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Grid (YC S12) Reinvents The Spreadsheet For The Tablet Age (techcrunch.com)
190 points by irunbackwards on Aug 8, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 99 comments

One feature that’s still missing, though, is actually running spreadsheet-style calculations on your numbers in Grid.

Doesn't this preclude Grid from being a spreadsheet app?

No more than any version one of something is precluded from becoming complete.

Maybe you think you're making some sort of important point here. Or maybe you realize your comment is inane and you think it's witty. But (perhaps without realizing it) you and the people upvoting you represent one of the worst forces at work in the world. The people who ridicule new things when they first appear in incomplete form are one of the worst drags on innovation.

I think most people agree now that it's valid strategy, particularly in software, to launch a simple version one of something and then iterate rapidly. I'm constantly pushing founders to do that. And you know what's the biggest thing holding them back? The fear that people will make fun of the first thing they launch.

I asked a straightforward question about whether an app that can't be used to create a spreadsheet should be considered a spreadsheet app, and because of that I "represent one of the worst forces at work in the world." I neither ridiculed nor made fun of Grid, as you claim I did; however, you seem to take pleasure in ridiculing and making fun of me. I'm sorry that I didn't heap the app with praise -- from the video I saw, it does look like an impressive beginning. Perhaps if I had, my question would have been met with an answer without such disrespect.

> from the video I saw, it does look like an impressive beginning. Perhaps if I had, my question would have been met with an answer without such disrespect.

One does need to take a bit of care to avoid looking like you're being snide and "witty." Something which is ambiguously a salient point or a bit of snark may be mistaken for snark. (If it might look like snark, it might look like snark?)

Or, one can just not care. If you have interesting things to say, long term you can weather a few dozen downvotes.

I took your comment to be "the elephant in the room." (I've been thinking of a "sub-sub-spreadsheet" app -- one that just totals columns of numbers.)

The reason I interpreted your question as a snarky one is that it seemed such a pointless one otherwise-- like asking, say, whether a boat can be called a boat at a stage so early in its construction that it wouldn't float.

But it sounds from your reply like you really did mean it seriously. Perhaps you believed that the guys who wrote Grid never intended to develop it further, and you were puzzled that they were calling it a spreadsheet. If so I apologize.

I think though that many of the people who upvoted you did realize that this post was an instance of a startup launching an early version one that they plan to develop further, and your innocent question thus became snarky in their hands.

I agree with atacrawl... No one would ship a boat if it didn't float. It's acceptable in todays software to ship a very simple version, especially on mobile devices, and Grid looks awesome. I wouldn't want more feature in it for version 1, but I don't see how it reinvents spreadsheets. It is something new entirely, that seems to be a perfect fit for content creation on touch devices, but it looks closer to a powerpoint/keynote concurrent than a spreadsheet one.

I think the you misinterpreted his question by rushing past the TechCrunch headline.

If you see a headline that says "Dewey Defeats Truman" you expect to read a story explaining that Truman has been defeated. Similarly, if you see a headline that says "Grid Reinvents The Spreadsheet" you expect to read a story that explains that the spreadsheet has been reinvented.

In the story itself, the founders don't pretend that Grid has a reinvented spreadsheet ready to go. They have an interesting proof of concept that they intend to enhance until it reinvents the spreadsheet.

A reader, having been misled by the headline (not misled by the founders) is naturally going to ask atacrawl's question. Any criticism implied in such a question is properly directed at TechCrunch, not at Grid.

In atacrawl's position, I would be distressed at the people "agreeing" with the snark you misread from his question.

Well put. I'm following now, and I agree.

I still maintain that it's pointless to lash out at the snarky commenters... If they ARE being snarky, lashing out isn't going to help, and if they aren't, we'll risk alienating to genuine commenters.

I respect your judgement with regards to the dynamics of the community more than mine, but I'd like to suggest that it may still serve us well to give the benefit of the doubt. I think we're all basically in agreement at this point, however.

Good discussion!

I think if you phrased it as less of a critical question e.g "Does this preclude Grid from being a spreadsheet app right now?" and/or perhaps "Will this feature be added eventually?" -- you may have received a warmer response. I do think the response was a bit sharp but I hope it's understandable.

Paul never said he wanted you to heap praise on the app. A simple rephrasing would have sufficed :)

The gp commenter's feelings were hurt. Understandably so, though that's also not how pg meant his comment. (Note that pg's comment is conditional, therefore speaking directly to the ambiguity.)

You really don't think pg's comment was meant to hurt feelings?

