Online spreasheet vs. modern online spreadsheet

The online spreadsheet for ALL your tasks

Spreadsheets are an indispensable part of everyday work. Excel spreadsheets are ubiquitous. In the past few years, online spreadsheets have become widespread due to their extended functions and have increasingly replaced the classic desktop-based spreadsheet applications. Now a new generation of web spreadsheets is waiting in the wings: SeaTable & Co. opens up completely new fields of application with new functions.

Excel goes to the cloud: online spreadsheets

The days when a spreadsheet was synonymous with an Excel file are over! Online spreadsheets are now the measure of all things. Excel Online, Google Spreadsheets and other Excel alternatives are web spreadsheets that are barely behind their traditional desktop counterparts in terms of data analysis and visualisation. In terms of usability and collaboration, they are now ahead of them. Access has also been democratised: Google Sheets and Zoho Sheet can be used permanently and free of charge.

 Desktop spreadsheetOnline SpreadsheetNext Generation Online Spreadsheet
Pivot tables
Platform independence
Real-time collaboration
Web forms
Application views
Advanced data formats
Database functions

The triumph of online tools is no accident. The browser-based online spreadsheets offer functions that are inconceivable with local spreadsheets. Anyone who has worked simultaneously with colleagues on one and the same spreadsheet will no longer want to do without this feature. Changes made by one editor are immediately displayed on the screen for all co-authors as if by magic. It no longer makes a difference whether you are a Windows or Mac user or whether you work on the spreadsheet from your workstation at your desk or on the move. Regardless of the end device and location, the data is stored in the cloud, from where it can be easily shared with other people.

The new possibilities don't end with collaboration either! Using the possibilities of the cloud, they also offer new ways of collecting data: a web form can be used to collect data from external third parties, for example as part of a survey. The data is written to a spreadsheet where it can be analysed with all available analytical tools. Via API, other applications with widely used web technologies can query table data, modify it and write new ones.

Online spreadsheets have enabled new forms of collaboration and made existing processes more dynamic. Web spreadsheets offered previously unknown flexibility and efficiency in teamwork. On the other hand, classic spreadsheets on the web have added little to the use cases of tables. Online spreadsheets, like classic Excel sheets, organise numbers and text in flat spreadsheets, perform calculations and visualise numerical data in charts. In short, online spreadsheets are still largely used to do what normal spreadsheets were used to do 20 years ago. A new generation change is on the horizon!

Next generation online spreadsheet

The online spreadsheet SeaTable represents this generational shift. Like the online spreadsheets from Microsoft, Google and Zoho, SeaTable offers diverse evaluation tools and visualisation options for the analysis of numerical data as well as extensive collaboration functions. In addition, SeaTable also does many things differently from the current market leaders and thus enables new exciting fields of application.

Advanced column types

Have you ever wished you could store a file or an image in a table? Wouldn't it also be practical to be able to format text extensively in a cell, with paragraphs and graphic elements? And how can inputs be validated when one or more predefined values have to be entered in a cell? All three use cases can be implemented neither in a classic Excel nor in a modern online spreadsheet.

It works in SeaTable! In addition to numbers, text and formulas, SeaTable can also store files, images, references to other users, single and multiple selection fields and many other types of data. This way you have all data consolidated in one table. Storing different data in different places is a thing of the past with SeaTable.

Application-oriented views

Excel and Co. are powerful tools for the evaluation and visualisation of quantitative data. Who is not thrilled when a pivot table turns a huge data set into a manageable list of results in a fraction of a second or when a beautiful chart puts important results into shape? We all know: A picture is worth 1,000 words (or numbers).

However, online spreadsheet editors à la Google Sheets and Excel Online reach their limits when it comes to collecting and analysing non-numerical data. And who doesn't do that? Have you ever collected address data in an online spreadsheet? Do you know cases where project tasks, deadlines and responsible persons are managed in a web table?

Wouldn't it be nice if the data in the online table could also be evaluated non-quantitatively? If, for example, appointment data could be displayed in a calendar or address and position data on a map? Wish fulfilled! In SeaTable, in addition to the classic Spreadsheet Editor view, you have further display options that Google Sheets alternatives do not offer!

Imagine you have stored tasks, deadlines and responsibilities in an online table. With SeaTable you can display your project data in a Gantt chart with one click. You can view images stored in a SeaTable table clearly in a gallery view. With SeaTable you not only have all the data in one place, you also have all the tools to analyse it in a meaningful way. So SeaTable is much more than an online spreadsheet. It is a project management tool, an asset management tool, a recruiting tool and much more.

Database functions

In every spreadsheet, whether a traditional spreadsheet or an online spreadsheet, there are cell references. This great invention is the basis for formulas and more complicated calculations such as those needed in a business plan.

In SeaTable, in addition to cell references for formulas, there are also references to data records in another table. In this way, relations between data can be mapped in SeaTable in a way that is otherwise only possible in database applications. These relations can be 1:1; 1:n/n:1 and also n:m. SeaTable manages the relations unobtrusively in the background. In other words, SeaTable is a relational database with an intuitive spreadsheet interface.

Property Management in Next Generation Online Spreadsheet

Imagine a property management company whose task is to manage properties and their tenants. In this case, the database functions create a lot of clarity. One table records the properties with their characteristics, a second table contains the tenant information, a third table records the monthly payments and a fourth table records the ongoing communication. You can use the database links to relate the data records. Analyses across table boundaries - no problem with SeaTable.

There are said to be users who map the case described above or similar ones in a normal online table. In any case, SeaTable makes it easier and more structured and thus more efficient. Use cases for which you previously needed large and complicated database applications also become quite uncomplicated with SeaTable! As an online table with database functions, SeaTable can be used as an issue tracking system, billing system, customer relationship management (CRM) and archiving solution.

SAAS or self-hosted

Functionally, SeaTable is much more than just an Excel Online and Google Sheets alternative. You don't have to pay either: individuals and teams can use SeaTable permanently for free - sign up and go. The free subscription includes all the user functions that SeaTable offers. You can manage your team easily via the web interface. Data can also be easily imported into SeaTable via Excel Import.

The many templates make it very easy to get started and use SeaTable. Search for your use case in the template database and customise it according to your needs. In no time at all you will have an online table that does exactly what you expect it to do.

Those who do not want or are not allowed to use cloud solutions can also host SeaTable on their own server. If you are looking for a self-hosted Airtable alternative, SeaTable is just the thing. The Community Edition of SeaTable is ideal for small groups - quickly installed via Docker container and free to use thanks to its open source components. Corporate customers will enjoy the Enterprise Edition, which offers extended functions for corporate use.

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Ralf Dyllick-Brenzinger
Ralf Dyllick-Brenzinger is the founder and managing director of SeaTable. He is the strategic mastermind of SeaTable and the master of numbers. He loves his fiancée's cookies and a good bike ride.