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Permanent - the new spreadsheet for iPad (getpermanent.com)
99 points by jashmenn 1604 days ago | hide | past | web | 60 comments | favorite

Anything that boosts the profile of the humble spreadsheet gets a thumbs up from me. I almost always start taking notes with a spreadsheet. It may be something as simple as two fields: one for the actual note and two for a category. If it's trivial to add a timestamp, I'll do that too.

The notes end up being far more organized than as if I had just put them chronologically into an empty text editor (though in a pinch, I may just write my notes in a tab delimited format and import them into a spreadsheet). Even if I never need to chronologically reverse sort or sort by category.

More importantly, when doing a research project, it serves as a checklist for what I need to do. Awhile back I wanted to track homicides in my city and so I started off with just name of victim, name of suspect, age, time of day, link to a news article, time of arrest, address, etc. Without a spreadsheet, you'd forget at least one of those details as you did your research in the traditional note taking fashion.

And when you make your model more complex: i.e. realize that you need to record time of arrest, charges filed, age of suspect, etc., the spreadsheet makes it easy to backtrack and fill your past data rows.

And when you realize you need to make your data model more complicated: the fact that a number of suspects could be implicated and charged for a single homicide, and face various charges, you are all ready to have your "notes" be put into a database.

And now that it's in a database, it's just a weekend of hacking to make a homicides website or a map.

Spreadsheets are a pretty good tool, and I've used them to sling data along with databases, scripting languages, and compiled programming languages. However I always feel like there should be a next generation ad-hoc data tool coming along that preserves the accessibility of a spreadsheet, while expanding capability in a more manageable way. Once you start needing or wanting capabilities of a programming language, you're stuck in the of the confines of what the spreadsheet framework provides, or need to mostly abandon the spreadsheet to make the leap of putting the data into some other programming environment. It's not hard, and we aren't lacking in ways to make the leap, but it seems like there should be a better way.

David Pollak (of Lift fame) is working on a re-envisaging of the spreadsheet called Visi [1]. One of his aims is to provide a bit more structure and verification, without compromising usability by non-technical people.

[1] http://www.infoq.com/presentations/Visi

IMO, Access is closer to a spreadsheet than a Database and fills that need fairly well. (By that I mean how the UI is setup and what it focuses on.) IMO there is a huge opertunity for a similar interface and a much better back end. Something like sharepoint + access.

I have built a couple enterprise one-off tools on Access and at the time (6 years ago) it was fantastic - easy to get access to remote databases, sync to local stores, run complicated data reports or structure entries using forms so that anyone can use it and it would look nice. I think Google docs + forms fills some of this function now, but I still think that was some of the most raw fun I have had using code to quickly and efficiently solve a business problem.

sounds like you would benefit from using org-mode!

At first I thought you were being snarky and that was some inside joke...but looks like a cool tool, thanks! http://orgmode.org/

The one advantage of spreadsheets is that most people know how to work with them. And with Google Docs, you get easy collaborative note-taking, plus some of the fancier features and effects (I find color-formatting empty/filled cells to be useful)

So I hope that non-scrolling headers make it into an early version.

I'd love to play with a powerful Lua-enabled spreadsheet on the iPad, but the pricing is miles off. It's NZD 13.99, the same as the Apple productivity apps and Photoshop, but that price is apparently a 50% discount and the app looks a long way from finished. At NZD 4.99 I'd buy it and start playing without thinking twice.

I've opened the site, searched for Dropbox, didn't find it, and closed tab.

Sorry for harsh feedback, and feel free to disregard it if Dropbox users are not a significant portion of your target market.

It's very sad that Apple have neutered iOS so it can't even have apps decoupled from the storage of the files they operate on.

We'll be launching Dropbox support soon. Hope you'll come back to us then.

Something that may require some thought if you want to do this is how you handle import/export of documents with embedded scripts.

You'll need to be very careful not to fall to the "applications that download additional code" rule there. This happened to Codea (http://twolivesleft.com/Codea/Talk/discussion/comment/14504#...), and afaik they still haven't managed to get their project sharing feature re-approved.

Speaking of it: Support for WebDAV, SFTP, box.net, SkyDrive, SugarSync, AFP and SMB would be great too! (In this order.)

