Google Spreadsheets has added some really amazing features related to the use of data sets. Ionut Alex has the details, complete with screenshots and some instructions, but the short story is that you can:
- Start off a set of data and let Spreadsheets attempt to Autofill the rest of a set, using data from the almost-forgotten Google Sets service. For example, enter January and February in successive rows, and Spreadsheets will autofill the rest of the months. Enter a few types of music, and Spreadsheets can autofill other kinds of music.
- Using a specific expression, you can import data from any file on the internet. You can use an expression to tell Spreadsheets to look at a web page or file, locate a list or table using a certain criteria, and publish the results from that place as a rows in the spreadsheet. You can even point the function at other Google Spreadsheets and get data from them, creating complex linked spreadsheets.
If Google can do a good job exposing these advanced features to regular users, Spreadsheets could really win some converts. One of the best things Microsoft’s Office 2007 does is expose advanced features through a new Ribbon interface, since the features users tell Microsoft they want most are features they didn’t know the product already had.
If Google can do a better job than Microsoft showing off the power available to users, Spreadsheets could steal a lot of users, and deservedly so.
AdWords added a nice little bit of integration, connecting with Google Docs & Spreadsheets. You can now export your AdWords reports, with all the data you want from your account, to a Google spreadsheet. You can work with the data there and print it out (pretty useful if you don’t have Excel or another spreadsheet program) or have some real fun and work on it collaboratively with a bunch of colleagues.
Google released an API for Google Documents, letting programs and websites access your Google Docs filesystem and upload or download documents, spreadsheets, and soon, presentations. Developers can use it to create alternate file browsers for Docs, use Docs as file storage for a different editing software (even Microsoft Word), run full-text searches of documents and grab just those, and automatically back up all your Word documents on Google, or pretty much anything you can think up and code.
On another note, I’d assume at this point that Google Documents or Google Docs is what they are going to call this thing in the end, since expanding the Google Docs & Spreadsheets name to Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations (or Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Gmail, Collaboration, Databases, Talk & Kitchen Sinkage) doesn’t scale and gets unwieldly. They could surprise us and actually just call it Google Office, but it seems like they want to avoid that sort of thing. I’d bet a name change whenever Presentations launches, which is supposed to be damn soon.
You Gotta love the Webware 100 Awards. With ten winners per category, every multi-billion-dollar corporation can win multiple times, often in every category! Gee, it’s just like the Oscars!
Here’s what Google won:
Google Reader won in the Browsing category, Gmail won in the Communications category, Google won in the Data category, YouTube won in the Media category, GOOG-411 won in the Mobile category
*, Gmail Mobile won in the Mobile category, Google Maps Mobile won in the Mobile category, Google AdWords/AdSense won in the Productivity and Commerce category, Google Calendar won in the Productivity and Commerce category, Google Docs won in the Productivity and Commerce category, Blogger, won in the Publishing category, Feedburner in the Publishing category, Google Analytics won in the Publishing category, and Google Maps won in the reference category.
My Yahoo - Browsing; Yahoo Mail - Communication, Yahoo Messenger - Communications; Yahoo Search - Data; Flickr - Media; Yahoo Video - Media; Yahoo OneSearch - Mobile; Yahoo Maps - Reference.
Internet Explorer - Browsing; Windows Live Hotmail - Communications; Windows Live Messenger - Communications; Windows Live Search - Data; TellMe - Mobile; Microsoft Office Live - Productivity and Commerce; Silverlight - Publishing; Microsoft Virtual Earch - Reference.
Everyone else makes an appearance, and in most categories, every major player is a winner. I love award shows where everyone wins. It’s like those Little Leagues where everyone gets a trophy and no one learns to be an adult.
(via The Google Analytics Blog)
* - cough, bullshit, cough. It’s a brand new service, and unless it feeds the homeless, it deserves nothing yet. Category filler.
Google Docs has gotten a proper file explorer for management of your documents and spreadsheets. The new interface replaces the old sortable/searchable list with something a lot more advanced, a two-pane interface with multiple level folders on the left and files on the right (with sortable columns), and the ability to move items around by dragging and dropping. Google’s realizing that search doesn’t work for navigating everything, so hopefully they’re at least considering developing this out as a universal file management interface for other Google properties (like Picasa and Gmail).
The new interface uses AJAX so that it doesn’t reload the page everytime you click on a folder. It divides up into sections, showing all items in different types of system virtual folders (docs create by me, starred docs, the trash), the organized folder tree, items by type (documents or spreadsheets) and items by who they are shared with. Keep in mind, Google is using actual folders here, not labels, a departure from Google philosophy that puts the user first, not the desire to make everything about search.
