Google Spreadsheets: Apparently imminent

Okay, "Google Office"--the long-rumored Microsoft Office rival--is coming into focus. First Google bought Writely, the nifty browser-based word processor. And now everyone seems to agree that Tuesday will see the release, in at least limited form, of a Google spreadsheet.

Google Spreadsheets is definitely much more than a rumor--in fact, the Google site already has a guided tour of it here:

According to the tour, Google Spreadsheets will have a bunch of features you'd expect (browser-based operation, Excel compatability, online storage and sharing), and at least one you probably wouldn't (some sort of built-in instant messaging).

I have three additional questions:

Will it be truly usable and useful? There are early versions of a bunch of online spreadsheets already, including iRows, Zoho Sheet, and NumSum. They're all intriguing, but none replicate the traditional spreadsheet experience in the way that the best online word processors succesfully mimic their desktop counterparts, and so I can't imagine doing serious work in them as they stand. Doing a spreadsheet in a browser, it seems, is just plain tough.

Will it play nicely with Writely and Google Calendar? Google doesn't always seem particularly interested in consistency and integration. So I'm wondering if Spreadsheets will pick up Writely design cues (the screens don't look especially Writely-esque) and do things like store its spreadsheets in a single repository with Writely documents, for instance. And how do Google Calendar and GMail fit in?

Will there be more Google Office to come? Is Google Presentation on its way? Does Google plan to keep piling features onto its online productivity tools until they rival Microsoft Office? Will GDrive be one of the puzzle pieces?

Er, that's more than three questions. Enough pondering for now...I'll report back once I've had a chance to try this thing.

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Harry McCracken

PC World
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