This is pretty freaking harsh, and I imagine would trigger a feeling of defensiveness in almost anyone: "Maybe you think you're making some sort of important point here. Or maybe you realize your comment is inane and you think it's witty. But (perhaps without realizing it) you and the people upvoting you represent one of the worst forces at work in the world."

It's incongruous with the site guidelines, in fact: "... Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say in a face to face conversation. When disagreeing, please reply to the argument instead of calling names ..."

I do not think it was intended to be personal, but somehow I find it strange that "feedback" gets bashing. Isn't that what "Show HN" posts are for ? What, you care enough to post your question/impression/opinion about an upcoming app, and you are treated as a member of "worst forces at work in the world", a servant of the Devil or something.

In my book ANY feedback is valuable, even the ones who say your app is crap/irrelevant/missing a key feature. If one if scared of getting feedback, then entrepreneurship is probably not the right occupation for them.

There is no name calling there. He's covering the bases of the commenter's mental state, then explaining the unfortunate circumstance he sees. The "maybe you" phrases could be interpreted as harshness, but I think it's more likely that they're to be taken exactly at face value, and that pg wants to call attention to this circumstance.

I honestly don't believe it's fair to not interpret the maybes as name calling. Even so, the "But you ... represent one of the worst forces at work in the world" cannot possibly be defended as not a personal attack. Come on! I would not say that to someone's face, and it certainly isn't being civil.

Then you admit that the content is okay, but that the wording of the last bit is unfortunate. Looks like an understandable mistake of editing and point of view, not a deliberate attack.

So you're telling me that you would financially back a company that intended to release a photo-sharing application that did not provide an avenue for users to upload photos? Isn't shipping version 1 worthless if what you're actually shipping is version 0.01? (Yes, I realize they haven't released yet.)

I don't think he was being inane, witty, or that he is a part of one of the "worst forces at work in the world." He is simply stating that to advertise your product as spreadsheet software, it should probably include some of the features that users expect to be found in spreadsheet software.

The way I see it, GRID isn't spreadsheet software at all (and doesn't seem to want to be based on the website), and shouldn't be advertising itself as such.

There is a disconnect between what a spreadsheet originally was and all the different layout/calendering/organizational stuff people also use Excel for today. For technical users it's a startling omission, but I don't think a non-technical user is going to see this and its screenshots and immediately wonder where the formulas are.

Is the term misused? Who cares? It looks really cool because it's focused on the non-math use cases (which IMO are much better suited to a tablet anyway, where I wouldn't want to be entering columns of numbers on an on-screen keyboard).

I care. It's a poor choice of wording, and it's apparently a redefinition of the term spreadsheet.

I believe that they are alienating users who might read "spreadsheet" and think "a bunch of formulas that I don't know how to use" rather than "easy to use layout/calendaring/organizational tool." Furthermore, those of us who read "spreadsheet" and think "oh, awesome, tablet optimized spreadsheets!" are sorely disappointed.

>And you know what's the biggest thing holding them back? The fear that people will make fun of the first thing they launch.


The software world is absolutely flooded with half baked crap backed by expensive marketing. As a software user it's a waste of my time when somebody releases "A Simply Remarkable Spreadsheet" that allows you to "organize and work with them in a whole new intuitive way" and it lacks the basic features I expect from a spreadsheet (I suppose that is indeed remarkable). Worse, it leads to a situation where customers don't trust software developers to provide the things they say they are providing.

What would you have us do? Not criticize massively hyped app releases that are backed by millions of dollars of VC money because we might hurt somebodies feelings? If you are going to make a big fanfare about your new 'spreadsheet' app, then you have to be prepared for the (predictable) negative reaction when it turns out it isn't actually a spreadsheet at all. Don't get pissed off when it gets criticism after you flood all the tech news sites with press releases and submit your site to all the aggregators and email dozens of bloggers.

The people doing this are savvy and know what they are doing, which is basically conning users with false promises. They know it will earn them criticism from people who are paying attention, they don't care, they are in it for the money. Your portrayal of the innocent, uncertain, timid startup CEO is pretty laughable. These are business graduates that decided to go into software startups because they think there is more money in it than investment banking at the moment, many have never written any software themselves.

You can whine all you want but customers are always going to complain when the product does not meet the description. It's really quite simple to avoid this though: stop lying in your marketing.

Edit: I didn't mean to make it sound like I think the Grid folks themselves are actually upset about this criticism, I'm sure they are not. They must have had many meetings trying to decide if they should call it a spreadsheet even though it isn't, and they obviously decided to do it because they feel they will get more attention as a 'mobile spreadsheet' rather than some vaguely defined data organiser. It was a calculated move that seems to be paying off at the initial launch at least, since the app is getting far more attention than most.

a spreadsheet even though it isn't

But it clearly is a spreadsheet. It's moving in a direction spreadsheets haven't gone before, and in order to innovate that way they've made some decisions about which classical features to defer. How could they have done otherwise?