If you do want to use search to navigate, Google has made it a lot more useful, adding auto-complete, so you can start typing the first few letters and have the search box suggest the full search.
Philipp (it’s his screenshot, too)
The official Google blog
The Google Docs blog
Google Q&A is a little-known feature in Google Search that determines data based on Google’s index of the web and returns answers straight up in your searches (like a famous person’s birthday). Now, Google Spreadsheets has the ability to tie into this data and return the answers in your spreadsheet. For example, you can put a list of famous people in column A, use the function
=GoogleLookup(A2; “date of birth”) in column B, and column B will be filled with those people’s birthdate, assuming Google has the relevant data.
Google’s made some good investments in its search engine, and this is one way other Google products can take advantage of it. For a company that is supposed to be organizing the world’s information, we should see more uses like this in the future.
Something I overlooked in all the Google Apps / Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office comparisons, but didn’t go unnoticed by Tony Ruscoe: Microsoft Office Home & Student works on up to three computers. That means that a single copy of Office H&S, which contains Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote, costs $50 a person split three ways, the same as a year of Google Apps, and so cheap that Google Docs has a hard time justifying itself.
Google is working real hard developing office applications, but no one is really going to claim that they are better than the most recent version of Microsoft Office (Tony says of Docs, “it’s basically just a glorified WYSIWYG HTML editor”). If Office is better, has local storage, works with everything, and has a really cool new user interface, isn’t it worth fifty bucks? Being honest with yourself, wouldn’t you say Office is so cheap that Google’s free apps aren’t significantly cheaper, and thus have few advantages?
Google is releasing a presentations app this summer, but Docs and Spreadsheets aren’t fully baked yet. Maybe they need to get serious about competing with Office on features and usability. Otherwise, the PR FUD that Google Docs isn’t competing with Microsoft Office will be very sadly fulfilled.
Last December, I posted about a user script for Opera that got several Google services to actually work in the wonderful Opera browser, and its a good time for an update. The script is new as of March 14, fixing Spreadsheets, Calendar, Picasa Web Albums, and Docs. You can get it here.
The real shame is that almost every problem in Google’s services results in Google’s stuff being coded specifically for the mistakes other browsers have. Yes, Google needs its stuff to work more importanly in IE and Firefox, but coding for quirks of those browsers means your stuff is always going to have problems with alternative browsers and future browsers, especially if you have zero fallbacks for standards-compliant browsers.
a description of what the script does
warns the user to Mask as IE
simply makes the “browser not compatible” notification to go way
simply overrides bad browser sniffing
many issues related to bad object detection
Apparently, before being acquired by Google, Writely was a model of browser compatibility, and since Google picked it up, not so much. Shame.
As one person puts it in the Opera forums:
In this thread’s case, the severe shortness of a script that fixes all functionality issues with Google docs, Google spreadsheets, Picasa, and Google calendar should be telling. That Google, one of the biggest companies around can’t find the time to test in Opera is shocking; that one man working alone can write an 140 line (including comments) script consisting of a handful of simple fixes should reflect far, far worse on Google than it does on Opera. Especially when you consider that they somehow find the time to work past IE innumerable flaws.
It’s not like Google doesn’t care. According to Opera Watch, some of their teams work hard with Opera to make sure things work. Problem is, then you have Google Page Creator, “which flooded the code with a enormous amount of browser quirks usage, or using Mozilla or IE’s bugs as features”.
(via Download Squad)
Google has added a chart feature to Google Spreadsheets, giving the service its most-requested missing feature. Naturally, it isn’t as visually exciting as Office 2007’s chart feature, but if you’re used to the crap graphics from Office 2003, I guess you’ll be more than satisfied.
Hosted on Zooomr
Microsoft Office Excel 2007:
Hosted on Zooomr
You get five types of charts (Columns, Bars, Lines, Pie, and Scatter), and a small number of sub-types within each (Office has 12 types, with 2-19 subtypes each). I’ve noticed a cool feature, pulling out a pie slice, but none of the visual options in Office, or even the ability to change the colors. Still, this is an extremely useful feature and a great addition to Spreadsheets, one that will hopefully get better and better looking over time, and an important addition to complete it in the minds of users.
Ionut Alex notes:
After inserting the chart in the spreadsheet, you can save it as a PNG image or edit it.
The charts are rendered as SVG in Firefox/Opera and VML in Internet Explorer, so they don’t require plug-ins. As usually, Opera is not officially supported, so you’ll find things that don’t work as expected.