Otherwise a proper scripting language in a spreadsheet app on my iPad seems very promising. It would be also great if one could search public scripts of other users.

Your page does very little to convince me to buy the app.

Think about it this way: most customers who will consider your app have already bought Numbers. So how is your app better than Numbers? Lua scripting sounds good, but it might not be enough. As for the rest of the page, your screenshots tell me very little about the app capabilities, while the "feature" descriptions are overly vague.

I will likely buy the app just hoping that it will work better (and faster) than Numbers, but I am not convinced - it feels like a die toss.

I am probably your target customer, so you might want to consider this.

I tend to use Numbers and iCloud all the time, because of the sync between desktop, iphone and ipad. The iphone might not be ideal, but I love that I can get at a spreadsheet easily when I'm mobile, and I don't always carry my ipad.

For me I wouldn't consider switching from Numbers without cross platform (desktop/phone/tablet) availability of my data.

For 9.99 introductory price I think is awesome.

3 questions: 1. With the Lua script, can I call a web service or a web page to get an xml or or a json with data and load that response directly to a sheet?

2. How do I put a button or something to trigger a script?

3. Can I open one of your files from a web link? as in "Open in..."

With those 3 items I have a server controlled reporting app.

I wonder if this will work. I feel like spreadsheets are inherently satisficing mechanisms for data. I think the reason excel has done so well is that its a default when normal folks don't really need much. I wonder if people actively seek out "better" spreadsheet tools or if they just seek out tools to do a task better when excel fails.

Either way putting it on a tablet will definitely help.

EDIT: I should say that I think a better spreadsheet is a really important and interesting thing to build.

I don't see a way to import or export data, and the app description says that CSV and XLSX and XLS import and export are pending.

Sorry, but without a way to bring data in or out this app looks unfinished.

Import/export is coming. Probably in the next release.

I'll be contrarian and say importing/exporting aren't required for the first release. This isn't about being a replacement for Excel on a computer.

It obviously should come soon, though, and my expectation would be to see it in a free update.

Any spreadsheet app should have some sort of import/export support ON LAUNCH DAY. The omission looks sloppy.

Just to make it clear, it's not that hard to do it. Here's a very basic example in javascript that took roughly 3 hours of time (this parses enough of the XLSX format to generate a CSV output with a few integers and strings; requires html5 file API to be able to manipulate the file in your browser. Best results on chrome):


source: https://github.com/Niggler/js-xlsx

There's an XLS version as well (doesn't support the full panoply of features):


source: https://github.com/Niggler/js-xls

I would have done the import/export functionality before adding Lua scripting.

No reason to release the product without having the data hooks in place. We don't need more silos.

Does this / will this hook into the Google Spreadsheet API to pull data from Google Docs?

Have you decided on what formats and/or third party services you will be exporting to?

All within reason. We're not going to try to be a silo, if that's what you mean. We want to be as interoperable with other applications as possible.

I become more and more convicned every day that a spreadsheet is the ultimate "manage the stuff in my head" interface. Putting it onto an iPad is genius.

I agree, for a while I was a beta tester for another spreadsheet app on the Ipad : http://www.binarythumb.com/

It's pretty awesome even if you don't do Excel-like things with it. Just having a spreadsheet to organize stuff is really handy on the ipad.

I'm going to give this app a try, it looks well put together.

GRID looks very nice. And they do a good job showing off its capabilities in the videos.

The only problem is that I couldn't find a link to buy it from. Is it available yet?

I don't believe it's available yet as they recently closed the beta testing period.

This is not GRID.

This looks very cool. My big worry is the only place I'll be able to get at my spreadsheet is on my iPad. Being able to sync with spreadsheets on Google Drive would be a fantastic step towards interoperability with other people/software.

Let's face it, if you're going to create a new spreadsheet, it must have the ability to port over to Google and Excel. Otherwise, you just have another data silo.

In all honesty, I'm not sure how useful this will be for me. I deal with spreadsheets many columns wide and a big screen is what helps.

Rather, I would love to see someone work on being able to seamlessly hook up various data sources in the background to Excel so that I can still use Excel as the UI while having a proper db in the background.

Scripting in Lua? Neat!

