If you carry around a laptop so you can show clients your latest marketing forecasts, you can save yourself the bother by using Google Spreadsheets.

Google Docs, previously known as Google Docs and Spreadsheets, now adds presentation functionality. Click here for PC Advisor's full review.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets provides editable spreadsheets that are compatible with Microsoft Excel. And, best of all, you and your colleagues can modify them simultaneously.

See PC Advisor's Google Docs review. Click here for PC Advisor's Google Docs & Spreadsheets review

Using spreadsheets

When you open a document in Google Spreadsheets, you see a standard spreadsheet grid with resizable rows and columns, and the usual array of options for formatting. You enter text or numbers in spreadsheet cells, as you would with any other spreadsheet application.

Using icons and menus on the Google Spreadsheets toolbar, you can merge cells; apply borders and highlighting; change fonts, font sizes and styles; and choose whether to wrap text within a cell. You may miss some of Excel's more-advanced features, but for basic data formatting and calculations, the necessary features are there.

Formulae and more

You can enter Excel-style formulae manually, or click on the Formulas tab to see links that quickly insert Sum, Count, Average, Min, Max and Product formulae. For more options, click on the More link to display a pop-up list of hundreds of formulae. Hover over a formula name to see its syntax, or click to insert it in the active cell. Google Spreadsheets lacks advanced Excel features such as macros, PivotTables, auditing, data filtering and validation.

Creating charts

If you need to create a quick visual representation of your data, such as a pie chart or a bar graph, Google Spreadsheets can help.

Begin by selecting the range of cells you want to chart, and then click on the pie-chart icon in the toolbar. Select the type of chart you want to make, and supply any optional data you choose - such as a title, or labels for horizontal and vertical axes. Click on Save Chart.

The chart will appear right on top of your spreadsheet; you can move it or resize it by clicking and dragging. Note that although your spreadsheet can include multiple charts, a Google Spreadsheets chart cannot represent noncontiguous ranges of cells.

Importing and Exporting You can upload Excel spreadsheets (.xls), comma-separated text files (.csv), and OpenDocument spreadsheets (.ods) in one of two ways (and as with Docs, there is a 500K size limit).

The first method is to go to the Google Docs & Spreadsheets home page, click on the Upload link, and follow the instructions for uploading a file, just as you would for a text document.

Alternatively, when you're viewing an existing Google Spreadsheets file, you can choose Import from the File pop-up menu, click on Browse, locate the file on your hard drive, click Open and then click the Open Now link. Unlike Docs, Google Spreadsheets currently has no option that lets you email a finished document directly from the program.

Working with Multiple Sheets As in Excel, each document can have multiple sheets. To create a second sheet, click on the Add Sheet button at the bottom of the document window. You can rename or rearrange the current sheet by clicking on its name and choosing Rename, Move Left or Move Right from the pop-up menu. You can also cut-and-paste cells from one sheet to another. For best results, use the toolbar's Cut, Copy and Paste icons.

Tracking Revisions

The Google Spreadsheets program automatically saves your work after almost every change, as well as when you click on the Save & Close button. To see any previous version of a file, click on the Revisions tab and select the version you want from the Revision pop-up menu. Although Google Spreadsheets tracks revisions, it doesn't highlight specific changes in each version, as Excel's Track Changes feature does, nor does it let you compare two versions, as Google Docs does.


Sometimes you need input from several people - for instance, forecasts from the sales department, history from accounting and strategy from project management. Google Spreadsheets makes it easy for multiple people to simultaneously view and edit the same spreadsheet. As with Google Docs, you can publish your spreadsheet to a web page where anyone can see it. You can also export your spreadsheet in a variety of file formats, and invite other people to collaborate on it with you.

Use the form on Google Spreadsheets' Collaborate tab to invite other people to edit or view a spreadsheet. To make the spreadsheet available to anyone with a Google account, click on Allow Anyone To View. The site produces a URL that you can send to anyone you want. To publish your spreadsheet for anyone to view without logging in, click on the Publish tab and then on Publish Now.

Have a quick question about a spreadsheet change? Because Google's chat program, Google Talk, is integrated with Google Spreadsheets, you can have a live chat with every collaborator who's currently viewing or editing the same spreadsheet. Click on the Discuss tab to see a list of available collaborators. Type your message into the field at the bottom, and a message pops up on the other users' screens, asking them to join the chat.