SPREADSHEETS' COME-BACK


USED FOR MORE THAN CRUNCHING NUMBERS


A small cluster of startups have in the past year released spreadsheet products–such as Rows, Spreadsheet.com, and Grist–with newfangled robot superpowers, like automatically hoovering up data from other sites or sending emails when the logic in a formula triggers. In a strange way, they’ve taken spreadsheets and turned them into all-purpose, helpful bots–crafted from rows and columns.


These new services all spring from a core observation of their inventors, which is that spreadsheets are now used for far more than crunching numbers. “Spreadsheets were originally designed for accounting purposes and for computations, but they just grew to be the sort of standard way that we organize all data,” as Matt Robinson, CEO of Spreadsheet.com, tells me.


So the new crop of sheets are designed to lean away from pure math, and into this “organize your stuff” function. Spreadsheets.com, for example, lets users dump almost anything into a cell. Drop a photo or a PDF into a cell and the product will immediately create a thumbnail, which you can then expand, as if the spreadsheet were some sort of blog content-management system. Most of these new products also let users connect their sheets to other Internet services, so they can scrape info off other sites, or issue alerts if data changes.


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SMART TECH

NL #18