Google Spreadsheets has been updated, a minor release bumping the version number to 1.2.0i. The update fixes these issues:
- spreadsheets not loading quick enough
- spreadsheets not loading
- disconnect error messages (and if you are disconnected, you will be reconnected automatically)
- for IE users, if your spreadsheets aren’t loading, you’ll be prompted with instructions
- “press Ctrl + F5 on your keyboard”
- Now supports Tab Seperated Values (.TSV) files
- hyperlinks in spreadsheets are now active and clickable in published spreadsheets
Meanwhile, check out this demo showing exactly how Google Desktop was hacked. I’m amazed at how the attacker was able to send commands to be run on the compromised machine and get at the user’s password, all by getting the user to click on a sneaky link.
(via Peter H. Gregory > Digg)
Google has launched a new version of Google Apps (formerly Google Apps for Your Domain), and it adds Google Docs & Spreadsheets and a pay service.
There are now two editions of Goofle Apps: the free Standard Edition and the paid Premier Edition. Both editions have Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Page Creator, and a customized start page, no limit to the number of accounts, mobile access, and administrator control panel and web-based support.
Premier Edition differs like so: For $50 per user per year, you get a 99.9% uptime guarantee for email, 10 gigabyte inboxes for all email accounts (up from 2 gigs for the free version), the option of removing advertising from Gmail, shared calendars, APIs for integrating existing infrastructure (including single sign-on, user provisioning and management, and support for an email gateway), a limited release of email migration tools, 24/7 phone support, and third party applications and services.
A note: A 99.9% uptime guarantee means your account will be down for no more than 43.829 minutes per month. Google’s getting better, but outages have happened to Gmail, and I’m sure there will be months where Google has to refund a number of customers.
There is a free trial of Google Apps Premier through the end of April. Google Apps is free for schools and other educational institutions, as well as free for families and groups, which is really just another way of saying that those people can only sign up for the free version.
Here’s the control panel:
Interestingly, according to Nielsen/Netratings via Ionut Alex, Google Docs & Spreadsheets has pretty much cornered the entire market for web-based office applications, taking 92% market share. Looks like the market was pretty much just waiting for any big player to step in, and as soon as Google did, that was that.
Is it worth it? The comparable Microsoft Office 2007 suite, Office Standard 2007, has Word, Excel, Outlook and Powerpoint (which Google does not have) and costs $240 to upgrade. If businesses pick up an Exchange Server for $699, and pay the $69 per user license, plus Office Groove Server 2007 for collaboration (at around $1,500-$2,000, reportedly).
For a 1,000-person organization, with a good licensing contract, that could come out to $250-$300 a user, or about five times the cost of Google’s solution. If you upgrade every other Microsoft Office release, that means $250 per user per six years, putting the total cost per year at $41-50, as much as nine dollars less than Google. For less money, you get to own your software, not rely on another company’s servers, get PowerPoint, get more powerful versions of every application, get an Exchange Server (which has many powerful advantages), and get Groove, a hugely powerful collaboration system, all of which scales cheaper as your organization gets bigger.
Is Google really competing here?
Google Enterprise VP David Girouard spoke to InternetNews, and he dropped a lot of interesting info. Chief among them: Google Talk “will be beefed up to integrate with traditional phone systems as well as VoIP offerings from other vendors”. That seems to be saying that Talk will be able to make phone calls, but certainly isn’t specific enough to be absolutely sure. The discussion centers around taking Talk from the consumer space into becoming a viable enterprise client, which could refer more to integration as a means of free calling among Talk users as part of integration, but without actually adding VoiP to Google Talk.
Girouard also said that one problem companies have with using Google Docs and Spreadsheets is offline access to their data, an issue Google plans to resolve. Google strategy, according to the VP, is:
Girouard explained that Google plans to access the enterprise market by riding in on the shoulders of people like you and me who already use their applications for fun.
“Our focus is, and really ought to be, with applications that have a place in the consumer world and port them over to the enterprise and take advantage of the big Google that everybody knows,” he told internetnews.com.
Interesting idea. Of course, for it to work, Google needs to get its products to actually be popular in the consumer world, something they haven’t had a terrible amount of luck with so far. For now, a better way to get the foot in the door is probably through Gmail (which is why you see that link bar in the top-left of the Gmail interface).
(via Ionut. Alex > Findory)
Philipp caught that Gmail now has a link next to attached XLS files, offering to open them up in Google Spreadsheets. This link is in addition to opening it up/download to your computer, and the link that translates a document into HTML for online reading. It’s such a great integration idea, you have to wonder why Google hasn’t done this for every other file type their products support.