Recently Dennis highlighted that EditGrid might be the best online spreadsheet available. A few days ago I had a session with David Lee, who told me all about the company, based in Hong Kong, and their strategy. Subsequently David gave us an account on the system and we have had a chance to play. I can confirm that we rate this product very highly, and will be partnering with EditGrid in the future. Let me explain a little.
We've looked at Dan Bricklin's WikCalc, which is complex, and the Zoho product, which is straightforward for simple worksheets, but restrictive. David's product is still in public beta but has a lot more potential. The product is a function rich spreadsheet, offered on a Software as a Service basis. They aim to keep the product free for personal use, but to offer a subscription service for corporate users including additional administration and management features. They are looking to spread the technology through partnerships, and collaborations which will make use of their API or additional modules that could be developed. The current product is Public beta 13, and they expect the next version 14 to be available around the time they announce their commercial options and pricing in a couple of months.
Their development approach makes good sense, and is probably the key to their progress against their opposition. They are making use of open source projects like Gnumeric for their spreadsheet logic, and OpenOffice for componnents like PDF support, and so concentrating their development resources on the user interface and user features. They are working on and encouraging various add-ons and mashups with partners, but plan to release these back in to the community as open source. In addition, the product is being translated in to 7 languages with the help of the partner community. They want to make it easy to use EditGrid with other web 2.0 technologies, and so you can publish spreadsheets to a blog or using iframes.
Our Excel expert is David Wynn. He's had a serious look at the product, and compared to Zoho he is impressed with it's simplicity and functionality. Sign up is very straightforward, and most of the spreadsheet functions you are used to are available in EditGrid. Here are some of his comments:
- Cell formatting works well but the formatting window stays in view until it is closed manually, which is irritating
- The properties view is very useful, but we would like to see users that are in the shared list with separators (it can be confusing if there are spaces in user names)
- The revisions functionality is excellent, with roll-back to previous versions and even autosaved versions, but it needs to display version description when the sheet is opened, and who has changed what
- We'd like word wrap to auto expand row height as this has to be expanded manually to see the result
- Import of a spreadsheet creates a new spreadsheet, not a new sheet in the current spreadsheet
- Sheet data load can be slow, even for simple spreadsheet on broadband
He couldn't find where to change the frequency of autosaves.
David had some concerns over import of protected sheets, and merge cells, and the major thing we'd like to see is the ability to see and track the revision history of who has modified the spreadsheet. This is a known issue, and something they are working on. However, David's overall summary is that this is an excellent product that can be used straight "out of the box" for the normal kinds of things you would use Excel for, except with easy access and collaboration across the web.
We're definitely including use of EditGrid in what we do from now on, and we are exploring ways we can integrate it in to our other offerings, particularly Twinfield as both a data entry mechanism and for reporting. I would suggest you take a look at this product as one of your Office 2.0 components.