Day 9: Taking a Closer Look at Google Docs Spreadsheets
By Tony Bradley, PCWorld
30 Days WIth…Google Docs: Day 9
Today for the 30 Days With…Google Docs project I did some more exploring to see what Google Docs spreadsheets can do. While I don’t want them to get in the way of real functionality, I am admittedly a fan of bells and whistles. The ‘gee whiz’ factor is not lost on me, so I like to play around with features like the Gadgets that Google offers for the spreadsheets.
I did some clicking about to see what features are hidden in the menus. File has the obligatory New, Open, and other file management options, as well as Import and Download as which let you import and export Excel (and other) file types.
The Edit menu lets you cut, copy, and paste content into cells. I like the option to Paste format only, or Paste values only, and the fact that deleting the current row or column are offered up so you could easily do so in a click or two.
View lets you freeze rows or columns so you can still see your data headers as you scroll through the fields. It also has options to enable or disable the gridlines in the spreadsheet, or to add or remove the formula bar from the spreadsheet view.
The Format menu provides what you would expect. You can define the font and font size, and the type of data, such as currency, percentage, etc.–along with the number of places to display past the decimal point. You can also control text formatting such as bold, italics, and underlining, and you can establish rules for conditional formatting.
My two favorite menus, though-as a user of spreadsheets who is not by any means a spreadsheet guru–are the Tools and Insert menus. Let’s start with Tools. The Tools menu has a spell-checker and a form creating wizard, but my favorite thing on the Tools menu is the Script Gallery.
The reason I love the Script Gallery is because I understand that spreadsheets can be powerful and flexible tools, but I am not a spreadsheet guru. The Script Gallery has hundreds of scripts developed for specific functions that you can just install and use. There are contact managers, stock trackers, credit card number verifiers, and many more. There is one caveat with the Script Gallery–watch your back. The scripts may contain malicious code, and Google doesn’t take any responsibility for them. Use them at your own risk.
That brings us to the Insert menu. Why do I love the Insert menu? Because it has the tools that bring the spreadsheet to life and make the information worth looking at. Rows and columns of numbers and text are boring. But, the Insert menu lets you add charts, images, forms, and more–including Gadgets. Like the Script Gallery, the Gadgets option contains hundreds of options for adding illustrations and interactive content to your spreadsheet. You can insert charts, tables, maps, Web searches and more. You really need to go explore it for yourself to see all it has to offer.
I imagine that Google Docs spreadsheets may struggle–or flat out fail–when it comes to working with more complex Excel spreadsheets. Advanced spreadsheets with macros and pivot tables and such might not play well in Google Docs. But, the bottom line is that for what I do with spreadsheets I really haven’t found anything to complain about with Google Docs like I did with documents.
Perhaps someone who uses Microsoft Excel on a more hardcore level than I do can share some tales from the trenches. Feel free to comment here or email me and let me know what your experience has been. Let me know what works, what doesn’t, and–most importantly–any lessons or workarounds you have learned along the way.