The research literature on spreadsheet users shows that about half of them rely on computation with formulas and half don't. (That data is old and spotty but it's the best we have. Joel Spolsky made a similar point a few months ago.) So a sizeable chunk of spreadsheet users aren't going to mind, or even notice, that computation wasn't prioritized here. Those users probably aren't well represented on HN but they probably are a good fit for a tablet spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet space is remarkable for how little innovation it has seen relative to how massive its user base is. Has there been a fundamental innovation since pivot tables? That was 20 years ago, and even then something of a hack, designed to answer Lotus Improv. I guess collaborative spreadsheets count (Google Docs) but that feels more like adding in a generic modern feature than rethinking spreadsheets per se. We need to see a lot more of the latter. I suppose I should disclose that I'm working on it too, albeit at the computational end.

I'd argue that spreadsheets are applications that allow for organization and analysis of tabular data (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spreadsheet).

This clearly has some limited organizational functionality, but no analysis (that I can tell, at least.)

I think the argument about what is or is not a spreadsheet is pretty much semantics and nothing else, but I think it might be a bad move for Grid to call itself a spreadsheet app (note: I do not know if Grid calls itself a spreadsheet app) since the vast majority of consumers are going to equate that with Excel or Numbers.

I wish I had read your comment before posting mine. While you go a bit far in the polemical direction I find myself strongly reacting to the naked flogging that I am subjected to as this boom advances. In 2007 you could just read about programming and worry about the looming depression.

Now we are all expected to pitch in and enrich everyone around us who can network a little bit.

Let's innovate some ways to get water to the heartland! Whoops too hard, let's innovate javascript.

Another problem is that the HN crowd has been getting inundated with a ton of 'Show HN: AppName v0.001' posts for a while now. There are some obvious benefits to doing this, like getting early feedback from tech-oriented people before chasing the general public's attention, but I wouldn't be surprised if the HN crowd is getting a little weary of wading through the onslaught of such posts.

Note: I actually think Grid's v1 was pretty well put together (based on the demo video). I am mostly referring to the half-backed Bootstrap sites with nothing more than a sign up form.

> The people doing this are savvy and know what they are doing, which is basically conning users with false promises.

Its not the users being conned, but VC "investors".


You are wrong in this post.

The colloquial definition of a spreadsheet app in about 100% of the world at this time is the ability to do calcs.

This video is fantastic, but what shows is currently purely a layout app (hence the grid nomenclature) - frankly - it is a visual Workflowy.

Also, you know what is a drag on innovation, lack of cordial discussion (I am a perpetrator of this myself - even on HN, I get emotionally involved in something and it takes another HN user's response to give me perspective) - and I think you were harsh in your comment, and rather than foster discussion about this, you attacked the OP.

I am sure all of us agree with: "I think most people agree now that it's valid strategy, particularly in software, to launch a simple version one of something and then iterate rapidly"

But I found nothing snide in the OP at all.

> The colloquial definition of a spreadsheet app in about 100% of the world at this time is the ability to do calcs.

For me Grid got right the essence how and why some people use spreadsheet for non-calc tasks. If people write long text, they start text editor. If they want to add more "structure", they do not implement new DB application, but they start spreadsheet app.

Especially in corporate world: if manager wants to track tasks (issues, progress of documents) - he starts Excel and uses it like the Grid. The most complex Excel I have seen so far was used for tracking wedding - tasks, guests, deadlines etc ;)

There are many ways how people use general concept of spreadsheet. Some might involve complex calculations, some people use it only as a free-form grid. My guess is that the ratio is 1:10 (in favor of free-form grid). That is why I think BinaryThumb hit the sweet spot and will be successful even if they do not implement calculations at all.

I agree with this very much - I was just pointing out though that the term "spreadsheet" to anyone I know is automatically assumed to include the ability to calculate.

I use Excel for most everything (e.g. I do all my patch matrix docs for the DC, MDF, IDF buildouts in excel. Modelling the physical layout of a switch in Excel to show what ports are patched where - and while I am not doing any formulas in these particular docs - sometimes I do (clacing bandwidth, subscription etc...)

Well I guess if they implement arithmetic they will be fine, the average consumer can do without pivot tables and HLOOKUP. And judging from what they already built they should be able to manage that. I hope they don't teach the app to interpret decimal numbers as dates. This ranks as one of the top stupidest feature ideas in the world. Has a 99% miss rate for me.

