Tuesday, 20 March 2007

And if I DON'T want Excel?

I recently found myself having achieved my objectives for the day by lunchtime, except that I needed to compile a shopping list of things I need from DIY stores. It's the kind of job I like to do on a spreadsheet however NeoOffice has been irritating me recently. Given that I had the rest of the day available, I decided to take a look at what else I might use.

In the past I've done all kinds of fun things with spreadsheets but these days my use of them is limited to two relatively simple things. The first is keeping track of simple lists; like the list of model kits that I have stored in the loft, my list of passwords for various websites, and of course my various shopping lists. The second is for recording of what I've spent on my credit card so I can check my statement when it arrives. I haven't used a macro, graph, or a function any fancier than sum() in a long time.

Perhaps unsurprisingly therefore, the thing that's been bugging me about NeoOffice is the 'weight' of it. It wouldn't be so bad if I made use of the other NeoOffice apps however, my wordprocessing needs are also relatively basic and TextEdit has them covered (and loads a hell of a lot faster). As for databases and presentations, I just don't need them. Given that I use it so infrequently, having NeoOffice loaded and using up a big chunk of resources is not an attractive option, however waiting for it to load every time I want to a add something to a shopping list or look up a password is a nuisance too. I figured that a simple spreadsheet application shouldn't be too difficult to find however I was in for a bit of a surprise.

I didn't even bother to download any of the other suites as I guess most would present the same problems as NeoOffice. I did however download Mesa 3.1 which, being a single app, seemed more promising. My judgement of it is probably coloured by the rather annoying 20 row limit on the trial version however I found it difficult to use. I couldn't, for example, figure out how to mark a range of cells using just the keyboard.

In the end I gave up on Mesa and found what I wanted in the shape of Tables 1.2.1..

Thank you, thank you, thank you Daniel Schwill for creating a spreadsheet app that is immediately easy and intuitive to use, and that provides all of the functionality you need for simple spreadsheet work without all the fancy clutter.

I'm not going to rattle on and on about what it does and does not have. Go check out the 30-day trial verion if it sounds like it might be of interest to you. 5 days into my 30-day trial I've already been back and bought a licence. Yes, I like it THAT much.

What I am still curious about however is "Why the hell does everybody seem to want Excel, for free?" Mesa seemed almost apologetic about the Excel stuff that it doesn't have and as the three reviews of it over at macupdate.com seem to be encouraging the developer to continue making it even more like Excel, you can't really blame it. In fact I've got the distinct impression that anybody developing a spreadsheet is going to find themselves being pushed towards making it more and more like Excel, but why?

I can't help wondering who are these people are that are doing the pushing? I can't imagine there being enough accountants out there who are so tight-arsed that they won't pay for Excel, to justify the number of cheap Excel-a-likes in development. On the other hand, can there really be that many home computer users who want a spreadsheet app with the ability to run macros and generate two dozen different types of 3D graphs to figure out how much they spent on petrol last month? Actually, given the number of 4x4 monsters trucks you see being loaded with groceries at Tesco's, I guess there probably can.

I can only hope therefore that Daniel Schwill tells them to sod off so that Tables can continue to be the spreadsheet of choice for those of us who don't want a boated mega-app to balanace our bank statements.

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