Spreadsheets Are Hot (Apparently)

Not my headline, I’ve simply borrowed it from Wired magazine.

As with almost everybody else back in the day, I kinda sorta knew that Microsoft Excel existed when I was in college, but its true awesomeness was only revealed to me when I joined the workforce. While I was excited to learn about SAS and Knowledge Seeker and the other cool software tools that my organization used to do analytics, I very quickly realized that most of the work actually went on in Excel.

And this, I discovered over the years, was true no matter what you did in which organization. Microsoft Excel to the corporate world is like the front foot defense for a batsman – you must know it. When I tell students in a class on MS Excel these days that 90% of their work will involve MS Excel in one way or the other, I get the odd chuckle or two. But it is quite true: Excel is still where it’s at.

Well, spreadsheets are where it’s at. I’m old enough to have known (and very briefly used) Lotus 1-2-3, and Google Sheets is now a product that is almost as good as Microsoft Excel – but number crunching for a variety of tasks is still best done in a simple spreadsheet.

But now, Wired magazine tells us, spreadsheets are (couldn’t resist, sorry) spreading their wings:

Suddenly, the field has begun to bloom. A small cluster of startups have in the past year released spreadsheet products–such as Rows, Spreadsheet.com, and Grist–with newfangled robot superpowers, like automatically hoovering up data from other sites or sending emails when the logic in a formula triggers. In a strange way, they’ve taken spreadsheets and turned them into all-purpose, helpful bots–crafted from rows and columns.
These new services all spring from a core observation of their inventors, which is that spreadsheets are now used for far more than crunching numbers. These days, people use them as a fungible organizational tool: They make to-do lists inside spreadsheets, plan weddings, divine the best possible Magic decks, and run fantasy football groups.


There’s AirTable, there’s Rows and there’s Spreadsheet.com, and you could argue that if you’re really looking to use a spreadsheet as a relational database, there’s Notion too. Besides, of course, the (by now) veteran, Google Sheets, and the OG: Microsoft Excel.

But if you’re a student looking to join the corporate world today, a certain minimum level of expertise with Excel/Google Sheets, and a degree of familiarity with at least one (and preferably all) of these new variants is heavily recommended.

If you’re looking for recommendations, there’s literally no dearth of excellent sources, but Chandoo.org remains a very good place to start.