Thanks to Sam Davyson, I was able to take a first look at the new Google Spreadsheets. At this time, Google is sending out invites to the first people who signed up for what must be the 15th or so product launch this year.*
See movie 1 [WMV], a general Spreadsheets overview showing the different editing features, and movie 2 [WMV], showing the multi-user editing capabilities, with Sam, Sidpac and me editing simultaneously.
As you can see, Google spreadsheets works quite smoothly. There were no noticeable lags in-between editing, and the multi-user editing is superb (and somewhat similar to Writely). The look and feel is that of Excel, but Google-branded and webified. There are less icons, less menu entries, and there is also only the most needed functionality. Your files can be exported into several formats (Excel, CSV, and HTML).
You’ll notice Google put a focus on sharing and multi-user editing. You can invite others to your document, you can chat with them, and edit along with them on the same document, at the same time. (When you’re used to Microsoft Excel showing weird messages like “the document is currently being edited” on your intranet, this is a refreshing change.)
Google Spreadsheet usability is quite good. As ever so often, this is a Google product with no ads so far (ads might be on the horizon, of course); it’s more a tool than a site, clearly fitting into the growing array of Google OS products. The only thing I really missed so far was right-clicking rows to apply formatting changes or to copy & paste text. (It’s not trivial working around the default browser context menu, which in certain contexts can’t be replaced at all by a web page.) That, and the ability to create graphs from your data (and the help file also needs to be completed yet). But that’s the good thing about web apps; they can be constantly updated by the developers in the background without any of us ever having to install a new version.
Also see the previous discussion...
*The first half of 2006 saw the release of Google Writely, Google China, Google Trends, Google Co-op, Google Notebook, Google SketchUp, Google AJAX Search API, Google Related Links, Google Mars, Google Page Creator, Google Calendar, Google Chat, Google Web Toolkit and Google Pack.