Today, there are two main ways that people collaborate on spreadsheets. There are those who email excel spreadsheets around to each other. Then there are those who just do it all online with Google spreadsheets. LinkedCells (of Denver) wants to give you a third way that’s better than either of these.
LinkedCells (feel free to try the beta if you use Windows) plugs in to Excel and lets you share spreadsheets, areas, or even just cells with others for purposes of online collaboration. That’s pretty cool when you think about it. I could set up a spreadsheet on my desktop and give access to each department manager to update their numbers. And this can work across the web, not just in my office. LinkedCells lets me do stuff like this with no servers or IT infrastructure.
Sure, this is already easy to do with a Google spreadsheet, but there are drawbacks. For advanced uses, Google’s spreadsheet is no Excel. The other advantage that strikes me is that using the LinkedCells approach, I can access my own desktop based address book for easy collaboration. The company has a nice comparison chart for the various methods of sharing spreadsheets that Excel makes available. It would be nice if they’d update the format of this to more of a “bubble gum” chart showing what they do that Excel and Google spreadsheets can’t do on their own.
Many companies use Excel as a simple database. This is one reason you see a proliferation of online database systems such as QuickBase, DabbleDB, and Colorado’s own TrackVia. It’s because spreadsheets are not naturally built for collaboration, sharing, and security. LinkedCells aims to fill some of these gaps. Some of the resistance to moving away from internal spreadsheet based tracking systems into online databases stems from the fact that databases seem complex and Excel seems so damn easy. LinkedCells figures you don’t want to change the way you’re working now, you just want to have more ways to share and collaborate with your current tool, namely Excel.
LinkedCells is self-funded at the moment and wants to test their theories a bit more before deciding if they’ll raise capital or not. To this end, they’re seeking Colorado companies right now who want to try their software. They’re offering some pro-bono consulting and professional services to get them going in exchange for early feedback. If your shop employs a bunch of Excel monkeys, it might be worth a look.
UPDATE: A commenter referred me to Xcellery.com, which has similar tools. If anybody compares these, I’d welcome further comments.