"... But (perhaps without realizing it) you and the people upvoting you represent one of the worst forces at work in the world. ..."

I feel a disturbance in the force.

"... Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say in a face to face conversation. When disagreeing, please reply to the argument instead of calling names ..." ~ http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Founders' emotional reactions to criticism aside, isn't one of the chief benefits of releasing quickly the market input? One can feel sad about that feedback or, after properly weighting it, parse it as the valuable guidance it is.

The markets provide cruel, ruthless feedback in the form of buy/pass behaviour. Getting that feedback as early as possible on one's MVP is insightful, albeit painful. Criticism can be more valuable than atomistically binary market activity by providing insight into why the market is behaving as it is (or will be).

Given the specific case, if the founders are working on a feature to fill the hole discussed, great - they have a bit of validation. If not, they have the opportunity to consider it. Either way, I don't see why there is a reason to get beaten up about it.

Negative feedback is as much a drag on innovation as market rejection. At worst, it should be a non-factor.

Exactly. It didn't seem like ridiculing, and it was certainly a thought I had as well: is the app viable as a spreadsheet without formulas?

I think it is - I like the concept, agree that people use spreadsheet for far more than calculations. But bringing up the discussion of whether they're necessary should help the founders decide if they should focus on adding that before scaling up the marketing or whether it's useful as is...

That's actually Paul Graham that replied, not one of the founders.

I know, but he invoked the founder(s') reactions as a reason negative feedback is a drag on innovation.

I took the comment as questioning the terminology not poking fun or being particularly snarky. I see the comment along the lines of "aren't numerical manipulations an essential property of spreadsheets?"

These days, a spreadsheet that doesn't calculate is an edge case given thirty years of mainstream usage of the term. Though having had the pleasure of revising letters my boss drafted in Lotus 123, I can accept the proposition that calculations are an accidental property.

Disrupting the spreadsheet requires convincing people that "spreadsheet" is not synonymous with "Excel." A task which is probably harder than it should be given that Excel is a reasonably practical tool for preparing Gantt charts or a data table for a mail merge [tasks for which I have used Excel on more than one occasion].

Richard Diehl's Tabulus is another interesting approach in the opposite direction.

The comment wasn't really in the spirit of HN, but it touches on an important point that gets little visibility.

Much of the current and next wave of new apps are aimed at enterprise (as startups move to markets where the money is).

There is a very high MVP threshold for enterprise.

When 37signals released the next version of Basecamp they took a lot of flack for not including time tracking in first rev (even though their metrics showed few people used it).

It is common in Enterprises to have senior players ready to point out any obvious issues in any recommendation. Apps looking to get in to this market have to recognise this feature of the market - it's just not the same as putting out a new social app.

I think the question was very valid. It's like if you describe "an word processing app, but for now it only integrates pictures in the document. Typing function to come later!" - in the same way a spreadsheet is not software that is used to put pictures and tables. Expectations when you see the word "spreadsheet" is being able to run complex, calculations, and maybe macros to accelerate your workflow. Calling this piece of software "spreadsheet" is an abuse of what spreadsheets have been standing for, for a very long time now.

Wouldn't that be only for power users? I am very good at Excel myself but it's not part of my job to work with it so I'd say most of the time I use Excel as a quick storage for data and not as a calculation sheet. Grid sounds great for almost every case where you would fire up Excel but not actually do any complex calculations. It made me think of this article by Joel Spolsky about Trello (and spreadsheets): http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2012/01/06.html

Almost everyone who uses a spreadsheet wants to do basic arithmetic in it, though.

Look at the demo video on the site. There's a list of expenses and dollar costs. But you can't automatically sum them? Anyone familiar with spreadsheets would consider that a pretty fundamental feature.

Sure but we are talking about something not that hard to add to the app. I was talking more about those asking for pivot tables, etc.

Maybe I'm just not familiar with modern usage of the word 'spreadsheet' but when I hear it I instantly think of accounting worksheets, visicalc, excel and the like. If the very core of this app isn't the same as a classic spreadsheet app, why even throw that word around? It's bad marketing.

I think it's excellent marketing - they're clearly targeting people who use the word "spreadsheet" to mean "lists that don't involve math" and it's always easier to keep speaking your target customer's language than to try to teach them a new one.

Words mean things. There's an external cost to society when marketers engage in deceptions that only work for the ignorant. It adds friction to the marketplace; each instance makes it a little bit harder for customers to find the goods and services they're after, and for legitimate vendors to be found.

