Some of you may already know of services that offer spreadsheets online, like Num Sum, but you may want to consider giving iRows a try. iRows is a great solution for creating web-based spreadsheets that has similar functionality to the popular office application, Microsoft Excel. With iRows, you can save spreadsheets online, keep it privately, share them with groups, and let anyone view them. You can perform formulas, formatting, and amazingly even graphs. I’ve played around making a few spreadsheets and I am very impressed with its overall functionality. I have even used it for work already instead of Excel. Looks like Office 2.0 is well on it’s way!
When I first signed up, I took a look at some spreadsheets that others have already created to get an idea of what can be accomplished with iRows. Some spreadsheets were packed with data, others were basic formulas, and some were tutorial spreadsheets that iRows created to get you going. My first impression was that it was just some Num Sum clone, but after taking a closer look, there were actually quite a bit of features that impressed me. I was mostly impressed with the spreadsheets themselves, but just to give you a basic idea of the system, here are some of the features you get. First thing that I liked was that you can easily search for data sheets and then easily find it again by going to the recent section of iRows, which will show the spreadsheets that you’ve recently looked at. I also liked how you can easily create groups and share your spreadsheets with them. Sometimes I just want to make a private spreadsheet but maybe allow a few people to see it. You can also give others access to edit your spreadsheets making them into collaborative documents. One thing that I didn’t find though was tagging. You can apply keywords to spreadsheets, but I think tags would make for a whole lot more functionality.
I was very impressed when making spreadsheets on with iRows. The first thing that you will notice is the similar appearance to Microsoft Excel with the blue gradients making it a very comfortable environment to work. I am used to the style of Microsoft Excel and I was glad to see that iRows has maintained the style. Secondly, I noticed that the container the spreadsheet is in can be resized allowing you to fit the data in a view that works best for you. You can also resize columns and select multiple cells at a time (even Shift + Click works to select multiple cells). But most of the functionality can be found along the top menu of the spreadsheet. You will find that you can change colors, font formatting, number formats, modify rows and columns, export and import, add images, and amazingly even create graphs on the fly. iRows also allows you to add formulas to cells as you would in your basic spreadsheet application so you can easily make calculations on data.
To get an idea of how advanced you can get with iRows, take a look at the above spreadsheet. I did not make the above spreadsheet, but I believe it makes a great example to show. There is a lot of data present, many formulas, and headings in various places. I noticed that clicking on a cell that has a formula will not only let you easily modify it, but it will also border the cells involved in blue dashed lines making it very easy for you to see what’s going on. To see how flexible the graphs were, I decided to add a Pie Chart to this spreadsheet. I selected one row with headings and around four or five rows of data under the headings. I then clicked on the graph icon and selected the Pie Chart. It automatically filled in the range of data and had me select if the data was for the selected rows or columns. I then filled in a title for the graph and clicked “ok.” That was all to it and the graph you see above is exactly what it produced. Not only that, but you can resize the graph at any site and even modify it in real-time in that if you change any data on the spreadsheet, the graph will update automatically. Lastly, you will see in the screenshot that I’ve got the import/export menu open. iRows allows you to export your spreadsheets in XML, HTML, and even tab delimited or comma seperated text document. I use tab delimited format a lot for work, so I found that export option especially helpful. Then, you can import data to a spreadsheet by inserting your text delimited data or iRows XML export data into the import text fields provided. Although, I would love to upload files directly into the application through an upload form instead of just the provided textarea. For the most part, the export/import options worked very well and a lot of my offline spreadsheets transfered over just fine.
iRows works great and I personally prefer it over Num Sum at this point because of the graphing and import/export options. I would like to see tagging though as it makes searching and collaborating a whole lot easier for everyone. And lastly, for those of you interested in embedding spreadsheets into your sites/blogs, iRows provides you with code to easily do this as well and in an interactive or static format. I have tested it in an HTML document and it worked out great.
I find it amazing seeing all these online applications function just like many of our offline applications. I still use offline applications, but things may be changing soon as it appears I can easily switch at anytime to online services only. The only worries that I have when it comes to office applications online is the security of my data and knowing that if a server goes down or I am out of connection, I cannot access my data. Things should be getting very interesting in the coming generation of the web and the theory of Office 2.0. Anyone else feel the way I do when it comes to the security of data? Do you believe that Office 2.0 is going to be the way of the future?
Update:: So I wrote this review last night, and it figures that a new release of iRows is published this next morning! Hah. Yes, iRows has just released an update with the spreadsheets and they look very nice. But the new version does not appear to work in Firefox, but did in the old version. I notice there is now tagging and you can also export the document as an Excel file. Although the tagging seems to still function just like the old keywords did (just displaying the words). It would be great to be able to select spreadsheets by a tag or tag cloud of some sort. Maybe making a new “Tags” section in the “Data Sheets” area would work, if not, maybe in the Search area somehow. Also, you will see the interface has a new menu that is orginized just a little differently compared to the description I made last night. It functions great in Internet Explorer and Safari, but seems to fail in Firefox. I am glad to see the increase in functionality though, so hopefully they can fix the browser issue and everything will be great.
Update: Seems to be working again in Firefox. Nice work, iRows, for fixing that quickly.