Google Spreadsheets Beta Plays Well with Others

eWEEK Labs Review: Google's spreadsheet application beta encourages collaboration, but is short on business basics.

Googles new Google Spreadsheets offers users the ability to easily create, edit and share spreadsheets, but Microsoft neednt worry about losing any business users to the beta.

Released on June 6, the Google Spreadsheets beta is free to users with a Google Account. As many as 10 users can simultaneously edit a spreadsheet and communicate with one another about it via Googles integrated instant messaging program.

During tests, eWEEK Labs found Google Spreadsheets to be easy to use but lacking in the kinds of features we—and many enterprise spreadsheet users—have come to rely upon in Microsoft Excel.

For example, while Google Spreadsheets can handle hundreds of formulas, the application does not support macros. Most companies use spreadsheet macros at some level, and some companies rely heavily upon very complex macros to perform their day-to-day business.

During eWEEK Labs on-site tests at FN Manufacturing, for instance, macro functionality was a key requirement during real-world evaluations of Microsoft Office and other productivity suites.

In addition, while Excel offers a multitude of charting and graphing options, Google Spreadsheets offers none. This may be disappointing for consumers, but it would be a deal-breaker for any business thinking about Google Spreadsheets.

Google Spreadsheets works quite well with Excel, though: From Google Spreadsheets, we had no problems importing existing spreadsheets created in Excel and exporting them to either .xls or .cvs formats. And when opening spreadsheets created or edited with Google Spreadsheets using Microsofts Excel 2003 and the beta of Microsoft Office Excel 2007, we found no formatting issues.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about why Google Spreadsheets isnt suited for corporate use.

Performance varied depending on the type of computer we were using. On a Dell Latitude D620 with an Intel Core Duo dual-core processor, we had no problems filling out a Google Spreadsheets spreadsheet. On an Intel Pentium II-based Dell OptiPlex desktop and a Centrino-based ThinkPad T42, however, we experienced sluggishness.

We did like the integrated instant messaging capability in Google Spreadsheets: By chatting with one another while sharing a spreadsheet, eWEEK Labs analysts were able to quickly answer questions and avoid multiple revisions. And it was easy to share spreadsheets—as long as users had a Google Gmail account (available by signing up for the single sign-on Google Account).

Users who want to collaborate on spreadsheets with colleagues who dont have a Google Account should consider JotSpot Tracker, which also allows users to share their spreadsheets and enables collaboration.

While the free version allows only two spreadsheets to be tracked and five guest collaborators, JotSpot Tracker will eventually allow spreadsheet owners to specify which rows can be manipulated by collaborators—a feature wed also like to see in Google Spreadsheets.

The ability to collaborate via Excel is available from Microsoft, but so far only through Office Live Collaboration.

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at Technical Analyst Michael Caton also contributed to this review.

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