This is great. Please enlarge your feature-copy font to 16px and set line-height to 1.62em so I can read it :).

Great to see. I expect to be disappointed with this first release, but purchased anyway to support what this could become in the future. The undo functionality provides a glimpse of what possible paths Microsoft has abandoned in favour of never-ending "enhancements" to the UI.

Ok and now I am stuck. It's not obvious how to select cells for say '=sum(....'. It's not obvious how to remove a sheet from a project. It's not obvious where I can get help And it's now crashing.

So a bit alpha to be charging for it, but please keep going.

You can bring up the delete button for a sheet by right swiping the sheet's cell after tapping on the project breadcrumb. This sounds clumsy written out. Inside the app the gesture should be natural.

Multiple cell selection isn't implemented in 1.0. We had to be choosy about what feature we supported in 1.0, as there are a lot of spreadsheet features people want. Specifying the cells in the formula by typing them out does work, however.

The crashes we'll fix. Thanks for the kind words, we'll keep at it.

Given the usage of spreadsheets in companies (humongous) and how much room there is for improvements to certain aspects of Excel (better scripting is one thing that comes to mind) I think this has great potential.

I think this looks very cool from a technical standpoint, but I don't know how useful it is. Especially without a corresponding desktop application.

How is it that they can allow scripting in Lua? Doesn't the iOS SDK ToS forbid interpreters other than JavaScriptCore?

At one point in time the TOS prohibited custom script engines like Lau. But, Apple (likely to cater to some of the large game companies on iOS) eased back that restriction 1 or 2 years ago.

I believe that downloading scripts/code and allowing users to enter scripts may still prohibited.

Users can enter scripts. And I believe you can even transfer scripts using the iTunes file transfer functionality. You just can't download them over the internet.

The problem is executing scripts from elsewhere.

Take a look at Codea -- lets you develop Lua apps (game focus) entirely on the iPad and, when you're done, provides an open source harness for creating an App Store app.

What you can't do is load a Codea project from some random place online and just run it directly in Codea. (You can post code on a website and Codea folk can copy and paste it.)

I like the design, but the thought of using a spreadsheet without a keyboard makes my head hurt.

Actually the worst/best thing about Numbers is the way keyboarding on screen is handled (worst in that it's still the worst, best in that they've clearly thought about it and worked hard to make it less bad than it might have been).

I think a spreadsheet app that really figures out a solid way of working around the lack of a hardware keyboard might do well (e.g. allowing you to format cells as sliders or spinners or whatever so you don't need to key in values).

If you have real work to do it's not unusual to use a bluetooth keyboard. For occasional use I'm sure it's fine.

You can hook up a keyboard to your iPad, if you like. Not sure if that would solve your problem. Keyboard support is on our planned list of features. Most iPad users are fine with the touch screen keyboard, so we haven't prioritized physical keyboard support yet.

I do like where you're going... just had to edit a Google doc spreadsheet on my phone (painful). As a long-time Excel user,I just can't imagine giving up keyboard shortcuts, etc.

Just imagining 10-key on a iPad is making me laugh.

Looks good.

If you are interest in getting it reviewed in iPad.appstorm send me an email with a coupon code.

what would really make or break this for me is if it is compatible with excel sheets..

Version 1.1 should import/export Excel sheets. Version 1.0 doesn't import/export so that we could launch quicker and make sure everything is stable.

Give me a desktop version, so that sheets and scripts can be shared and I am sold.

There's also a YC tablet spreadsheet startup out there - GRID.

The ability to script with Lua is incredibly smart.

iOS6... The time to upgrade my iPad 1 to a newer model is getting closer by the minute

Amazing. First all the semi-recent talks about Excel really being the one thing making the real-world work at all (not Linux, not OS X, not Google, no... Excel was the word)...

Then now that people are showing other spreadsheets suddenly we can hear the whiners: "But I need my Excel shortcuts" and "But I need my wide-screen to show all my Excel colums".

I'm pretty sure that should we live one day in a world dominated by iOS / Android and online HTML5 / iOS / Android / Google Docs spreadsheets (we're already kinda are in that one in the SMEs world that said), we'd still hear the cries of a few corporate drones (or MS astroturfers) telling us that Excel is the one and only spreadsheet preventing the planet from imploding.

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