It's also a missed opportunity to offer those people UIs that fit their tasks, rather than encourage them to continue poor use of the only tool they know.

Those people call "lists that don't involve math" an "Excel". They have never heard the term "spreadsheet".

Maybe you think you're making some sort of important point here. Or maybe you realize your comment is inane and you think it's witty. But (perhaps without realizing it) you and the people upvoting you represent one of the worst forces at work in the world. The people who ridicule new things when they first appear in incomplete form are one of the worst drags on innovation.

Really surprised to see something like this from Paul. Totally not in the spirit of HN.

Maybe you're reading way too much into their comment, and unfairly jumping into a judgement? I didn't sense the same feeling of ridicule. If the founders are on here, how did you take it?

I interpreted it his question as genuinely wondering if "the ability to calculate formulas is a defining characteristic of a spreadsheet." Perhaps it's not, but it's not something to bite his head off for!

Jumping to conclusions and failing to give the benefit of the doubt is another drag on intelligent discourse and innovation!

To me the parent's statement was entirely valid. A spreadsheet has a certain definition to many people. That definition includes doing calculations. While people use programs like excel to do many other things that Grid will be good at, that doesn't make it a spreadsheet app. Also, this is a very rude comment with name calling etc. that clearly doesn't follow the HN guidelines. If somebody other than pg wrote it it would be heavily downvoted by now.

I read it as an honest question, not ridicule.

I think that the fear of ridicule is very healthy. It is one force that acts to discourage us from being inundated with solutions that are incomplete or half-baked, and which might not even be solving the right problem.

I like the data entry technique for the tablet which is at the heart of this demo. But there is no reason to throw around the word "innovation," even when warding off the worst forces at work in the world.

On the desktop, that dead platform, UI designers have been inventing new user controls for many years, and packaging them as products. But no one important comes to their frantic defense when one of these bundles of features is under-appreciated by its intended audience. Perhaps that says something about the current environment? Maybe we should just let these new-ish hardware and software platforms mature without getting breathless or aggressive when contemplating them.

Come on, that was a perfectly reasonable question.

It looks like a really cool app but as soon as they said it can't do spreadsheet calculations just about everybody that has ever used a spreadsheet must have immediately had the same thought, "wait a minute, then, how is it a spreadsheet?"

And asking that question is not ridicule, or making fun of the first thing someone launches.

And IF the question is critical of anything then surely it is of TC misrepresenting the app as "a spreadsheet app for tablets".

Because really, it's quite clear: as long as it doesn't do spreadsheet calculations, it's not a spreadsheet app. Instead, it's a grid. Which is in fact what it's called and it looks great.

And the minute they add spreadsheet calculations to the feature list, it'll ALSO be a spreadsheet. Happy now?

It's funny because I always thought jumping straight at the throats of people that dare to ask questions is one of the worst forces at work in the world.

It's not even a difficult question. Do you seriously think the developers of that app live in FEAR of having to say "yeah right now it's a grid. spreadsheet calculations will be in the next beta soon and then we'll call it a spreadsheet, TC just jumped the gun a bit". Must be absolutely terrifying, having to accurately describe the functionality of your application in its current version.

In general it's a fine balance of what makes a v1. It's a huge challenge to identify those features that are must have vs those that are good to have. A poor v1 experience will chase your early adopters away and I doubt many people give a second try at all. But a delayed product and late or no feedback from users would result in building a product that is tangential to what the user actually wants. No amount of user studies would fill in that gap. In this particular case, however, if I'm listing down all my expenses, I definitely would also want to sum it up and expect that sum to automatically update too. If I and those who think so are in the minority, well and good. For an app so elegant, no one would want or hope it to fail. But if you are releasing the app and not expecting or ready for honest feedback, I can't see a point in releasing it in the first place.

Maybe you think you're making some sort of important point here. Or maybe you realize your comment is inane and you think it's witty. But your ego is showing.

It isn't even that hard to get a basic implementation of such functionality. Not sure why this is missing.

Just make a directed graph out of cell references. Get the strongly connected components. All of the components with more than one vertex contain a loop and can't be computed. Remove those and you get a directed acyclic graph. Now you can topological sort them for cell dependencies, and start calculating them in the order they are needed.

Or if your language has a dataflow implementation it is even easier. Haven't seen one of these for Obj-C though.

I will add that this looks pretty cool, though.

It may be easy, but it'll still take time to develop. If it's not critical and won't keep you from getting your initial batch of users, it's much better to launch and add it in 3 weeks, rather than waiting an extra 3 weeks to launch.

I may have sounded a bit negative, but I don't think it was a "bad" move, especially seeing as how I am personally excited about Grid even without it currently having this feature.

