needed.A broadband connection forms the backbone of this future.Since Google’s online services are free the only expenses involved are for Net access.

Google Spreadsheets ,unlike Google Docs,is a result of inhouse R&D.Its not fair to compare its capabilities with those of full blown office packages.There are limitations because the online interface is miniscule compared to the file size of the offline applications and the response of the online application is influenced by the width of your broadband connection.But there are a few advantages too .It is easier to collaborate using an online document and worries about data corruption,storage and transferability are addressed since the data is always available online and Google’s storage facilities are rugged and redundant.

Using Google Spreadsheets

Logging in
Before you can use Google Spreadsheets you need to sign up for a Google account.If you already have a Gmail account you can add Google Spreadsheets to your list of services by accessing the “all my services” link on the top left of the mailbox.

Once you are logged into the account ,you are presented with a staging area of sortsThis is the place where a record of the documents and spreadsheets you have worked on in the last 30 days is maintained.If you are a new user this page will be empty.To start a new Spreadsheet click on the “New Spreadsheet” Link.This will cause a script file which is the interface to be loaded .Once loaded ,you are presented with the familier spreadsheet grid.The staging area is in many aspects similar to the Gmail mailbox.Here the spreadsheets can be tagged ,a process similar to labeling.Once this is done all spreadsheets with the same tag can be selectively viewed by clicking on the tag link.Spreadsheets which are no longer active can be archived to reduce clutter on the page.The archived spreadsheets can be viewed with the “View All: link at the top right, a system reminiscent of the “All Email”link in Gmail.Spreadsheets can also be deleted,where they end up in trash and can be retrieved by using the “Browse Docs and Spreadsheets link” at the top right.Information regarding the storage capacity is not readily available.

Adding content
One of the first thing you notice is that every response is delayed.While you can type out a long sentence in a cell,there is a small delay before it appears on the spreadsheet.And every other activity takes longer than that.
The moment you complete the sentence and move on to the next cell,you will notice that the row height is automatically adjusted to accommodate the sentence and a small “Updating” tool tip flashes briefly,and a small message pops up at the bottom reminding you that the spreadsheet is not saved,and offering to start Autosaving.The auto saving causes the increased response time.
Adjacent cells in the row can be merged effortlessly using the merge across button on the toolbar.This action can be undone just as easily.Unfortunately merging cells in a column is not supported.Increasing column or row size is easily accomplished ,as is copy,cut and paste which can also be done with the keyboard shortcuts.

Content Formatting
The top bar of the spreadsheet contains all the toolbar buttons associated with formatting.All the popular effects like bold,italics ,underline ,alignment,font size etc are offered.Adding and Deleting columns and rows can be done by using the Insert and delete buttons in the same toolbar.

Data Operations

Besides the basic mathematical operations,Gogole Spreadsheets supports a host of formulae which can be accessed under the formulas tab .The commonly used functions are already listed to the right of the bar.Clicking on the “more” link opens a pop up containing all the supported formula .If a pop up obscures the cell being modified,it can be dragged to a more convenient location.Placing the cursor over a formula displays the syntax in the space below and clicking on it causes the formula to be entered in the cell.

There is a sort Tab from where you can sort the spreadsheet in ascending and descending order based on the content of the column of the selected cell.You can also undo using [Ctrl] +[Z].
There is a “freeze Header Row” button which can freeze the selected no. of rows making scrolling the sheet much easier
At the bottom of the sheet there is an Add Sheet Button which can be used just for that.
The interface allows the use of the usual shortcut keys like [Ctrl] +[C], [Ctrl]+[V] etc.

The true power of the Google Spreadsheets is enhanced collaboration where a spreadsheet can be maintained by more than one author.To start off you click on the collaborate tab.Here you can enter the email ID of the people you would like to invite to collaborate on the spreadsheet
To collaborate the people need to use their Google IDs,or create one if they don’t have one .By default ,Collaborators can invite others without your knowledge.This can be disabled if needed under the same Tab.Selecting “Let anyone view” box allows any person with a Google ID also to view your Spreadsheet,the URL of the Spreadsheet is provided immediately.
Collaboration would be meaningless without communication.The need is fulfilled under the Discuss Tab.An IM box allows other collaborators and viewers to exchange messages .

Saving ,Printing ,Exporting and Importing
The spreadsheet can be saved using the save button on the top left.This will cause it to be stored online and show up in the Google spreadsheets staging area.To print the sheet use the print link to the Top Right ,while the adjacent preview link offers the Print Preview.
If you would like to use Google Spreadsheets offline you need to export it using the File button on the Top Right .Here you can choose the Format to save it in –MS excel,Open Document Spreadsheet,PDF,HTML etc are some of the formats Spreadsheet also supports importing spreadsheets in the supported formats,from your computer .Given the limitation of Google Spreadsheets, don’t expect it to handle an MS Excel sheet that contains advanced features such as Pivot Tables.Simple Spreadsheets,are how ever handled without problems.

Google Spreadsheets will find more takers as broadband penetration increases and stricter software antipiracy measures are enforced which would tempt people to use free OSes and tools like Google Spreadsheets.It also helps that Google Spreadsheets offers most of the frequently used functions of offline office packages .The ability to collaborate is an added feature which can not be replicated offline and will become more important as people living farther apart are brought together through the internet.

Google Spreadsheets is a must try for everyone !!!!!!!!!