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Excel is synonymous with spreadsheets for many of us. But EditGrid, a new online spreadsheet service, could convince you that Microsoft's product isn't the best financial analysis tool under all circumstances.
EditGrid offers both more and less than Excel does. The online service makes collaborating with others easier, and provides the ability to import and integrate charts and other Web 2.0 material from online sources such as Google and Reuters.
Hard-core spreadsheet wranglers might be disappointed with EditGrid's lack of full support for keyboard shortcuts, and its omission of some high-end capabilities. And like all online spreadsheets, EditGrid suffers from slower file retrieve and save operations. But occasional users who create small to midsize spreadsheets should be quite satisfied with EditGrid, the Personal Edition of which is free.
How to Use EditGrid
One of the prime advantages of online services such as EditGrid is that they let you collaborate on spreadsheet creation and then share the result easily. EditGrid's real-time update permits more than one user to work on a spreadsheet at the same time. It also has a handy chat capability that allows collaborators to communicate. You have the option of creating and saving private sheets or making them available to the public, as well.
Sounds like Google's and Zoho's online spreadsheets, right? Well, EditGrid has some tricks that the competitors lack. EditGrid supports some online mashups, letting you insert stock-price charts, exchange rates, and other financial data from services such as Alexa, Compete.com, Google Charts, Reuters, and Yahoo Finance. EditGrid also publishes an API (application programming interface) that lets you integrate the service with your existing applications, though you will need some technical knowledge to accomplish that.
Like other online services, EditGrid offers optional plug-ins that enhance its capabilities; one allows you to open EditGrid sheets within Excel. EditGrid also integrates with the customer relationship management (CRM) service Salesforce.com.
Unlike the online services from Google and Zoho, however, EditGrid concentrates on spreadsheets only, not on word processing or presentations. The specialized approach pays off with better collaboration features and, in the paid Subscription Edition, with more administrative capabilities.
EditGrid Has Its Limitations
EditGrid offers most of the spreadsheet capabilities of Excel, with the notable exceptions of macros, pivot tables, data validation, and cell merge, among several other missing features.
The biggest disappointment is that EditGrid lacks full support for keyboard controls, such as those called up by the slash command. For a knowledgeable spreadsheet user, such keyboard controls are quicker than pointing and clicking on a mouse-driven menu.
You will wait longer to save or retrieve spreadsheet files than if you were working on a local hard drive, too. However, most of the other spreadsheet functions, such as copy and paste, operate just as fast as their counterparts do in Excel.
Is EditGrid Right for You?
If you don't have spreadsheet software and you require access to such functions only occasionally, the freebie edition of EditGrid will fit the bill. More-experienced spreadsheet users will appreciate the ease of collaboration and sharing.
Power spreadsheet users who develop complex sheets measuring dozens of columns across and hundreds of rows deep will probably want to continue using spreadsheet software such as Excel instead of a service. The online service's capabilities and performance in dealing with large, complex spreadsheets don't yet match that of software on a PC.
Small-Business Editions, Too
EditGrid comes in three editions. The free Personal Edition lets you upload a spreadsheet file of up to 2MB. For $5 per user per month, the Subscription Edition increases the upload limit to 8MB, adds an SSL connection for improved security, provides e-mail tech support, and offers a custom log-in page along with other administrative features. A 30-day free trial is available.
You can also install and run EditGrid on your own server using a Standard License. The cost starts at $1500 for a commercial license for up to 25 users and runs to $10,000 for unlimited users. The license fee includes the first year's maintenance, both technical support and updates.
PCW Rating: 79 Good
Online spreadsheet service is well suited for collaboration, but doesn't have all of the high-end capabilities of Microsoft Excel.
Price when reviewed: Personal Edition free, Subscription Edition $5 per month per user, Standard License Edition (runs on your own server) $1500 and up
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