Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Young puppy, new tricks...

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Official Google Docs & Spreadsheets Blog: Young puppy, new tricks...

As a web application, Google Docs & Spreadsheets can do all sorts of neat things. Of course, easy sharing and collaborative editing are the most obvious benefits, but this young puppy is learning some new tricks (of course, I'll mention the two closest to my heart first ;-) ).

One is GoogleLookup, which attempts to answer your questions by using information from the web. You can use it for all kinds of party tricks, like looking up the population of New York City [=GoogleLookup("New York City", "population")] or when Google was founded [=googlelookup("google", "founded")]. Try it to see what other things you can look up. I'll warn you in advance, it's a bit addicting. If you mouse over the cell, you'll see links to the source pages where we found the data, so you can always check out the primary sources. And don't forget you can copy/paste (ctrl-c / ctrl-v) the formula to other cells to easily have a bunch of GoogleLookups in a sheet. Don't expect to change the world with this function, but have fun with it.

While GoogleLookup covers a little bit of everything, its sibling GoogleFinance focuses just on financial data from Google Finance. Using a similar syntax, you can look up the price of Google stock [=GoogleFinance("GOOG")] or the 52-week high of Apple [=GoogleFinance("AAPL", "HIGH52")]. And since stock prices tend to change more often than, say, the capital of California does, we update them in your spreadsheet automatically. So if you leave your portfolio spreadsheet open, you should see numbers get updated as you would on Google Finance itself. Of course, we also have the same 20-minute delay on financial data.

So as GoogleLookup and Google Finance let you pull data from the web into your spreadsheet, we've also make it easier to put your data back out onto the web by publishing it. If you go to the "Publish" tab at the upper-right of your spreadsheet, you can publish your entire spreadsheet (or just one sheet of it) so that other people can view it as HTML, PDF, or even as an Atom or RSS feed. You can finally share your spreadsheets with others without them having to sign in to their Google Account. And if you go to the "more publishing options" link, you'll find some other cool options (duh!).

Besides a few other handy small features, there's one more worth mentioning: revisions. If you (or one of your 'trusted collaborators') makes a mistake in a spreadsheet which our usually-friendly autosave feature picks up, you can go back to prior versions of your spreadsheet using the "Revisions" tab. That'll come in handy, I promise.

So have fun, and please let us know what you think by
making suggestions, or discussing these features with others.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

The scoop on the Global Warming Student Speakout

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Official Google Docs & Spreadsheets Blog: The scoop on the Global Warming Student Speakout

We're winding up our Global Warming Student Speakout project with a full-page ad in USA Today (11/27/06). This project was in many ways an experiment: can hundreds of students of all ages and from all around the world kick out ideas on combating global record time...and do it online using Google Docs & Spreadsheets? The answer is a resounding YES, I am very happy to say.

We got super-positive feedback from the 80+ schools who participated in the project, and of course all the kids are excited that their schools and ideas will be in the spotlight in the ad. (I'm not sure what page the ad will be on...all I know is that it won't be in the sports section ;-} )  I'll be raiding my local newspaper stand to pick up all the issues I can carry back to the team first thing tomorrow AM!

Check out this example of one Romanian school's brainstorm results in a published Google document...complete with student artwork that complements the class' ideas. And here's a nice anecdote from (coincidentally) another Romanian teacher who organized her class' participation in the project:

"I must confess that they [the students] were extremely enthusiastic. They really liked the fact that they had to brainstorm during the classes and then edit the document on their computers at home. During the brainstorming, which was indeed a real "storm", they came up with a lot of ideas."
-- Ioana Pecheanu, a high school teacher at Vasile Alecsandri National College in Galati, Romania

Many thanks to all the participants in this fun and fruitful project. Please check out the full list of the students' top 50 ideas on the Google Educators site.