Google readies web-based spreadsheet

Google is preparing the introduction of Google Spreadsheets, a new, web-based spreadsheet application that promises to complement Google's existing Gmail and Calendar apps. Google Spreadsheets isn't yet publicly available, but users can already sign up for a limited beta test via a try-out page on Google's Labs website. A short tour of the app—complete with screenshots—is also available. Google says Spreadsheets will allow users either to create new spreadsheets from scratch or to import existing ones from programs like Microsoft Excel. More importantly, multiple users will be able to share, collaborate on, and chat about a single spreadsheet straight from the web-based interface. As such, Google Spreadsheets appears to be presented more like a complement to Excel rather than a direct competitor.

Jonathan Rochelle, Product Manager for Google Spreadsheets, claims the app's goal is to "make it easier for family, friends or co-workers to gain access to the same spreadsheet from different computers at different times" without requiring repeated swapping of e-mail attachments. Users can still save documents back into Microsoft's .xls format once they're done, and features like chart generation still require a full-blown spreadsheet app like Excel. Nonetheless, Google does seem determined to nip at Microsoft Office's heels: back in March, Google purchased Writely, a web-based word processor that allows users to load, work on, and save Microsoft Word files straight from their browser.

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