A Spreadsheet App For iPads That Makes Number-Crunching A Treat

AFTER HELPING DESIGN EXCEL 2013, JOSH LEONG STRUCK OUT ON HIS OWN, LAUNCHING A COLLABORATIVE SPREADSHEET APP FOR IPAD AND IPHONE.

IPads are capable of doing wonderful things. For example, they canentertain cats. They can stream Netflix. And they let us read Game of Thrones in relative secrecy. In other words, they’re great for passive entertainment. But when it comes to work-related tasks, like data entry, Apple’s tablet tends to fall short of the average laptop. Josh Leong, the CEO and creator of a new spreadsheet app called Grid, is one of many young app developers hoping to change that.

 

Grid, which launched in beta last week, takes basic Excel functionality and updates it with an intuitive, touch-based interface for mobile OS X devices. With Grid, you can input numbers, of course, but also places, people, and media files–even video. Leong calls it “a universal app for organizing, planning, thinking, and solving everyday problems.”
Leong is uniquely qualified to comment on Excel’s shortcomings. “I worked on Excel 2013,” he writes on his website. “I’ve been collecting not only anecdotal and personal stories but also doing a tremendous amount of user research.” His idea for Grid came from a simple insight: People use Excel for an incredibly diverse number of reasons, from invoicing to party planning, but the software is only geared towards a small “power user” minority. As he told TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois, “The tools in Excel, however, are built around power users who write their own VBA scripts and juggle massive spreadsheets.”

 

Grid speaks to the average spreadsheet user (e.g., nearly everyone) with a universal content management system that’s accessible anywhere, on any Apple device. The interface, developed by Leong, product manager Michael Lin, and CTO Matt Monson, is christened Maestro, presumably referring to the gestures that let users control the spreadsheet. “The system takes away the need to dig into menus to find what you want,” the company explains on the website. “Just swipe left to put things in and swipe right to do fancy things with them like changing how something looks.” In his introductory video, Leong creates a mosaic of videos, data, and images. So in a way, it’s simpler than a spreadsheet–it’s a way to organize information graphically.

The app’s beta launch has inspired a good deal of discussion about its merits over on Y Combinator’s forum, and the general consensus seems to be that though the beta version is lacking a few features, it’s certainly a good start. Grid really shines when it’s building on the strengths of the iPhone and iPad. For example, the ability to input places from Google Maps, import people from your contact list, or even text message spreadsheet collaborators. Leong has hit on a sweet spot: an app that doesn’t just adapt PC functionality 1:1, but is actually enhanced by the unique capabilities of the mobile device running it.

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