Google’s been hard at working adding some neat features to its Spreadsheets software. First – Google Lookup. This little feature allows users to insert a bit of code (a “formula,” in MS Excel speak) into a cell that will use the web to find the information and fill it in. So, for example, you could create a code that inserts the population of Canada or the birth rate in India or the number of taxi cabs on the road in New York. All you’d have to do is put =GoogleLookup(“entity”; “attribute”) into a cell (entity would be Canada, India, or New York; attribute would be population, birth rate, or number of taxi cabs). The magic of Google then gets to work and puts a value into the cell, which will be automatically updated whenever the corresponding value changes on the web. Neat. A related function is devoted to financial information and linked to Google Finance. For financial values, a user would put =GoogleFinance(“symbol”; “attribute”) into a cell in order to retrieve actively updated data about a specific public company (“symbol” is the company’s ticker symbol – GOOG for Google, F for Ford; “attribute” is the specific information required – price, market cap, opening price, etc.).
The second feature we’re in love with is the “Forms” feature, which allows a spreadsheet creator to invite people to fill in just a tiny bit of information without having access to the entire spreadsheet. Basically, it turns a Google Spreadsheet into a dynamic surveying tool. Users don’t need to have a Google account in order to fill in the requested information, and they can submit their answers directly from the email invitation. The creator’s spreadsheet is updated in real time, and organized into whatever format desired. It’s a great tool for helping people stay organized and collect information from a broad group of people.
Take this as a reminder to check out (and stay on top of) the good stuff going on with Google Apps. We’ve found these tools to be incredibly useful in our work – and hope you’ll find the same. Learn more at Google Docs.