It just shouldn't come as a surprise when a lot of people question the choice of leaving out the #1 feature of spreadsheets. Even on version one.

You forgot parsing the formulae. You forgot having to decide which functions to include and implementing them. You forgot testing. Sure those aren't super hard, but minutes add up to hours and hours add up to days which turn into weeks. Most importantly, you forgot the UI. Building the UI for entering formulae - one that makes sense on the iPad and not just a copy of the one from Excel or Numbers (those suck) - would take a while.

Apple could've thrown copy and paste into the first iPhone, but they didn't because they didn't feel they had it right.

They might be in the process of actually designing an interface for formulas that actually expands the reach of such functionality. You know, something that the "I'm bad at math" crowd could actually dig into, make use of, and learn within.

If you release a basic not-that-hard-to-implement version of the functionality, it's WAY harder to drop in a new, innovative model afterwards. I think there's a lot of sense in waiting until they can get it right, if they're planning on doing something different with it--which, judging by the other UI departures they've made, I wouldn't be surprised if they are.

Grid is redefining what a spreadsheet can do on a tablet. When building something new, might as well build and experiment with the new features first to see if people really want them. Demand for calculations is a given.

Nobody would care if they released a "new" spreadsheet app that did calculations, but with innovative features still on the to do list.

Grid is taking the right approach and personally I think it looks sexy as hell.

It does look great and is beautiful indeed and has very specific use cases. I might even be interested in using it.

But that wasn't the point, IMvHO the point was that if it doesn't walk/talk/act/etc. like a spreadsheet, don't call it a spreadsheet and confuse your users when the basic feature that has been in spreadsheet's since VisiCalc is missing. Call it what it's called, the Grid and leave it there.

>Grid is redefining what a spreadsheet can do on a tablet.

Yes, but it is, simultaneously, in its current incarnation, defining what spreadheet apps can't do.

Sexy sells for the genral public, but as other have pointed out, in the enterprise, sexy is much less important. More important is functionality. Maybe in it's next iteration, it will meet the demands of the office worker, currently, I don't see that, beyond helping coordinate parties or meetings.

Very much agree. I would call it a gridded paper canvas / sketch book rather then spreadsheet. The metaphor is one of a generic data presentation context / place holder rather than 2d relational modeling medium, a compute data context such as a spreadsheet. Sure you can draw pixel art in excel but it is an abuse of the potential of the medium rather then the primary reason for it. You can do the same in MS Paint for instance but not the other way around.

Moreover my reaction to criticism by pg on your comment is that while the demo video is indeed neat, it is also a bit contrived. I would rather shoot myself than go through all these steps to make plan for a simple camping trip. I cannot also imagine doing any serious data work on it. It is not about being negative to the idea of potentially a useful implementation of spreadsheets in tablets, but when a particular design is presented you cannot not have a critical debate for the sole reason of demotivating innovation. It is exactly the other way around, criticism is the only way you may get an agro objectivish feedback for what may or not work in a design and seek to improve.

Actually, a lot of people use Excel just as a table to list things in a semi-structured way. They don't even know how to do a sum in Excel. Grid looks like a huge improvement for them.

This is way slicker than the first versions of most products.

"He was the designer of Microsoft’s upcoming Excel 2013, after all"

The concepts look great, but the pitch that he was "the designer of Excel 2013" rubbed me the wrong way. The Office UX design team is not a one man show. I thought maybe the reporter was puffing things up a little, but even on Josh's personal website[1] he's claiming he was the designer.

"I worked as the Excel 2013 designer which I transitioned into from a software engineering role"

[1] http://joshleong.com/

It seems like the focus is on casual usage (photos, videos, etc). Why not focus more on the business side (i.e. numbers)?

I'd go the same route. The features a consumer needs are much lighter. I imagine the hope is that someday people will realize, "Hey wait a minute! This thing kicks Excel's ass!".

Quote from PG:

"Don't be discouraged if what you produce initially is something other people dismiss as a toy. In fact, that's a good sign. That's probably why everyone else has been overlooking the idea. The first microcomputers were dismissed as toys. And the first planes, and the first cars. At this point, when someone comes to us with something that users like but that we could envision forum trolls dismissing as a toy, it makes us especially likely to invest."


They might be better served to drop the 'Spreadsheet' moniker. It leads people to incorrect assumptions about the product and likely filters out potential users. 'Whiteboard', 'Slideshow', and 'Scrapbooking' are all terms that seem to better represent the (current) intended use case.

This is just a version one. They're going to do all the numeric stuff too.

