Ever since spreadsheets became an integral part of business, people have started collecting most of their business data. Spreadsheets are not really meant for complex structures. Techies though integrate it with their Access and code some complex Macros and build some structure in and around it. Spreadsheets let you add data anyway you want it and in any cell you want. It is not limited to any structural procedures unless there are some pre-defined data validation rules and formats.
Who uses spreadsheets the most?
Business managers such as Sales Managers, HR Managers, Product Development Manager, Team Leads, Quality analysts etc. use spreadsheets day long. Many of them are quite experts in organizing the collected data while some still struggle with the sorting, grouping and formatting features. They use it mainly to create data lists of prospects, sales, status updates, client lists, inventory lists and many more. The next stage after creating these huge spreadsheets comes sharing parts of these data when these business managers fall short of options and succumb to emails, Google Docs or some third party file sharing applications.
Current spreadsheet applications in the market and their limitations with sharing
Microsoft Excel: It gives you the simplest solution to tough problems. Set a filter on a specific column and select your option. Once you get the filtered data either lock the rest of the sheet or just copy the data and paste it in another spreadsheet and email it to the respective team members. The problem that arises is the continuous piling up of spreadsheets which become a huge pain as days pass by. It is tough to maintain one master sheet and still work collaboratively on it.
Google Docs: Till now, the best solution to work with spreadsheets online allows you to share your data by hiding columns, setting filters and directly emailing from your Google account. But, these again lead to multiple versions which have to be managed. Moreover anyone can unhide a column or remove a filter and see the rest of the data. Locking cells and working collaboratively does not seem to be a very amicable solution.
Office 365: The newest introduction of Microsoft moves your Excel files online and helps you integrate with a whole other bunch of tools like SharePoint, Access, Project Management tools etc.
Open Office: A cool open source tool standing as a week competitor to Excel does quite a bit of spreadsheet action but is not promising enough to stand up and win the war of data collection, sharing and collaboration for business managers around the world.
Apart from these there are multiple other cloud based tools like Dropbox, Box.net, Skydrive, Google Drive, FileZilla etc. that helps you share your spreadsheets online without continuous emailing. But, this doesn’t solve the basic issues of sharing parts of spreadsheet data.