If You Want Excel Spreadsheets but Need Something Better
A friend asked me the other night if I knew of a way that he and his business partner could share a spreadsheet in a way that they wouldn't have to worry about who has the file open at any given time.
He wanted to know if there was a way to share an Excel spreadsheet so both could work at the same time without disrupting each other's work, and without having to email it to each other or dealing with accessing it from a shared hard drive.
He didn't want to have to email it to each other whenever they made a change. That is just a nightmare and so 2002.
I was a bit taken aback because I thought everybody knew about the solution for this by now. But apparently I was wrong, I told him I had the solution for this, but I still wanted to hear his requirements. I think this answer might help you as well.
I listened to all the requirements he told me. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't missing anything and he didn't need anything too robust like a proper MySQL or NoSQL database. He didn't; he's in real estate and just needed to track stats and properties related to the business.
He wanted something just like his Excel spreadsheet, but better.
The clear-cut answer was to move the Excel spreadsheet to Google Sheets. Google Sheets is part of the Google Docs suite and it does most (arguably, everything) you need to do with Excel, and it does it better.
But can I run some formulas if I need to? He asked...
Of course, you can run formulas. Complex ones, simple ones and if you have the chops or have some patience doing some web searches, you can even program very fancy scripts.
For example, there is the Content Strategy Helper worksheet by Builtvisible. Where you can plug in a search query and it will do a bunch of magic for you to enhance your research and SEO. To use it, you go to the Google spreadsheet they have, you make a copy to your own Google docs and you can start using it.
Another much simpler example is one spreadsheet I use where each of the sheets has a list of locations where my articles or videos might be shared. Each sheet contains network locations, for example: Facebook groups or facebook pages, Google+ profiles and groups, Twitter, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, things like that.
Then I have one more sheet where I use a simple formula to bring all those locations from each sheet into one new column in a document. I use this as an activity log to make sure I have shared my content out for maximum exposure. Think of it like a checklist for promotional purposes.
I have seen complex financial models, simple budgets, and all sorts of things done with Google Sheets. Sheets become even more powerful when you realize that they usually play nice with other Google tools, like Google maps, Google Documents (like Word). And you can also create forms to capture data that goes directly into the spreadsheets. Think surveys, questionnaires, RSVPs, etc.
Needless to say, my friend was happy with the answer because he didn't realize that you could share a spreadsheet in real time with other users and that it would all be backed up in real time, safely and securely.
My buddy also didn't know that you could run formulas as complex as you can in Excel, you can run charts, reports and more.
I have been using Google Docs since they came out. I have my reservations about Google's use of their political and economic power, but their products are unparalleled.
I don't know why many people think that Google Sheets is not as powerful as Excel. Maybe it's just the group of diehard Excel users that have been using it for their entire career and somehow think that Google sheets "just can't do that."
From having to use both and from having to teach people to use both and support both, I can tell you that Google sheets is as powerful and capable --if not more-- than Excel.
If you want to use it for a business and get support and a few more security features, you just need to get a G Suite account, previously known as Google for Business, here's a link to a free trial.
But if you just want to use it for yourself and a couple of business partners, family or friends, then you just need to go to your Google Drive when you log in to your Gmail account. You do know you have a free amount of storage with Google Drive included with your Gmail account... right?