Google Docs and Spreadsheets

October 11, 2006 in 4 out of 5 stars, A service, Hosted "Office", Hosted software, Productivity

What is it?

Google Docs and Spreadsheets: From Google's acquisition of Writely coupled with Google Spreadsheet comes Google Docs and Spreadsheets. A hosted, Gmail-like service which provides (you guessed it) a hosted document and spreadsheet editor.

Just login with your Google/Gmail account to get started.


Who makes it?


Why is it the killerest?

Google is hit and miss on interface design (or maybe we just need to get used to their approach). This one is done quite well. The options are simple - and happen to be the only ones I think most of us care about anyway. The upside? No bloated confusing morass of menu options.

All your documents are in a nice, clean, hosted centralized location allowing you, or colleagues to access them from anywhere. You can even upload existing doc(Word)/rtf/xls(Excel)/csv etc documents to the repository.

The collaboration stuff really is nice. Send invites, track revisions, chat (IM-like, right in the window) while you work together on a doc, etc. (It's similar to Writeboard only with richer collaboration tools). You can also invite folks to view, but not edit.

You can also export your creations to common formats (doc/rtf/xls/csv/pdf/html/open office). PDF export is a pretty darn cool feature.

Has a very nice spell check.

The spreadsheet (doc too?) allows you to autosave periodically to keep you from losing work (nice touch).

You can also post word docs to your blog (nice clean drop-down+click setup for Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, SquareSpace, BlogHarbor, Blogware). And you can manually set up other services, including TypePad and Moveable Type, but it takes a bit more finessing.

Works in IE and FireFox (haven't tested others, although I suspect all modern browsers work.)

What could be improved?

I'm not sure how comfortable we'll be having our documents hosted such that without a connection (read: airplane, vacation, etc.) we don't have access to them. Do rich collaboration tools and a hard-drive-crash-resistant hosted repository outweigh the annoyance of that?

They are quite simple in functionality - probably 90% of what we all need, that last 10% may be a deal breaker for power users, especially the spreadsheet side. It's not as eerily omniscient as Excel, if you rely on that.

How much does it cost?



Reviewed by Carson McComas

Get free blog updates and tips by email

I love the new interface. Clean and simple, just the way I like it.

Posted by: Noah Winecoff | Oct 11, 2006 10:54:38 AM

Thanks for reviewing this one, Carson. I hadn't logged into my Writely account in about a month and had no idea of the changes!


Posted by: KJ | Oct 12, 2006 5:05:44 AM

I've been using the spreadsheet for a while, and am a big fan. We're already using it in our office for some tracking reports that require multiple contributors. One big downside that I hope they'll overcome is the small spreadsheet size -- around 90 lines long and only a few dozen columns wide.

Posted by: Geoff | Oct 18, 2006 6:11:46 AM

Long before Google Docs and Spreadsheets released, EditGrid ( ) and iRows ( ) are both nice online spreadsheets in the market. EditGrid allow you to chart 30+ charts and use 500+ functions, post spreadsheet to blog and retrieve data (like forex and stockequote) from web regularly to you spreadsheets. I invite you to try it out. Rgds,

Posted by: Cliff | Oct 19, 2006 9:22:30 PM

I have been using Google Docs and Spreadsheets for awhile now, and, considering everything, I am thrilled and very pleased with it. I do wish it could hold other files (even if it cannot edit them), like pdfs and photos/graphics, which I need to share with others on my team, but I am still very pleased with this tool.

Posted by: Susyn | Nov 2, 2006 7:23:10 AM

When I first encountered a promotion for Google Docs and Spreadsheets Beta version after logging out of my AdWords account I was skeptical. Could this application really offer all the benefits of software like MS Word and Excel in a web-based format? The fact that Google has been developing a few other very impressive web-based applications lately convinced me to at least give it a try. Google did not let me down, it does everything they claimed it would do, and does it very effectively. The fact that you can create a spreadsheet online, not only upload them from your hard drive, is my favorite feature. It is especially impressive that you are able to use the same formulas as in MS Excel directly on the web-based spreadsheet.

Google Docs and Spreadsheets is a great collaboration tool. I can see it making a huge impact. However, I see this impact being for more simple collaboration needs. Students will probably use it more than any other group. It seems great for sending homework to yourself, working on assignments on various computers (in a library, computer lab, or other public computer labs common to academic campuses), and even for small companies with very simple collaboration needs.

I do not, however, see this solution being implemented for large-scale collaboration. It lacks high-level database structuring, key reporting features, certain access control privilege settings, advanced search and are necessary for it to become a complete enterprise business solution. Nevertheless, I can only think of one application that has all these features; it could be called “Google Docs and Spreadsheets on steroids.” This web-based software, Interneer Intellect (, would probably be more appropriate for mid-to-large sized organizations looking for a web-based collaboration solution. However, Intellect lacks the ability to create spreadsheets online. It does integrate with MS Excel, Access and Project to make up for that.

Posted by: Matthew Steffen | Nov 17, 2006 6:40:10 PM