Wednesday, May 19, 2010


TheRaven has suffered Microsoft's blundering product efforts for many years. TheRaven suffered the foibles of Excel2003 to the point where crashing four times per day was routine. Only a day north of 10 software failures became worthy of complaint. TheRaven complained often.

There is a special place in hell for monopolists like Bill Gates. Why do you think he's devoted his post-Microsoft existence to mega-charity? The man purveyed crap for decades but he certainly knows how to cut a deal. TheRaven surely had late-night company the world over, cursing Gates, in frantic efforts to recover weeks of toil before the Big Whatever. Microsoft products were designed to fail when needed most. Kind of like Roger Smith's General motors, but worse.

By some miracle, market forces penetrated Micropoly, diluted the Koolaid and now clear signs of - gasp! - competence have sprung forth. Office2007 is vastly better than its predecessor and so feature rich that most technology journalists can't get their arms around it. Most importantly, it rarely crashes.

This introduction provides context for our multiple choice question. You needed to know that TheRaven has a long and bitter history with Micropoly, before we bash technology journalists and Google .

The question is: what is the most pathetic aspect of the productivity software market? There are three possible answers:

1. Technology journalists (so-called) who wonder why Microsoft maintains 94% market share.

2. Technology journalists who reveal a total lack of hands-on experience when (for example) reviewing Office2010. (Making a big deal out of the addition of SparkLines to Excel2010, when almost any chart type can be miniaturized in Excel2007, just one example).

3. Google docs.

Let's explore that third choice. Google, every media fool's darling, has completely failed to gain traction in the  productivity suite market. Google's share of the business segment is perhaps 1%. Reasons why are in black and white - in Google's announcement of new Goggle Spreadsheets features. Screen-shots below were taken two hours ago. (You can enlarge any image by clicking it).

Google's first big new feature is the formula edit line. Say what? The formula edit line is such a well-established spreadsheet technology that TheRaven can't remember how far back it goes, but, to the beginning of Windows is a good bet.

Click image to see full-size

Google's next big new feature is autofill, which seems to have been around forever in legitimate spreadsheet software. TheRaven guesses that autofill has been an Excel feature for at least 10 years.

Click image to see full-size

Hyperlinks embedded in Excel files - used to jump between sections of a large file - are another ancient feature that is new to Google. Between the lines, this reveals another reason why Google Spreadsheets are crap: so small that internal hyperlinking wasn't previously considered as an essential feature.

 Click image to see full-size

Here's another basic Excel feature that's new to Google - oops, not for anyone who uses Firefox or Explorer. These folks, the majority of all Internet users, will have to wait a bit longer for formula highlighting, a feature that highlights referenced cells when a formula is edited. Useful? More like essential.

Note that the Google rep is "excited" to (almost) introduce this new feature.

What's next?

Google's breathless discovery of movable type?

Features used at a subconscious level by people who rely on spreadsheet technology are only now showing up in Google Docs. Picking between dumb journalists and crap software is a toss-up.

This much is certain: no journalistic praise of Google Docs should ever be taken at face value.

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