The clash of ideas that started over a decade ago between Microsoft, on the one hand, and other hi-tech giants like Oracle and Sun Microsystems about the relative merits of desk-top-based vs. web-based services is coming to a head with Google’s new web-based and free spreadsheet application.
Just like the free web editor and hosting that is now available from Google, if you’ve got a Gmail account, you can now also get an innovative spreadsheet program.
The “light client” idea championed by Oracle, Sun and Google has made impressive inroads with an ever-increasing number of applications which were previously bought out in boxes and then installed on PCs.
Now a lot of such out-of-the-box applications are shifting onto the web in an amazing variety of “web services.” The spread of fiber optic networks and the dropping price of broadband are factors that favor the increase of such web service in the future.
Enter Google Spreadsheets…
The service is still in its Beta phase and so you have to register for it. I did and a day later I got my invitation to test drive the Google Spreadsheets.
As usual, Google engineers did their homework well. This is a very easy-to-understand interface, with a disarmingly clean and simple approach to the main tasks that many people end up doing with spreadsheets.
The three main tabs FORMAT, SORT and FORMULAS cover 99% of all the things that I’ll ever do with a spreadsheet.
All three tabs have their own dynamically-constructed mini-menus.
For example, in the main FORMAT tab, the menu offers different ways to format your text and numbers, with great drop-down menus to ALIGN, INSERT and DELETE anything and everything. Wrapping text and merging cells is a breeze though the well-marked menu check-box and button.
The SORT tab has the very useful FREEZE ROWS drop-down list to work efficiently with those spreadsheets with hundreds of rows. Two buttons make ascending and descending SORTING by columns a straight forward operation.
The FORMULAS tab provides an easy one-click way to calculate sums, averages, counts, etc..
And here is the most REVOLUTIONARY feature of all:
By clicking a link you can actually open a CHAT WINDOW and share the spreadsheet with your friends or co-workers. You can literally collaborate in real time as you are working on your spreadsheet. You can people to EDIT or just VIEW the spreadsheet. Try doing that with Excel.
Overall I’m very impressed with this new effort by Google to drive yet another nail into the coffin of the “heavy client” PC idea. The future looks more intriguing by the day.
Ugur Akinci, Ph.D. is a Creative Copywriter, Editor, an experienced and award-winning Technical Communicator specializing in fundraising packages, direct sales copy, web content, press releases, movie reviews and hi-tech documentation.
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