Useful Web Office Tools

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A while back, Substitute made a post that referenced a situation that, I believe, most everyone that has worked in an office has experienced. You know — there's a group of people that have a problem/task that needs to be solved and the only tool they have at their disposal, however inappropriate to the task, is Excel. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a spreadsheet. Nobody knows how to set up a web-services powered database (or more specifically, nobody wants to expend the time/money/resources required for this solution.) They decide to use a spreadsheet as a database and either email copies upon copies of it around or the put it up on a share so that everyone can have access to the latest master copy. Of course, neither method really works. “Who has the latest copy of the spreadsheet?” “Dude, you added all your data to yesterday's spreadsheet. You need to put all of that in the most recent version.” “Can whoever has the spreadsheet open in Excel please close it because it won't let me access it.” Or simply: “Who deleted the spreadsheet?”

At the time, I pointed to something called Dabble. It looks like it is still unreleased. It also looks to be commercial software. Still, it lets you, entirely from a web browser and in a simple “salesman friendly” interface create a database and view/enter/query data in a very clean and elegant way. You can even set up table relationships and all that fancy stuff.

Today, I was catching up on earlier episodes of Rocketboom when this one came up. It's an interview with the creator of VisiCalc. He's still alive and kicking at Harvard and is developing WikiCalc, a web-based shared spreadsheet system. While I have not yet installed it, the demo looks like a nice, clean system. As an added bonus, it's Open Source GPL licensed.

To completely cover all Office webapps, a mention of Writely is required. This is a web-based word processor that even lets you do collaboration (that is, two people can work on a document at once and see each other's changes in realtime… although I am hard pressed to come up with a scenario in which that would be useful.)

I guess now someone needs to come up with a web-based PowerPoint. With sounds, animations, and page transitions.

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