In the latter part of the previous version of History of Spreadsheets, we talked about a specific set of people that make use of spreadsheets, but taking a closer look into today’s society, we may discover that the use of spreadsheets is no longer limited to statisticians, analysts, and experts or diverse businesses that require advanced approach to calculations. But teachers, engineers, scientists, and even researchers now make use of spreadsheets to keep tracks of marks and record exam results, to perform calculations related to various kinds of constructions like designing bridges, airplanes, buildings, keep accurate track of experimental results and collect data for case studies.
It appeared in the late 1970s that spreadsheets have (almost) permanently replaced the paper and calculator for financial and accounting calculations. Spreadsheets and, more generally, office automation software have primarily contributed to the computerization of companies, and more particularly SMEs, since the 1980s. The first version of MULTIPLAN was released in 1982 by Microsoft under CP/M then MS/DOS. This spreadsheet, fast and functional, offered all the functions that an average user could expect. The work area was similar to the spreadsheets of our current spreadsheets. The bottom part listed the functions available to the user. To access a menu function the use had to hit the first letter.
Development of online spreadsheets
Using spreadsheets has evolved, as nowadays, you can make use of an online spreadsheet to get your job done. It is no longer a compulsory that you should go looking for a PC to tabulate your data, but you can do that from your mobile device, like your notepads and tablets. Let us look at some online spreadsheet platforms. But, you must know, not all these online spreadsheets are compatible with Excel.
XL2Web was a web-based spreadsheet application developed by 2Web Technologies, which was bought by Google in 2006 and transformed into Google Labs Spreadsheets. Initially launched for a limited number of users was later replaced with a beta version available to all Google account holders. Google acquired a couple of other companies like DocVerse and Quickoffice to extend functionality. Google Spreadsheets was renamed to Google Sheets in October 2012. In 2014 Google launched a mobile app for Sheets on the Android and iOS systems. There is also Chrome app that allows offline editing.
In addition to familiar features like PivotTable and various formatting options, Google Sheets has a distinct advantage over Excel: Collective and mobile access to all documents. Since it can be used on the Web, it is a quick tool, easily accessible by several users simultaneously. It allows you to create several predefined table formats intuitively. Also, compatibility is not a problem, as Excel and Google files can be easily saved, reworked and converted. The “revision history” function, very convenient, provides access to the history of all changes, which are automatically saved. For a user who is looking for flexible, mobile access to their tables, it’s a convenient and fast online solution. With Google Accounts, you can work with multiple people on the same file.
Zoho Sheet was first released in February 2006 and is now part of Zoho CRM. This online spreadsheet comes in two versions: a free version and a paid one. Fortunately, the free version is ample for standard use and is not time limited. Zoho Sheet allows you to easily edit your spreadsheets online, even from the small screens of our smartphones. But where it excels is in the collaborative edition where several communications and monitoring tools allow following the updates without being wrong. The Zoho Sheet enables you to effectively manage the people involved in your file with well-thought-out user rights. An exact history of changes also will allow you to know who did what, up to the smallest font change. It also offers a backup system that can reload an old version of its spreadsheet, which is a feature still appreciated.
EtherCalc is the successor of SocialCalc (2009), which was a rewrite of WikiCalc (2005). It was released initially in 2012. It allows users to edit data in browser, while other contributors can see the changes instantly. It features basic formatting as well as the history of saved versions.
Another collaborative online spreadsheet. Based on EtherCalc, takes the main features while trying to embed all this in a more attractive interface. Permanent backup of the different versions of the document, history, graphs, it is finally complete with a single catch: its use (buttons and controls) differs from other spreadsheets. So, it requires a real-time adaptation.
ThinkFree Office (Cell)
ThinkFree Office is, like Microsoft Office, a set of office software with the only difference that it includes only 3: a word processor (Word), a spreadsheet (Cell) and presentation software (Show). Available online and on mobile, Cell is also a multi-user solution. It gives users the opportunity to work simultaneously in collaboration and in real time on the same sheet. Oriented B2B, it also offers several ready-made business-oriented templates such as a quote or an invoice although it is a paid program and provides a trial-version of only two months.
The idea behind this project (first launched as beta in November 2018) it to give the users, additionally to the standard spreadsheet functionality, something more that would distinguish it from others – easy online publishing option. Users can share their data in non-editable (locked cells) or editable (but without save option) form on website. Possible application can be checked here.