By David Politis

Google Spreadsheets is often cast in a negative light, with many claiming the tool isn’t as powerful as its primary competitor, Excel. We often hear that many companies continue to use Google Apps and Microsoft Office products in tandem because of their users’ reliance on Excel. However, several updates made in the past few months combined with the Google Spreadsheets’ hundreds of functions and ability to derive information from other Google products like Search and Finance have leveled the playing field, even giving Google Spreadsheets capabilities that Excel may never have. Its time for your users to kick their Excel addiction once and for all and these five features will make that possible.

1. Named and Protected Ranges

The ability to name ranges is a feature long appreciated by power Excel users and this August, Google brought that functionality to Spreadsheet users as well. The ability to name ranges in a

spreadsheet makes complicated tasks simpler by allowing a user to update every instance of the same range all at once.

To create a named range, highlight the cells you wish to include and select the Data tab. Then select Named and Protected Ranges. A tab will appear on the right hand side of your spreadsheet where you can select and then name your desired range of cells.

This August, Google also gave Spreadsheet users the option of protecting certain data ranges. For most Google Apps users, the ability to collaborate in real-time is a standout feature. However, when you’re collaborating on a spreadsheet that could contain sensitive numerical data, it’s not always best to give all collaborators edit rights. By allowing document owners to protect ranges, Google has made Spreadsheets more secure and more in line with Excel.

To protect a range, choose the Data tab and then select Name and protect ranges. After naming a range, you can assign certain permissions – either edit or view – for certain collaborators.

2. Protected Sheets

Google Spreadsheets also allow document owners to protect entire sheets in a workbook. This takes protected ranges one step further, by giving an owner the ability to grant or deny edit permissions to other users on a sheet by sheet and user by user basis.

To protect a sheet, click the drop down menu on the respective sheet tab and then select Protect sheet. From here, you can grant all collaborators edit rights, grant only certain users edit rights, or allow other users view-only access.

3. Comments and Discussions

Another feature recently added to Spreadsheets is the ability to comment on individual cells. Previously, users were able to write notes that could be viewed when hovering over the cell containing the note. Now, as with Google Docs and Presentations, users can create comments, tag other users, receive notifications and view comments in a stream (also known as ‘Discussions’) at the top of each spreadsheet. Plus, if you’ve created a complicated spreadsheet with several sheets, the number of comments on every page will appear in the title section of each page.

To insert a comment, simply right click on the desired cell, enter your text and click Comment.

4. Real Time Collaboration

If you’ve used both Excel and Google Spreadsheets it’s very apparent that Excel and the work done using the product exist in a vacuum. Each change must be individually saved and you can only gain insight, corrections or comments from your colleagues once you’ve saved, attached and emailed the spreadsheet.

Google Spreadsheets on the other hand are fully collaborative documents that can be viewed by multiple collaborators all at once from different devices. Collaborators are also able to chat within the spreadsheet, view and add comments, and depending on their individual permission level, edit content within the spreadsheet.

5. Embed Spreadsheets in your Company Intranet

If you’ve transitioned to Google Apps, you likely house your company intranet on a Google Site. Luckily, Google allows users to embed spreadsheets directly into Google Sites, a particularly useful aspect for building out your organization’s internal website. We use this functionality for our company intranet, where we embed editorial calendars, feature update schedules and much more. Updates made in individual spreadsheets are immediately reflected wherever the sheet is embedded. This means everyone in the company only has to go to one centralized location to view any changes in scheduling, events and more.

To embed a spreadsheet on a Google Site, select the Edit icon and then click Insert followed by Spreadsheet. Simply select the sheet you wish to insert and then click save. The spreadsheet will instantly appear on your site.

For a portion of Excel users, particularly finance and accounting professionals, Google Spreadsheets is not yet fast or powerful enough. However, Google is quickly adding more and more functionality to serve a larger portion of the market. With the constant evolution of Google Spreadsheets, more organizations will be able to rid themselves once and for all of Excel and complete their migration to Google Apps.

David Politis is the founder and CEO of BetterCloud, the makers of FlashPanel, the number one admin tool for Google Apps. Follow him @DavePolitis.

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