Thursday, April 06, 2006

Re-thinking the online spreadsheet 

Sean McGrath
The obvious thing to do would be to take a spreadsheet from an office suite and transplant its functionality into a browser. This can certainly work and various initiatives are under way doing exactly this. However, I cannot help feeling that there might be an opportunity to do something a little more interesting than just "functionality transplantation" in this case.

What is a spreadsheet really? At heart it is a collection of cells of information. Some of these cells are static, containing words, numbers, pictures and so on. Some of these cells are dynamic containing calculations. The calculations use information from other cells to compute interesting things. The cells that calculations use can themselves be calculations...and there you have it. Everything else about a spreadsheet is secondary.

Cells in a spreadsheet are not like paragraphs in a word-processor or slides in a presentation in one very critical aspect. Cells have addresses. Cells can be uniquely referenced by means of their row and column numbers. Cells can also be referenced by friendly names allocated to cells such as "gross profit" or "unit cost" and so on.

See also: RDF Prior Art

Topics: Web 2.0 | Design

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