February 07, 2008

Google Spreadsheet forms

Writing about web page http://googledocs.blogspot.com/2008/02/stop-sharing-spreadsheets-start.html

Here’s a clever idea: Google have extended their online spreadsheet application in an ingenious way: they’ve made it possible for spreadsheet authors to expose a form view of their spreadsheet. So if you have a spreadsheet to which you’d like lots of people to contribute a small snippet of data, instead of giving them all edit rights to the spreadsheet, you can create a form view and allow people to add their data to your spreadsheet just using the form. From the Google Blog

Create a form in a Google Docs spreadsheet and send it out to anyone with an email address. They won’t need to sign in, and they can respond directly from the email message or from an automatically generated web page. Creating the form is easy: start with a spreadsheet to get the form, or start by creating the form and you’ll get the spreadsheet automatically. Responses are automatically added to your spreadsheet. You can even keep a closer eye on them by adding the Google Docs forms gadget to your iGoogle home page.

If you have Firefox and you keep the underlying spreadsheet open in the browser, you can see it update live as people contribute data to it using your form.

This strikes me as a fantastically clever way to extend Google Docs; at a stroke, they’ve transformed the spreadsheets module from a tool which is essentially a simplified online version of Excel into a completely new tool which can do things like surveys, questionnaires and so on which desktop spreadsheets could never be used for. And rather than introduce a completely new application (“Google Surveys”), they’ve extended an existing application in a way which is intuitive and natural, making it easy for people to use a tool they’re already familiar with to do cool new stuff, instead of having to adopt and learn a new tool and ending up with yet another silo of data. Brilliant.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Andy

    I blogged about using this method to create an online poll by embedding the form in an IFRAME. I didn’t know the results would update live in FF, though – thanks for the tip.

    It was somewhat successful but displaying the resulting graph is far from perfect. It’ll be pretty cool after a few iterations though – there are loads of possibilities.

    11 Feb 2008, 14:16

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