When I’m working on my Tigers site, I often present data in table format, and I always hate it. That is until I started leveraging Google Spreadsheets.
In the past I went one of 3 routes. The cleanest was probably to mark up a table using HTML. However I always find this to be time consuming and just a pain. But the display of the data was always crisp when I was done.
Another alternative was to dump the data into notebook, line up the columns, and then paste it in between some PRE tags. This was easy, but it didn’t always render so nice. The tabs would display differently between Firefox and IE and if the table was too wide it could kill your layout.
The 3rd option was make my table in Excel, and then screenshot it and turn it into an image. This is too bad but it requires a whole additional step of trying to get a nice compact image file. It also is a pain for those time you realize that you made a mistake. Editing it means doing the entire process again. Plus your readers can’t really manipulate your data on their own (this could be a good or a bad thing).
But with Google Spreadsheets everything is much easier now.
- Importing: You can do all your work in Excel like you probably already have been. But now when you’re done you can import that file into Google Spreadsheets. You know have the information online and you can still do many of the manipulations you need to. You can also export it back to Excel if the need strikes you.
- Portability: You now don’t have to be at your computer to work with your files. You can do it anytime you’re connected to the internet. Like maybe those time you publish a post at night, go to bed, and get to work only to realize you’ve made an error. (but you probably aren’t blogging at work now are you:-))
- Distributability: You can publish your spreadsheet in a variety of formats. Available options are PDF, HTML, embedded HTML via iframe (great for displaying in your posts-more on this in a minute), and CSV. You can make it available to everyone to view, or specify people who have editing rights.
- Collaboration: It’s great for those group projects. Specify the other authors, or readers, who you’d like to add to your work. It tracks all the revisions (which you can subscribe to an RSS feed of) in case you need to roll anything back. Another form of collaboration is instead of posting only summary data, you can make it all available. Your readers may find new things in the data that you might have missed. Or other bloggers might pick something up giving you link-love back.
- Embeds: Under Publishing Options select HTML to embed in webpage and you can specify the range of cells and the size of the iframe. Just drop it in your post and you’ve got yourself a no muss-no-fuss data table.
- Dynamic: Have you ever thought about providing some sort of feature but figured it was too hard to maintain – like say a table of payroll information? You get it all built, and then it changes. Well if you build it in GS, updating becomes a breeze. Not only is it easier to manipulate in a traditional spreadsheet than in HTML, wherever you’ve linked or embedded that spreadsheet will automatically reflect the edits.
As someone who struggles with the display of content, Google Spreadsheets has become a great way to spend more time working with data, than having to format it.