Shameless plug: I made an app for that. It's called Scalar (http://scalarapp.com). It takes a different approach to handling calculations than Excel or Grid (abandons the table structure completely), but hey, unlike Grid founders I wasn't on Microsoft Excel team :)

because that niche is already pretty well filled with excel, and it's hard to unthrone a program that is actually really good at what it does.

On the other hand, casual users aren't a natural fit for excel. The program has way too many complicated features, and isn't as simple as it could be. This seems perfect for the casual user that just want to create simple stuff that looks good.

Excel is really, really bad at what it does. It won because of Microsoft's former monopolistic position. Lotus was much better. Most of the heaviest users of spreadsheets just build their own internal "corporate" spreadsheet program.

I have two use cases for Excel:

1. Number crunching with the goal of creating charts/tables to be placed in either documents or presentations. 2. Detailed analysis of a given data set.

I think the former is ripe for application in the tablet space; most of my presentations, at the very least, tend to be 'here, let me talk and rely on visualization for the things that aren't easily conveyed with speech' -- honestly, an app where I can create multiple charts and broadcast them will be great.

Grid seems to be eschewing this use case in favor of having spreadsheets as tabularly organized content. While I don't have any specific issue with this, I don't see what problem or opportunity it addresses beyond "hey, nobody's done this!"

I can see it having merit with the few times I'll use a GDoc spreadsheet for organizing, say, who brings what to a party (and I do suppose that GDocs is a fairer comparison to Grid than Excel, at this stage), but being tablet-only hamstrings that effort.

I guess, overall, my question is: "What can I do with Grid that I can't do with anything else?"

They have a demo video, here: http://grid.binarythumb.com/

Unfortunately, the sound mix is atrocious. Music is way too loud, one can barely hear the narration. It was so bad that I stopped viewing the video.

I first listened to this from the TechCrunch article on an iPad through the speakers and it didn't seem all that bad. I got to my desktop and was going to give you a hard time, but listened to it again with my headphones on. Yeah, the sound could definitely benefit from being turned down a few notches toward the middle of the video. Surprisingly it seems to calm down towards the end.

Maestro looks really interesting.

As an excel power user and fan of spreadsheet innovation in general, I always felt that an excel disruptor would probably look and feel more like a robust post-it note than a spreadsheet.

Business spreadsheets most definitely need help, though perhaps mobile Google Drive, which is currently atrocious, is too intimidating to take on.

However, I have to applaud anything that moves our information-consumption into a more delimited, structured form. I love narrative and paragraphs, but Tufte's small multiples is something that would greatly help day-to-day communication


  > Business spreadsheets most definitely need help
In what way? Are you talking about design (look and feel) or capabilities. I can't think of too many things that could be lacking from Excel in terms of capabilities for business and engineering applications.

Sorry, I meant in the context of the headline "...for the tablet age"...My experience so far has been with Google Spreadsheets through the iPad browser and it is barely functional. Microsoft's offering may be better, but still short of what traditional Excel users are used to.

In any case, Excel/Google Docs have such a strong, relied-upon foundation that even if someone built a great spreadsheet from scratch that was unparalleled for the tablet audience, the risk of being dominated by a sudden entrance of either Microsoft/Google is probably too much to commit the funding that's needed to build the infrastructure to support such a platform.

I think Grid is doing the right thing, but staying away from the business-type spreadsheet...as there are plenty of ways that spreadsheets are useful, even without numbers. I use spreadsheets all the time to plan out projects and take notes, as I know I want to end up adding categories/subcategories/deadline columns that I want to aggregate/sort upon.

Excel doesn't lack capabilities, but it lacks in the ability to surface those capabilities to the people who need them.

Their greatest strength - social collaboration - is also a potential weakness.

While I like the idea and the mechanic, the initial emphasis on social integration of a spreadsheet makes the assumption that others will be able to A: willing to download the app when invited & B: be able to use it with minimal instruction in a collaborative fashion.

This may be something that many more tech-savvy users will embrace, but despite the simplicity of the UX it does require a mental hurdle to cross in order to utilize it fully. I think many people will certainly overcome that, but the question is how many. Is the market of users large enough for this use case? Of course, I may also be simply reading too much into the video - there will be plenty of other uses for this sort of app.

I think this will become less and less of a problem as the next generation of tech users come of age and embrace technology like this. They're growing up with this sort of functionality and will use it in ways we can't yet anticipate. What Grid certainly has going for it is one of the most solid guesses at that sort of interaction I've seen so far.

Despite my initial misgivings, I definitely want to give it a try.

