Xcellery collaborates with online spreadsheet users

Tool lets users share and edit spreadsheets online using Microsoft Excel itself

A start-up company called Collaborall is offering a free online tool for sharing and editing spreadsheets created in Microsoft Excel.

While online tools such as Google Docs & Spreadsheets solve the problem of how to keep track of different versions of spreadsheets and word processor files, Collaborall's Xcellery program lets users share and edit spreadsheets online using Microsoft Excel itself, eliminating the need for users to learn a new program.

"It takes Microsoft Excel and makes it multi-user-friendly," says Reto Laemmler, a software engineer in San Francisco who is the founder and sole employee of Collaborall. "All the changes people [make in Excel files] are immediately reflected to the team. People can work at the same time."

A beta version of the product was released in May. About 3,000 people have subscribed to the free online service, while about five companies are using a paid version that is only available as an add-on to Salesforce.com and has benefits, including extra storage capacity, according to Laemmler.

LeaderTreks , an Illinois-based group that organizes youth trips, training and curriculum to train future church leaders, began using Xcellery last fall as an add-on application to Salesforce.com's hosted CRM software.

LeaderTreks was using Excel calendars to schedule trips, but only one person could work in a document at a given time. This created problems when two employees were selling trips simultaneously. Also, if someone was telecommuting, that person had to call the office to find out whether a spot on the booking calendar was available.

Xcellery "gives us the benefit of making it available to anyone at the same time anywhere in the world," says Neile Havens, assistant operations director of LeaderTreks. "We checked out Google Docs & Spreadsheets. That wasn't a good option for us, because it didn't integrate with Salesforce.com. We wanted all of our critical information to be in one place so our people only needed to remember one password."

Because the program allows people to share and edit files in Excel, employees didn't have to adapt to a new program, Havens notes. LeaderTreks is paying US$15 a month for five users, he says.

The paid version of Xcellery is also available for US$20 per month for 10 users and US$25 per month for 25 users.

Laemmler says he plans to release an enterprise edition of Xcellery later this month.

Havens says Xcellery has made several improvements over the past few months to fix formatting problems in the online service.

"At first when we used it, all the formatting that was available in Excel wasn't possible in Xcellery," Havens says. "But they've made some updates, and there is sufficient formatting available now for us."

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