Google takes another swing at Excel with Sheets update

New features include formula previews and collaboration aids

Google Sheets features a mobile-friendly interface, making it easy to view your various spreadsheets.

Google Sheets features a mobile-friendly interface, making it easy to view your various spreadsheets.

Google launched an updated version of its Sheets web app for spreadsheet editing on Monday, adding new capabilities that could help lure people away from Microsoft Excel.

The updates include a feature that lets users preview the results of formulas as they type, so they can troubleshoot problems without leaving the cell they're editing. Google says the new capability is exclusive to Sheets, and comes alongside other capabilities like the ability to filter data by conditions including "greater than" and "text contains." A new GETPIVOTDATA function makes it easier for users to pull information out of a pivot table, as well.

People who rely on Sheets for creating charts also got a few extras, including the ability to add data labels that show the exact value of bars in a bar chart or points in a graph. Users can also change the shape of points on line or scatter charts from circles to stars, triangles, pentagons and other shapes.

Monday's update also brought new features targeted at improving Sheets's collaboration chops. The software now allows users to set up editing warnings for certain cell ranges to remind themselves and their collaborators to be careful when changing critical values. Whenever a user goes to edit inside one of those areas, they'll be shown a pop-up that lets them know it has been flagged as an area they should be cautious about changing. It's a new augmentation to the service's collaboration tools, which also allow users to confine collaborators to editing only certain cells.

Google's new features come as Microsoft moves towards its upcoming release of Office 2016. That major update to the company's productivity suite will be focused in part on making new collaboration features available, which will put apps like Excel 2016 in closer competition with Google's collaboration technology.

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