Looks slick. I've got a use case for this. I help run an online accessories boutique with my partner. She works with editorial teams from numerous magazines in which they trade images, description, pricing, and other misc information for product features for upcoming issues. You know what they use? Spreadsheets. They look atrocious too.

I could definitely see where something like this could be used to replace their current workflow. The fact that this can work on a tablet is even better. You know why? She prefers doing this type of work in the evenings, on an iPad, as we're relaxing away from our desks.

It looks good. Seems easy to use, and looks fashionably well done; complete (really, you should see these spreadsheets they share back and forth).

The only thing I've ever wondered about these types of tools -- with so many good new options coming out seemingly daily, is how you would get people on-board? I can see it working once everyone can agree to start using it, but getting people to completely change there toolset and workflow (especially if other partners are not, can not, or will not adopt it) can be a tough nut to crack.

I think that's where the interop story becomes a critical feature to drive adoption.

Seeing those big squares was startling (in a good way). It was like, of course! Why have tiny little horizontal cells on a tablet spreadsheet? And with calendar widget datatypes, images, iPhone data entry... Lots of clever happening here.

I didn't see any formulas though. Not even a sum. I wonder how that's going to be in Grid.

When I first heard about this, I was excited. But upon looking at the video, it's not what I thought it would be.

I'm still looking for an app that uses a spreadsheet-like UI in order to be able to ask whatif and model data pulled from backend datasources.

This would be infinitely more useful (for my use cases).

Basically, they're trying to get more people to use spreadsheets in a non-business way. People already do, but the natural way to grab more users right now, is to put it on a multitouch tablet.

I think stats and a lot of other serious number-crunching/business oriented software is ready for multitouch disruption. I've been toying with the idea of taking an all-in-one HP multitouch pc and turning it into a "workstation surface" mounted horizontally and implementing serious business apps on it.

I'm in part motivated by my girlfriend's RSI. (Non-carpal tunnel!) Touch interfaces and styluses seem to bother her much less. No stats programs let you use it end-to-end that way.

I am in love with what I'm being shown. Super-rich compound multi-user documents. It could be fantastic wallboard software. Or you could just call it a wedding planner and it would be a minor sensation.

In my opinion, this app is a reinvention of that idea of the touch-enabled photo tabletop -- the one where you can slide around photos and sort of pile them into collections. We've seen that demo on TED and I'm pretty sure on Microsoft's old Surface tabletop.

They've taken that basic idea, and made a really cool semi-structured visualization, and added interesting widgets like the map.

If you look at it from that angle, you've got something that really sounds pretty interesting and something that, hey, if I have a few bucks sure I'll play with it.

Judging the UI and video, it appears they are catering their market towards consumers when I think they should be catering towards businesses. The only time I've used a spreadsheet for personal use was calculating a budget; but there are better apps than Grid for that (Mint).

If I wanted to go camping with friends, I'd call/text/email them and use a text editor to keep track of names and items that we need.

Now if they can get businesses to be productive on their tablets and phones on the other hand....

UI reminds me of MS Maestro. Any idea how much of it is patented by MS ? Either way they would be a great acqui-hire target for MS

Great job guys. I've tried in vain to use google docs on my iPad when I was doing wedding planning. This is a killer app.

Looks great.

Would be nice to see a demo of its number-crunching capabilities, to judge whether it's innovative in that area as well.

According to the article, they don't have that yet. Which seems ... surprising.

Beautiful UI and a great opportunity. The iPad demands to be taken everywhere, and Apple has proven with iWork - Keynote especially - that office apps can be awesome on a tablet. Google's Spreadsheet webapp, on the other hand, is completely unusable on touch devices.

Really impressive demonstration of re-thinking an unsexy technology that is so important to so many. A great example on how start ups can disrupt a giant like Microsoft by being bold and not giving a shit. Good luck Grid!

Kudos to Josh and the rest of the team.

This is something that can change the market in a positive way and hopefully help take iPads from being almost solely a device for consumption to a device used to spur creation and innovation as well

I really like the general idea of this app. The killer feature would be an easy way to contribute new features for the tiles, which would basically make Grid into an easy-to-use Microsoft Metro UI.

Excel power user here. Any plans for inter-compatibility?

If Grid can simply view other spreadsheet formats (even stripped of formulas and formatting), you'll get a lot of looks from the business world.

I didn't see any mention of how you share with people - do they have to have the app as well? Can you just send them a link and let them view in a browser?

I shrugged this off at first, but that video blew my mind.

Awesome work guys. Definitely using this for an upcoming roadtrip. And more :)

This looks fantastic. The lack of computation is a surprising but very novel take on the idea.

So it's graph paper that you can talk to?

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